Book Review of Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Book Review of Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer What My Kids Read Please note that this post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means if you buy through my links, I will receive a percentage of the sale. It doesn’t cost you more, but it helps us out. Thanks! 

Artemis Fowl is the first of a series of eight books by Eoin Colfer, with some extra books about the same characters (graphic novels and such). It’s about a 12-year-old boy, Artemis Fowl, son of  European crime lord, heir to millions, and “criminal mastermind.” Artemis plant to restore the family fortune back to billions by capturing a fairy and holding it for ransom. You follow both Artemis and the fairies throughout the book. Lessons are learned on both sides along the way, but the reader is left not sure of which side is actually right or wrong. It’s a fun book to read. Not a classic, but definitely entertaining. The morality of a main character s questionable. Liam is reading them, but it is definitely a test to see what he picks up on as far as the shaky moral ground of all the characters.

Parents should be aware that the entire book is full of fairies and magic. There are a few instances of the word “damn.” There is a very violent fight scene (a main character dies and is magically brought back to life), and a few specific brands of guns are mentioned. The father is missing (presumed dead), and the mother is half crazy with grief and spends her days drugged with sleeping pills.  The Fowl family is known to be the head of a criminal empire, so various crimes are mentioned.

While I was looking for a plot summary, I read on Wikipedia that the author described these books as “Die-Hard with fairies.” I think that captures the essence of this book.

The message of this book is that greed leads to trouble. It also highlights that neither side is 100% right in a war.

My Mom-Meter gives Artemis Fowl an overall safety rating of 2 (Moderately Safe) for ages 9 and up.

Click here to skip to Liam’s review of this book

Click here to skip to a Plot summary

Click here to skip straight to Potential Discussion Points

Category ratings (click on the category to see specifics):

Alcohol/DrugsModerately Safe

BullyingSafe - no actual four-letter words

Disrespectful AttitudesSafe - no actual four-letter words

GamblingSafe - no actual four-letter words

Gross BehaviorModerately Safe

LanguageModerately Safe

Magic/SupernaturalExtreme Caution

MoralityCaution

Romance/SexSafe - no actual four-letter words

Scary ThemesCaution

ViolenceExtreme Caution

 

Plot summary of Artemis Fowl: ***Contains Spoilers***

Wikipedia has a good plot summary here.

Potential Discussion Points for Parents in Artemis Fowl:

  • There are a few times that it is mentioned how terribly humans (or the Mud People) have treated the environment. Pollutions has bleached the dolphins’ skin, giving them red sores. You might want to talk with your kids about how pollution affects the environment.
  • Artemis’ mom goes crazy with grief over her husband’s death, and Artemis feels guilty about giving up on believing his dad is still alive. You might want to talk about how people deal differently with grief – and about what is appropriate.
  • Artemis has moments of doubt and guilt about what he is doing. He feels bad to lie to Holly when he tells her that she had told him everything when she had been given truth serum. He wonders “How far was he prepared to go for this gold?” How far does Artemis go for the gold? Was he really after the gold or something else?
  • Butler had moments of sympathy for the People because they were so small. You might want to talk to your kids about the importance of standing up for the weak and protecting them.
  • “Butler gasped… This was like no adversary he’s ever faced before… A thing that would simply kill anything in its way, regardless of species…” After Holly heals Butler, he wears armor, shoots the troll (which doesn’t kill it) and ends up beats the troll almost to death. Holly asks him to spare the troll’s life, and he does. What is the difference between Butler (who has been trained to be a killing machine) and the troll?
  • Holly feels that it is wrong for the LEP to kill Juliet, who she believes is innocent. Root says Juliet is a “Casualty of war. She threw her lot in with the wrong side. Nothing can be done for her now.” Was it wrong for Root to plan on killing Juliet, since he had to protect the People? Do you think that one side was clearly right in this situation? You might want to talk with your kids about the ethics of war – how both sides are usually a little wrong and a little right (or whatever your family believes about war).
  • “But apparently, our little corporate-image Santa Claus is not descended from a Turkish saint he is a shadow of San D’Klass, the third king of the Frond Elfin dynasty. He is known as San the Deluded…D’Klass thought that the greed of the Mud People in his kingdom could be assuaged by distributing lavish gifts… Of course, it didn’t work. Human greed can never be assuaged, especially not by gifts.” What do you think would “assuage” human greed? Do gifts help you be less greedy?
  • Artemis buys a wish from Holly to make his mother better. Does that make up for all of his wrong-doing in the book? Do you think that is why he wanted to gold to begin with? Or do you think he has another plan?

Alcohol/Drugs:

  • A “healer” (later known as a fairy) works for rice wine, and is described as “All the time drunk” and as the “wine sodden healer.” She drinks “rice spirits,” is surrounded by “empty spirit jugs,” and begs for wine before she will talk. She drinks what she is told is 1/2 pint of “finest Irish whiskey.”
  • Artemis “mixed a slight amnesiac” into a virus he injected into the “alcohol addicted sprite.” The virus flushes alcohol out of the system, and the amnesiac will keep the fairy from clearly remembering the last week.
  • Artemis’ mother is bedridden with grief over his father’s presumed death. She rests and takes sleeping pills.
  • Root smokes a “fungus cigar.” His smelly cigars are referred to many times throughout the book.
  • Some men are described rolling cigarettes and “weren’t even completely sober.”
  • A saloon is mentioned, as in a car was hiding in the “shadow of a cargo container and a government saloon.”
  • When Holly is recovering from the tranquilizer dart, she can only mumble, and she compares her speech abilities to a “drunken gnome.”
  • Artemis lies to Holly and tells her that he gave her “sodium pentathol,” a truth serum.
  • Artemis makes sure that his mother swallows a sleeping pill to test whether she would be affected by the fairies stopping time.
  • “Many a siege was lost because an elf had one glass of wine too many.”
  • Root drinks some purple liquid from his hip flask.
  • Mulch tunnels into Fowl Manor under the wine cellar. The dirt tastes good to his because it has taken on some of the flavor of the wine that has been stored there for centuries.
  • Juliet is “mesmered,” but Butler thinks she’s drugged. She thinks there is a television on a blank wall, and she talks about the wrestling match she is watching.
  • After receiving the gold, Artemis (who is twelve) pulls out three glasses Dom Perignom to toast their victory. “I’m a minor, I know, but I’m sure Mother wouldn’t mind just this once.” It turns out that Artemis had laced the champagne with sleeping pills so that the bio-bomb doesn’t affect them when it goes off.

Bullying:

  • There is a kleptomaniac dwarf who is put in a cell with a bunch of goblins (goblins and dwarves are at war). The Goblins decide to blast a fireball up his nostrils. The dwarf manages to dodge it by causing the fireball to shoot back into the goblin.

Disrespectful Attitudes: None

Gambling:

  • It is mentioned that there is an “office pool” betting on how long before Root’s heart explodes.
  • The word lottery is mentioned in passing, describing how the Irish look for gold at the end of rainbows like a “supernatural lottery.”
  • “Willing to bet” is used once.

Gross Behavior:

  • There is a stain on the seat in the pod Holly takes to the surface. Foaly tells her it is brain fluid from the last passenger. “We had a pressure leak on the last mission. But that’s plugged now.And the officer lived. Down a few IQ points, but alive, and he can still take liquids.”
  • There is a mention of a “hairy behind.”
  • Butler is described as smiling like “A shark that’s spotted a bare behind.”
  • Juliet tells Holly “Don’t get your pant… or whatever in a twist.”
  • Root is given a fake finger that has a pressurized dart in the tip. It is mentioned that other agents forget they have the finger on, and they shoot themselves. “One of our best sprites was picking his nose at the time. Three days on the critical list.” While he has the finger one, Root is warned “Just be careful in the toilet.”
  • There is a “false bottom” hanging on the wall. It is mentioned as a joke.
  • It is mentioned that Root belched.
  • It is mentioned that some dwarves disguised themselves as a “dung heap” before ambushing some goblins.
  • “Retching” is mentioned.
  • Root says there a reason there isn’t a “boot up your behind.”
  • Dwarves eat dirt and excrete it out their backside. It comes out explosively, with gas. Mulch uses this explosive tendency as self-defense, blowing Butler away twice with his dung.
  • Mulch burped after tasting good, wine soaked clay.
  • Butler lands on his “rump” after Mulch aims his explosive excrement at him.
  • The fairies start throwing up as soon as they try to cross the threshold of Fowl Manor. “Retch,” “pool of vomit,” “concentrated bile,” “half chuck it,” and “spewing” are all used to describe the scene.

Language:

  • “Swear toads” are mentioned once. “Sweat toads infested every damp patch cursing like sailors. That particular breed began as a joke, but had multiplied into an epidemic.”
  • “Bimbo” and “airhead” are used once.
  • “Idiot” is used many times.
  • “God knows” is said once.
  • “Moron” is used many times.
  • Vocabulary: “The Craic” is mentioned once. Wikipedia defines it as “a term for news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation.”
  • Butler picks a fight with some dock workers to create a distraction, and calls them “blouse-wearing weaklings.”
  • “How the devil” is used once.
  • Root calls Artemis a “demented freak.”
  • “D’Arvit” is a Gnommish cuss word used many times.
  • “Damn” is used 4 times. “Damned” is used once. “Dammit” is said once.
  • “Shut up” is said a few times.
  • One of the LEPrecon captains swears “very unprofessionally.” No words are specified.
  • “Half wit” is used once.
  • Butler says “Oh…” “What would have followed the ‘Oh’ is anyone’s guess, but I’d be willing to bet that it wouldn’t have been ‘Dearie me.’ As it happened, Butler never had time to finish his expletive…”
  • “What the hell” is said twice and “get the hell out” is said once, “Who the hell” is said once.
  • “Goodness’ sake” is used once.

Magic/Supernatural:

  • Artemis’ looks are compared to a vampire a few times. (“white as a vampire,” when he smiled you expected to see “vampire fangs,” etc.)
  • A drunken fairy drinks what she is told is 1/2 pint of “finest Irish whiskey,” but it is actually Holy Water that starts to burn her. Artemis offers her a cure if she will let him borrow her book for 30 minutes. He offers her “spring water from the fairy well sixty meters below the ring of Tara – possibly the most magical place on earth” to counter-act the Holy Water, and then a shot of “man-made magic” in the form of a virus that eats alcohol. Apparently, alcohol destroys a fairy’s magic.
  • Artemis lists off different words for fairy “Sprite, p’shóg, fairy, ka-dalun.”
  • The fairy tells Artemis “you know about the magic I have in my fist. I can kill you with the snap of my fingers!”
  • The phrases “alien abduction,” “UFO sightings,” and “aliens” are mentioned in passing one time.
  • Artemis discovers that every civilization had a term for fairies. He concludes that they exist, and begins looking for their “Book.” “It was their bible, containing as it allegedly did, the history of their race and the commandments that governed their extended lives… written in Gnommish, the fairy language….”
  • Artemis advertises for information about a “fairy, sprite, leprechaun, or pixie.”
  • One of the Gnommish symbols looks like “the Anubis god representations on Tutankhamen’s inner-chamber hieroglyphics… The first written humans stores were about fairies, suggesting that their civilization predated man’s own.”
  • The “Book of the People” has cures, curses, and alchemy.
  • Holly’s great-grandfather is Cupid.
  • Some Elves have the job of being LEPrecon (leprechauns), “an elite branch of the Lower Elements Police.”
  • “Someone lost their wand over that one.”
  • Many mythical, magical creatures are mentioned: goblin, dwarf, gnome, leprechaun, troll, centaur, gremlin, unicorn.
  • “A lot of the magic attributed to the People is just superstition. But they do have certain powers. Healing, the mesmer, and shielding among them. Shielding is actually a misnomer. What fairies actually do is to vibrate at such a high frequency that they are never in one place long enough to be seen.”
  • The word “monster” is used a few times, but not in a magical way. (Like, “This guy was a monster!”)
  • The Loch Ness monster was mentioned as a hoax once in passing.
  • Holly flies to Ireland, “The old country. Éiriú, the land where time began. The most magical place on the planet. It was here, ten thousand years ago, that the ancient fairy race, the Dé Danann, had battled against the demon Fomorians, carving the famous Giants’ Causeway with the strength of their magical blasts. It was here that the Lia Fáil stood, the rock at the center of the universe…it was also here, unfortunately, that the Mud People were most in tune with magic, which resulted in a far higher People-sighting rate than you get anywhere else on the planet.”
  • Butler creates a distraction by “screaming like a demon.”
  • Shao Lin priest is mentioned once. “Perhaps a Shao Lin priest could have anticipated some of the more exaggerated movements…”
  • A “sensei” is mentioned once.
  • “Turning in his grave” is mentioned once.
  • “Hexing” is mentioned once, as in “there’s no use hexing me.”
  • The fairies stop time. They have turned it into a scientific method, instead of “Five elfin warlocks” and a “pentagram.”
  • It is mentioned that in the old days, when time stopped, “Mud People” assumed “the gods were angry.”
  • “Witch doctor” is used as an insult.
  • “Luck” is mentioned.
  • Artemis takes a few deep breaths, and focuses on finding his chi.
  • Butler is presumed dead, but Holly’s magic heals him back to as good as new.
  • “But apparently, our little corporate-image Santa Claus is not descended from a Turkish saint he is a shadow of San D’Klass, the third king of the Frond Elfin dynasty. He is known as San the Deluded…D’Klass thought that the greed of the Mud People in his kingdom could be assuaged by distributing lavish gifts… Of course, it didn’t work. Human greed can never be assuaged, especially not by gifts.”
  • Artemis gives Holly half of the gold in exchange for her to grant his wish that his mother would be better. Holly grants his wish.

Morality:

  • Artemis is said to have “devised a plan… that could topple civilizations and plunge the planet into a cross-species war.” (this account, you discover at the end of the book, is written by an elf on the opposing side, which softens some of the emphasis on “criminal mastermind,” but Artemis is definitely a part of a criminal empire.)
  • Butler questions why Artemis lets the drunk fairy go free, and Artemis says “A corpse is evidence.”
  • There is a kleptomaniac dwarf (Mulch) who is put in a cell with a bunch of goblins (goblins and dwarves are at war). He is bullied, and you feel sorry for the dwarf, even though he is in there for willfully doing wrong. Later, he escapes prison by killing a rabbit and stealing some gold. Even though he is doing wrong, you find yourself rooting for him.
  • Mulch calls his stealing a “Mud People Possession Liberation business.”

Potentially Offensive Behavior:

  • Evolution is mentioned once in passing.
  • “Stockholm Syndrome” is mentioned once.

Romance/Sex:

  • Butler’s sister, Juliet, is into wrestling as a specialty. She “suplexed a particularly impudent pizza boy.”
  • Two times, Juliet does something that is described as attractive to the local “louts:” twisting a strand of hair, and scowling.
  • Artemis’ mother, when she talks to a dummy she believes is Artemis’ father, she tells Artemis (who she believes is her father) that it is their honeymoon, so her husband should have the night off.
  • Root tells Foaly to contact a woman on the Council. “I’m pretty sure Lope’s one of mine, and Cahartez, possibly Vinyáya. she’s always had a thing for me, devilishly attractive as I am.”
  • Chix, a sprite, wears goggles because “Girls loved them… Give a fairy a pair of wings and he thinks he’s God’s gift to women. But Chix’s ill-fated quest to impress the dames is, once again, another story.”
  • Butler wonders if a name Juliet says is one of her boyfriends. “He was going to keep closer tabs on callers to the lodge in the future.”

Scary Themes: 

  • In describing the drunk fairy, “The alcohol addiction had melted her skin like putty.”
  • The drunk fairy gets two shots into her carotid artery. It sounds gruesome.
  • Artemis’ mother tells him not to turn on the lights. She says “I hear things. At night. They crawl along the pillows and into my ears.” When Artemis suggests opening the curtains, his mother responds “No. Because then I could see them, too.”
  • “The Spanish Inquisition” and “Hindenburg” are both mentioned in passing. They might be scary things for kids to look up.
  • Holly is warned that there is a “blood-crazed troll ready to disembowel you with his tusks.”
  • The description of Holly traveling through the earth’s magma in an old, rickety pod is pretty intense.
  • Artemis’ mother has lost her mind with grief. Artemis finds her talking to a dummy she made. She believes it is Artemis’ father, ad she believes that Artemis is her father. It’s a creepy scene.
  • Root shows up on Artemis’ doorstep, presumably unarmed. He wonders if he is about to be “shot dead.” Artemis asks him if he needs to “kill someone” to be taken seriously.
  • The LEP send a troll in to tear apart the house and kill Artemis. There is an intense scene where the troll kills Butler, nearly kills Holly, and starts to attack Juliet. Holly heals Butler in time for him to attack the troll and protect Juliet.

Violence:

  • Butler carried a Sig Saur, shrike-throwing knives, derringer two-shot, garrote wire, 3 stun grenades, and a ball bearing cosh.
  • “Butler could kill you a hundred different ways without the use of his weapons.”
  • Talking about Butler, “It was obvious that he could snap a man’s backbone like a twig.”
  • “Run if you’d like but expect a sharp and fatal pain between your shoulder blades.”
  • An “unfortunate pickpocket” get his fingers broken when he tries to steal Butler’s wallet.
  • Artemis tells someone that their lips should be sealed, otherwise, Butler will seal them permanently.
  • Butler children study to be a bodyguard for the Fowl family members. When they are 10 years old, Butlers are “sent to a private training center in Israel,” where they learn “Codon Bleu cooking, marksmanship, a customized blend of martial arts…”
  • Butler reads the magazine “Guns and Ammo.”
  • Butler’s sister, Juliet, is into wrestling as a specialty. She “suplexed a particularly impudent pizza boy.” “Pile Driver” and “Full Nelson” are also mentioned once.
  • Supposedly, the Russian Mafiya missile hit the boats Artemis’ father was on, and killed Artemis Sr. “Quite an explosion.”
  • A few times, it is mentioned that goblins hurl fireballs.
  • LEPrecons carry a “buzz baton” to shock criminals.
  • Holly carries a “sidearm” on her mission to track the troll, a “Neutrino 2000… Three settings, if you don’t mind. Scorched, well-done, and crisped to a cinder. Nuclear power source…”
  • Butler gets a “dart rifle,” referred to as a “Kalashnikov.” He got it from an ivory poacher.
  • Holly’s gun is referred to as a “peashooter.”
  • Butler shoots a tranquilizer dart into Holly.
  • Root used to carry a “shillelagh,” which is a big stick once used as a weapon in Ireland. He now carries a big gun, a “triple-barreled blaster.”
  • Butler can disable a man with “a series of thumb jabs to the nerve cluster at the base of the neck.”
  • Butler creates a distraction with a roundhouse punch, heads clapped together, a spinning kick, and two men flipped into the harbor.
  • Artemis sets off a bomb on a whaler, nearly killing Root, as a demonstration of power. The bomb is describes as having a kilogram of Semtex.
  • Root says “they both look the same with the flesh scorched off their skulls.”
  • The fairies plan to set off a devastating biological bomb, called a “blue rinse.” It uses radiation and only destroys living tissue.
  • Bolas, sniper fire, armor-piercing bullets, and land mines are mentioned.
  • The phrase “heads are going to roll” is used once.
  • Root is given a fake finger that has a pressurized dart in the tip. It is mentioned that other agents forget they have the finger on, and they shoot themselves. “One of our best sprites was picking his nose at the time. Three days on the critical list.”
  • There is a kleptomaniac dwarf, Mulch, who is put in a cell with a bunch of goblins (goblins and dwarves are at war). He considers eating a goblin in self-defense.
  • A goblin planned to blow fireballs out of his nostrils and into Mulch’s face. Mulch shoved his thumbs up the goblin’s nose, and incapacitated the goblin. Mulch then unhinged his jaw, and had a goblin’s head in his teeth, threatening to eat the goblin if they don’t leave him alone.
  • An LEP officer puts a gun barrel to Mulch’s head, ordering him to release the goblin.
  • Mulch tries to avoid Mud People with “primitive gunpowder weapons.”
  • Mulch kills a rabbit with his bare hands and puts his lens in its eye, so that the LEP think that Mulch died.
  • Butler’s Sig Sauer nine-millimeter handgun is mentioned many times in the book.
  • When the troll rips open the door, “Butler had seen something like this once before when a force-seven earthquake had rippled through a Colombian drug lord’s estate seconds before he was scheduled to blow it up… It was classic anti-terrorist tactics. Hit ’em with smoke and sonics, then go in while the targets were disoriented…”
  • Butler’s fight with the troll is bloody and gruesome. The troll kills Butler with his razor-sharp tusks, “Gutting weapons.” “Butler gasped… This was like no adversary he’s ever faced before… A thing that would simply kill anything in its way, regardless of species. This was the perfect predator. That much was clear from the meat-ripping points on its teeth, from the dried gore crusted beneath its claws, and from the distilled hatred spilling from its eyes.” After Holly heals Butler, he wears armor, shoots the troll (which doesn’t kill it) and ends up beats the troll almost to death. Holly asks him to spare the troll’s life, and he does.
  • Root warns his squad to watch out for booby traps. “The word ‘booby traps’ got everyone’s attention. The idea of a Bouncing Betty anti-personnel mine exploding at head height was enough to dispel any nonchalance in the troops. No one build weapons of cruelty like the Mud Men.”

 

From a ten-year-old’s perspective: “I really enjoyed this book! I couldn’t put it down until I had finished it. It reminded me of a dark, elaborate fairy tale. It was full of adventure and schemes. It reminded me of Lemony Snicket books.”

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