Book Review: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
After reading some heavier books recently, I picked up something decidedly lighter at the local book store last weekend. Eoin Colfer’s middle grade book series Artemis Fowl is an easy read, perfect for a kid or an adult who just doesn’t want to have to think too much for a few hours.
Artemis Fowl is a twelve year old boy-millionaire, heir to the Fowl fortune which has been handed down from generation after generation of Fowl who have lived life on the edge of the legal system. Artemis’ father was lost at sea while trying to smuggle soft drinks into Russia after the fall of the Berlin Wall. But Artemis is no ordinary rich boy. He’s graced with intelligence and poise, a combination that serves him well as he tries to continue the family tradition. But unlike his ancestors, Artemis doesn’t see making money in the land of man as the only way to do things. There are ancient and magical creatures that also control a great deal of wealth, and it’s his plan to take that too.
Middle-grade fiction is hard to evaluate as an adult. It has to move at what we might think of as a reckless pace. The improbable is more easily sold to a readership that is a little less schooled. The fantastic is more readily accepted. When reading middle-grade fiction, I make it a policy to completely suspend my disbelief while in the book… something I don’t do as well when reading YA or Adult. I try not to ever say to myself “That’s not what this character would do… or if he did that, then the other guy would do this.”
But you can evaluate middle-grade on other things, more objective things. Does the story flow? Is the writing consistent? Would the pace hold the attention of the average 11 year old?
For the most part, the story meets all of those requirements. But there were a couple of oddities that I had a little bit of a problem with. First, and foremost, for a book called Artemis Fowl, I expected more of the book to be from Artemis’ point of view. Actually, very little of book (well less than 25%) even has Artemis in the scene. The story works, but I kept waiting for the main character to be more front-and-center.
The other thing, and this is a minor thing, but it was jarring. In the edition I read (a first edition), two pages in the book were written almost completely in a passive voice. It’s one of those things I, as a writer, have trained myself to notice. And because it wasn’t a problem throughout the book, I have to wonder if somehow, the editing process on those two pages (56 and 57), was missed. Here is a paragraph to illustrate the issue:
Holly twisted in the troll’s grip, but it was useless. The creature’s fingers were the size of bananas, but nowhere near as pliant. They were squashing the breath from her rib cage with savage ease. Needle-like claws were scraping at the toughened material of her uniform. Any second now, they would punch through, and that would be that.
A few minor changes, and most of the passive voice would be eliminated:
Holly uselessly twisted in the troll’s grip. The creature’s fingers were the size of bananas, but nowhere near as pliant. They squashed the breath from her rib cage with savage ease. Needle-like claws scraped at the toughened material of her uniform. Any second now, they would punch through, and that would be that.
I think that reads better. There are a few other instances in the book where passive voice could be eliminated and the book improved, but for some reason, these two pages are particularly plagued with it.
That said, the book was enjoyable, and I would recommend it to anyone (boys or girls) who like to read middle grade fiction. Boys would especially like this, and anything that keeps middle-grade boys reading, is, in my opinion, a good thing. I’m not sure I’ll read much of the rest of the series, but if my kids bring it home someday, I just might have to see how the story continues.