It’s really never a good sign for a series when I can’t remember anything about the previous book except the incredibly Mary-Sueish character near the end. Combine that with a series that began self-contained but has now expanded to six books, and the prominent inclusion in the blurb of the protagonist’s brand-new 2-year-old twin brothers, and I was a little nervous about reading.
However, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
The Artemis Fowl series is about a teenage former sociopathic genius criminal and an Elven hot-shot, loose-cannon cop. They fight crime. No, really.
What began as a deep rivalry between the titular criminal and his fairy enemy Holly Short (and their various companions) has, over the course of six books, morphed into a friendship. With the main hostility gone, it’s felt increasingly like author Eoin Colfer has been reaching for things to do. This time it’s that old fantasy favorite: Time Travel.
In Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox, the titular character’s mother has fallen deathly ill with a strange and seemingly incurable disease that the doctors have never heard of. Science isn’t working, so Artemis brings in Magic in the form of Holly and Co. The fairies identify the symptoms as Spelltropy, a virus that wreaked havoc on the fairy community some five years ago. The only cure: the brain fluid of the now-extinct “Silky Sifaka lemur”. So off they go into the time stream to chase an admittedly adorable McGuffin and rescue the little critter along with Angeline Fowl.
It’s Artemis’ fault the thing went extinct in the first place. And his parents have both been environmentalists all along, especially his former supercriminal father. Really.
Here’s my biggest problem with the book: it reads like Colfer found out that the Green movement is popular now and wasted no subtlety in targeting that audience. The book’s main villain is the leader of The Extinctionists, a group dedicated to wiping out animal species so as to leave more resources for humans. The whole thing is so anvilicious that it’s hard to take seriously.
I was also disappointed with the shoe-horning in of Mulch Diggums the Dwarf. It felt very forced–as if Colfer just couldn’t stand the idea of leaving out the fart jokes this time around. Plus, a few of the plot twists were a little too out of nowhere.
Apart from that, though, the story isn’t so bad. It’s got its twists and turns and I admit to gasping aloud near the end. There aren’t any horrendous breaches of Time Travel rules, and the whole thing is fairly tight and explained. The writing style is as easy to read as ever and tough to put down. And, frankly, it’s nice to go back and see the bastard that Artemis used to be, in the form of his ten-year-old self. The villain protagonist of the first book was one of its charms, and that element has been missing in the later books. Thankfully, most of the bad-fanfic traits that I was afraid of were avoided–Miss Sue from the last book didn’t show at all, and the twins only appeared as lighthearted fun for a few minutes, rather than taking over the story.
If you’re a newcomer to the series, don’t start here. It’s certainly not the best that Colfer has put out. But if you’re a fan and you get a chance to read it, the story is mostly engaging and the writing is fine. The Artemis Fowl series still has some spark to it.