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Artemis Fowl (novel)

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Artemis Fowl
Artemis Fowl first edition cover.jpg
Author(s) Eoin Colfer
Country Ireland
Language English
Series Artemis Fowl series
Genre(s) Young adult, fantasy
Publisher Viking Press
Publication date April 2001
Media type Print ( Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 277
ISBN ISBN 0670899623
Followed by Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident

Artemis Fowl is a young-adult fantasy novel written by Irish author Eoin Colfer, the first book in the Artemis Fowl series, and is followed by Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident. Described by its author as " Die Hard with fairies," it follows the adventures of its 12-year-old title character, a criminal mastermind, as he kidnapped a fairy for ransom.

Throughout the book, the third-person narration switches repeatedly from following the human characters to following the fairy characters, and presented underlying themes of greed and conflict. The book received a mostly favourable critical response, and several awards.

A film adaptation was reported to be under way in 2007, but its current status is unknown.


Artemis Fowl II, the titular character, is the twelve-year-old son of a Irish crime lord, Artemis Fowl I. After significant research, Artemis believes that he has discovered the existence of fairies. He tracks down a sprite posing as a healer in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and travels there with his friend and bodyguard Butler to obtain the The Book of the People - the Fairy holy book that is written in Gnommish - from her.

Meanwhile, Captain Holly Short of the Lower Elements Police is tracking a rogue troll that has managed to reach the surface of the Earth from the fairy city, deep underground. Assisted by a technically minded centaur called Foaly, and LEPrecon commander Julius Root, she incapacitates the troll. However, this uses the last of her magic, and Commander Root demands that she completes the magic restoring ritual.

Artemis decodes The Book using computerised translating software, and in the process, learns of the specifics of the ritual—taking an acorn from an ancient oak tree near a bend in a river under the full moon, and replacing it somewhere else. Combining these factors, Artemis and Butler track down about 100 possible locations for the ritual, and start a stakeout; after several days of this, they find the place Holly has chosen, and find her starting the ritual. She attempts to use the magical mind-controlling mesmer to defend herself, but Artemis is prepared for this, and Butler tranquillises Holly with a hypodermic syringe. The LEP, who are immediately aware of her disappearance, send Julius Root to search for her. He locates her tracker, and follows it to an abandoned whaler off the coast of Dublin, Ireland. Through an audio/visual communicator, Artemis informs Root from Fowl Manor that he has Holly up for ransom, then destroys the whaler remotely by detonating a large amount of Semtex.

An LEPretrieval team is sent to scout Fowl Manor. Using their magical ability of 'shielding', which allows them to vibrate faster than the human eye can follow, they succeed in entering the manor grounds. Artemis had anticipated this however, and had installed a camera with a high frames-per-second rate, allowing him to detect the threat by freezing the image. Butler incapacitates them, so Root decides to lay siege to Fowl Manor using a time-stop, and enter negotiations. The ransom demand is revealed as one metric ton of 24-carat gold. Artemis uses the opportunity to reveal his knowledge of the time-stop which the fairies applied as part of the siege, and claims that he can escape it.

The attempts to gain entry to the manor continue as an infamous criminal, the kleptomaniac dwarf Mulch Diggums, is recruited to break in. Fairies are forbidden from entering human dwellings without permission, but Mulch has already broken this rule, and is immune to the adverse consequences. He tunnels underground to reach the house, and Foaly feeds a loop to the manor surveillance system, allowing him to freely explore. Mulch locates a safe containing a copy of the Book, finally revealing to the fairies the source of Artemis' knowledge. The Fairy Council, deciding that nothing is working, promote a lieutenant called Briar Cudgeon to Acting Commander, temporarily usurping Julius Root. He sends a troll in to attempt to secure a cry for help, which counts as an invitation for fairies to enter. Meanwhile, Holly Short remembers that she dropped the acorn from the ritual in her boot, and cracks through the concrete of her cell using her bed, to complete the Ritual, regain her magic, and escape into the main house.

Butler, aided by the healing powers of Holly, defeats the troll, and Artemis is granted the ransom. An earlier statement, "None of your kind are allowed in this manor while I am alive", is interpreted as an invitation after his death. The gold is sent in, and Artemis asks Holly for a wish—to cure his mother from insanity (she had been living in the attic, driven mad by the shocking loss of her husband) —which she grants at the cost of about half the gold. The LEP decide to send in a 'blue rinse'—a biological bomb that kills all organic life—to eliminate Artemis and allow for the retrieval of the gold, but this fails when Artemis escapes the time-stop by drugging himself and his comrades with sleeping pills.

When Butler wakes, he demands an explanation from Artemis as to why they were drugged. Artemis explains that by changing one's state of wakefulness in a time-stop, one can escape it; as it is only one's state of consciousness that keeps one trapped by the time stop.


Major characters

  • Artemis Fowl II – The protagonist; a 12-year-old genius, he uses his intelligence to break the law in order to obtain wealth; this stems down from his family, who have been criminals for generations. While he seems cold and distant, even from his close friend Butler, at the beginning of the book, his character develops throughout, and he shows remorse, guilt, and passion for his family at the end.
  • Butler – The Fowl's manservant and Artemis' bodyguard, but also Artemis's friend and accomplice. Throughout the book, his first name is not revealed; this is possibly to prevent over-familiarity between bodyguard and client.
  • Captain Holly Short – A determined, forthright elf and the first female member of LEPrecon. Compassionate and caring, she goes as far as healing Butler from fatal wounds sustained fighting a troll, despite the fact that he has been integral in the plan to hold her hostage—this act goes some way to changing both Artemis' and Butler's views on others.
  • Commander Julius Root – Known as 'Beetroot' by fellow fairies for his characteristic red face, he is Holly Short's superior officer. A father figure to the other fairies, and specifically Holly, he appears truly distressed at her disappearance, as shown with his conversation with Artemis in the whaler, 'If you've harmed one tip of my officer's pointy ears...'.
  • Foaly – The LEP's technical advisor. Portrayed as brilliant, but highly sarcastic, he is described as 'having few friends'. The time-stop used in the siege of Fowl Manor was his invention, and he provides numerous high-tech gadgets to the other characters.
  • Mulch Diggums – A criminal dwarf who is recruited by the LEP to gain access to Fowl Manor during the siege. Having already entered other dwellings without permission, he is unaffected by the effects suffered by the other fairies.


Artemis Fowl has a number of underlying themes, but the most essential of these are greed and the conflict between good and evil.

Greed is the first main theme that is introduced into the book, and specifically the desire to obtain gold. In a similar manner to other themes in the book, it changes throughout, becoming less of a focus near to the end of the novel, where Artemis is willing to part with a large sum of money to help someone else.

The idea of conflict between good and evil is one that is touched upon in the book in a light hearted manner—although Artemis sees himself as an evil genius at the beginning of the book, and it is indeed this image that is portrayed, the end of the story brings this idea into doubt as well when he pays to help his mother. The fairies would take the good side in this view, but this can also be questioned—they are as determined as Artemis to achieve their goals and while only some of them were willing to ruthlessly deploy a troll, regardless of the possible danger to life, all are willing to utilise a bio-bomb to force Artemis into submission.


At the bottom of each page of the book, a string of symbols appear. These symbols are supposedly Gnommish, but are really part of a substitution cipher which, when decoded, reveals a message. The message runs throughout the book's pages. It can be deciphered using a section of the book's text which gives a passage in Gnommish from The Book of the People, and then its English translation. The code speaks of the storyline of this book, and its sequel; the Gnommish cipher key can be found in The Artemis Fowl Files.

Critical response

In general, the book received a very positive critical response—it was on The New York Times best-sellers list, the Publisher's Weekly best-sellers list, and received the Garden State Teen Book Award (2004), among other awards.

A number of reviews were written about the book. The New York Post said "Artemis Fowl is great ... a new thriller fairy tale that will grab your interest, no matter your age." and the Library Journal said "Fun to read, full of action and humour, this is recommended for all public libraries and to readers of all ages."

The majority of internet reviews and review websites also agreed that Artemis Fowl was a good book. The official review highly complimented the book, saying "Fantastic stuff from beginning to end, Artemis Fowl is a rip-roaring, 21st century romp of the highest order." and the book was also generally well received by the public, with an average score of 4/5 from Amazon users.

Reviews, however, were not all positive. USA Today scathingly concluded: "All the familiar action-flick clichés are trotted out: the backstabbing, politically astute subordinate; the seemingly loony but loyal computer expert; the dabs of family loyalty; the requisite happy ending; the utterly unsubtle plugs for the sequel; the big action scenes. ... Resist the hype, parents, booksellers and librarians. This is not the new Harry Potter, nor is it a good children's book."

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