In the fourth installment of the Artemis Fowl series for children by Eoin Colfer, the villain from The Arctic Incident returns to plague all the characters we love, including fourteen-year-old Artemis Fowl, manservant Butler, the elf Captain Holly Short and her commander Julius Root, the centaur Foaly, and the notorious criminal dwarf Mulch Diggums. (Juliet Butler is notably absent from this volume. I think she might be at bodyguard school.)
Like the other Artemis Fowl books, this was enjoyable to read and featured the usual character growth, high-speed chases, amusing conversations, and (of course) tons of fairy gadgets. My one complaint is the same as ever: Mr. Colfer tends to brag about his fictional inventions and devote too much time to explaining how they work. But that's easily overlooked, considering how much effort was spent on character development and the usual intricate plot.
I noticed a bit of a lean on the description, too; things were a bit more visual. And to his credit, Colfer manages to take away the "it's a kids' book" security he had laid in the previous books--that feeling that nothing to horrific can happen to the good guys--and he kills off a major and fairly beloved character who doesn't come back from the dead to make everything hunky-dory at the end. (I won't reveal who it is in my description of the book below, in case someone reading this fears spoilers.) All in all, very recommended, but not without reading the first three first. Without the background of the first three, you'll still enjoy this story but you won't be as affected by the losses and gains of the story and the growth of the characters.
And, happily, another code graces the bottoms of the pages, just like in the first Artemis book. Fans of the books who have bothered to learn the Gnommish alphabet can translate and read a second little story along the bottom of each page. I of course did this. It informed me that I've been recruited as part of a human branch of the fairy police, except I don't remember it because they mind-wiped me. I'll bet! It gave me instructions on four things I have to do to join up with them again and how to contact them when I've satisfied the requirements. One of the requirements is to take a bath every day for a week. I dunno about that. . . .
Here is a moderate synopsis, followed by some quotes I found most amusing.
This book begins by showing us where notorious villain Opal Koboi has been for the last year: In a coma in a psych facility. This pixie criminal was responsible for helping the B'wa Kell goblins gain power in book two, and she's in maximum security being watched by Lower Elements Police officers 'round the clock. Unfortunately, Opal is a lot smarter than most fairies, and she has managed to figure out a plan to seize power again. She's not really in a coma. She's in a self-induced trance state and has been for eleven months, plotting her revenge.
Artemis Fowl, for his part, and his faithful manservant Butler, are involved in a plot to steal a famous painting. All good thieves have stolen this painting at some point, Artemis rationalizes, and so he wants to get in on the action and be the youngest person to have done so. In a carefully-orchestrated plot, he manages to steal the painting from a safe-deposit box. This is where things start to go wrong, though, because meanwhile the fairy police--the LEP--are in trouble. Captain Holly short--being considered for a promotion to major, incidentally--is informed of a strange goblin escape that makes them think someone smarter than goblins is involved. That means either Artemis Fowl or Opal Koboi is involved, and both seem unlikely. They investigate.
What follows happens with frightening speed. Opal gets free of the facility with help from her twin pixie goons Mervall and Descant Brill, replacing her inert form with a clone. Then she releases a deadly scheme to frame Holly, making the LEP turn against her as she goes to try to save Artemis from being blown up. Artemis and Holly end up together while Butler tries to track down his young charge, and winds up encountering Mulch Diggums in Fowl Manor instead. The two fairies fill the two humans in on events since neither of them remember anything, but soon Butler revives his memory because of a special computerized message Artemis engineered to remind him once the memories were erased. Artemis is still in the dark, trying his best to remember and to deal with the fact that he is with an elf from the fairy police and now has to escape from one of Koboi's crazy plots.
He and Holly end up sprayed with pheromones so that they smell like female trolls in heat, and an army of trolls starts chasing them. Artemis realizes he is in poor physical condition as he and Holly try to escape. Eventually they are saved by Mulch and Butler and jump onto a ship, presumed dead by Opal and her cronies.
Because of being framed, Holly and co. have to avoid the LEP as well as Opal, and hatch a plot to stop the megalomaniac pixie's new plan. Opal has had surgery to make her resemble a human (gasp!) and has mesmerized a human environmental scientist into thinking she is his charming daughter Belinda. And she has asked Daddy Dearest to launch a probe into the Earth to find out what's under it, calculated to pretty much wipe out half of Haven City below the ground and invite discovery of the rest of the fairy population.
But even though they get the probe launched and everything seems pretty hopeless, it seems Opal Koboi is again no match for Artemis Fowl. He regains his memories by watching the disc he made for himself before he was mind-wiped, and suddenly his old personality starts to mix with the new one to form something in between. He is surprised by the fact that he has friends he truly cares about and by the passion he feels for this cause--it's very unlike the "old" Artemis to want "good" things. Of course, Artemis comes up with a plan and foils Opal again, indirectly causing her to end up the house slave of a human woman--deprived of truffles!--before being picked up by the LEP. And even though it is difficult to clear Holly Short's name, she manages to come through, only to make a surprising decision in the end. One can only look forward to the next volume, hoping to see what craziness will occur now that everyone acknowledges that they are friends.
My favorite quotes:
Descant Brill: "By the gods, this is the last time I break the boss out of a clinic and replace her with a clone."
Artemis Fowl (pretending to be a typical teen): "It's a game box. They were invented so teenagers wouldn't have to talk to grown-ups."
Artemis Fowl, mocking Opal Koboi: "How can you fail to take over the world with a booty box full of truffles?"
Narration, point of view of Artemis Fowl: She appeared to be conversing with a posterior. And then, even more amazingly, the posterior appeared to answer.
Opal, to her goons: "I assumed Artemis Fowl was dead once before, and I spent a year in a coma as a result."
Opal, to her goons: "You're looking directly at me. That's very bad for my skin."
Opal, to Artemis as she attempts to kill him and realizes he's robbed her: "My truffles?" . . . "You took them. That's just mean."
Read about other volumes: Artemis Fowl * Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident * Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code * Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony * Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox * The Artemis Fowl Files