Note: Minor spoilers regarding the ending of The Lost Colony and the outcome
After disappearing for three years, Artemis Fowl has returned to a life different from the one he left. Now he’s a big brother, and spends his days teaching his twin siblings the important things in life, such as how to properly summon a waiter at a French restaurant.
But now his mother is gravely ill and the only hope of a cure lies in the brain fluid of the extinct silky sifaka lemur. Artemis Fowl must travel back through time to steal the lemur. The rules of time travel are far from simple, but to save his mother, Artemis will have to break them all, and outsmart his most cunning adversary yet: Artemis Fowl, age ten.
This was the book I was most eager to read I think to specifically see the story rather than just general excitement over the overall series. The ending of The Lost Colony opened up a range of questions and with an ending like the one Colfer gave us there was a need to see where the story was going to go or whether we’d be given a chance to see how it got there. So much had changed and Artemis’ world had changed so much that I was eager to see how Colfer handled it. Naturally, being Colfer, and with this entire thing planned to the letter, handled it brilliantly. The transition was seamless, there was no need to awkwardly explain anything, Colfer wove it through the narrative with a smooth fluidity that means as you read you just understood. It was all ok, and you found yourself being engaged and amazed in the new story before you could even think to question anything he had or hadn’t written. Hypnotic and distracting perfection, those are Colfer’s powers.
Thinking about it, new characters have always been welcomed, they added to the expanding world. I think the only question I had, certainly before starting it and not once I had, was about the introduction of the twins and how they would impacted on the Fowl family directly, new Fowl members that made a huge difference compared to the introduction of a new aspect of the Fairy world. But truly, making Artemis a big brother could have failed but it didn’t. Artemis’ character and the fact that the twins have such unique and very Fowl characteristics and unique personalities makes them both a little bit wonderful.
But despite this big change, it is not Artemis’ home life that is especially the focus, yes it is the base reason for the new adventure, but we do not spend the whole novel watching Artemis adjusting to being away for three years and having new siblings quite as directly. Colfer opens the novel in the middle of a situation where we instantly can gauge the relationship between the brothers and the Fowl Manor life. This simple action by Colfer shows us all we need to know, giving us comfortable acceptance over what is happening and what has happened with no need for us to see the missing scenes we know would have taken place. And once we have seen all is well, that is when he takes a sharp turn and sends us on our adventure, this time beginning with Artemis’ mother.
When Artemis’ mother becomes deathly ill and all attempts at curing only make things worse, Artemis enlists the help of the People to try and save his mother. We haven’t seen a lot of Artemis’ parents through the series, sporadically and often with a purpose mainly, and this is similar here but it did not really matter. Angela Fowl is a great character to add to the mix. She gets a little bit more of a role while not really doing anything to begin with, much like Artemis’ father in The Arctic Incident, with the focus more around the intent of healing Artemis’ mother and all the surrounding events, consequences and causalities.
Enlisting the help of Holly, No. 1, as well as Butler, and with no other option at his disposal, Artemis is determined to return to the past to procure the antidote for his mother. The trouble that is it to be retrieved not only in the past from a ruthless young Artemis, but from the Extinctionists he is planning on selling the lemur to. A group of people determined to capture and eat all the rare and endangered animals in the world certainly makes for a different kind of foe than in previous adventures, but naturally not all in as simple as it seems. Time travel soon becomes the least of their problems as new and old dangers appear around each corner.
The Extinctionists are definitely a group that I wasn’t expecting. The idea seems jovial at first but the way their organisation has been developed really can unsettle you if you think too much about it. And reading about these Extinctionists kind of makes you think about where the real ones are in the world, sneaking around with these grossly abused and ill gotten wares, but Colfer manages to raise the issue and bring it to point without harping on about it which is nice.
We see a small part of the old Artemis personality return when he tries to convince the others to travel back through time; this is before we actually see the actual old Artemis of course. With the events following the jump back we are shown a bit more of ten year old Artemis and his life before the events in Book One. I must say ten year old Artemis is almost worse than twelve year of Artemis but only by a little. His childlike compassion is understandable more so than as a twelve year old though. The contrast between young Artemis and his older counterpart is drastic, but having said that we have been gradually seeing an improving Artemis through the series, you do not realise how far he has come until we are forced to see the boy we began the story with side by side. And while we get to see little Artemis and Butler which is fantastic, we also see older Artemis reflect more on who he was and who he is becoming. I always liked tough and no nonsense Artemis but there is room I suppose for caring Artemis as well.
There is a jump between time as we see the present and the past action occur side by side throughout the book, but it is not confusing, at least no more than any other Artemis Fowl novel. The fact that Colfer is returning to the past is clever, and opens up for a lot of questions about what sparks an adventure, who influenced whom and as Artemis says, if it happened in the past then it has already affected the future.
Paradoxes are hard to manage but Colfer manages this superbly. Going back to the past creates its own issues but the way it links together is fantastic. When authors go back after establishing a certain reality, similar to C. S. Lewis in the Narnia books, there is an advantage to create things and do things that bring about an event or occurrence that’s to come as it were.
This is a terrific story that plays out and it makes you want to keep going if only to see how it could possibly be resolved. In addition there is a reappearance of old characters in large and small ways which is also excellently done. Colfer knows where to have people in a story and where not to. There are reasons people are included and whether they are excluded, no one is anywhere by mistake and nothing is mentioned by chance. There are Artemis’ schemes and sneakiness as per usual but we are also privy to more information, history, and detail about the Fowls than before which is an added bonus. There was even a truly wonderful heartfelt moment with Artemis towards the end which was moving and very brave I thought for him and for Colfer. But as I say, Colfer reveals everything to us marvellously and we are able to appreciate each moment no matter how action filled it is or the circumstance. I even detected an excellent Douglas Adams reference in there somewhere which I sincerely hope was intentional because it made me smile.
You seem to go through multiple adventures at once with this book, just when you think one is over another rises up, and while it seems like a jumbled mess of chaos it works oh so brilliantly you can’t imagine. There certainly seems like a lot of planning involved and I would love to have been there when Colfer realised he could make the connections he does, or even whether it was his plan all along, either way I applaud him.
As per usual there is just so much involved in an Artemis book that you cannot comment on it all, and even then you’d forget something or ruin a surprise so it is mainly emotion here because I am giving nothing else away. The joy is in the experience and unexpectedness as always, not to mention getting swept up in the characters, the chaos, and the pure admiration for the effort Colfer has put into not only each novel but the level of detail in the stories and the worlds in which they’re placed.