With the release of the eighth and final book in the Artemis Fowl series, Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian, we say goodbye to one of the most entertaining sagas for kids and grown ups in recent memory.
Following the devious but lonely child prodigy Artemis and his leprechaun frenemy Holly Short, the two battle to maintain peace and order between the human world above ground and the magical world that exists underground. Their ultimate aim is to ensure the existence of the Fairy world remains a secret to humans.
The first book in the series was published in 2001, and put its Irish-born author Eoin Colfer in a strange position. At the time Harry Potter fever was spreading fast, a global epidemic which would dominate the kid’s book market for the next decade.
Though Artemis Fowl novels have been international bestsellers and critical darlings, it’s always felt like the series never received the credit it truly deserves. Or perhaps it did but this was simply dwarfed by the enormous attention for old Harry.
Either way, as a series that genuinely delights young and old, Artemis Fowl is a formidable achievement. Colfer describes it as ‘Die Hard with Fairies’ and it’s not far from the mark.
The fantasy elements threaded through the story are robust and fully realised. There is the ancient practice of magic with clear rules and myriad fantastic creatures both good and evil. Yet there is a uniquely modern element to the fantasy with advanced weapons and communication technologies and a political and bureaucratic system with similar incompetencies and internal bickering, particularly from fairy police Commander Julius Root:
“One, you’re right. Two, I’m going to run with it. Three, well done, you two. And four, you ever call me Julius again, Foaly, you’ll be eating your own hooves. “
The ensemble of supporting characters are varied and lively. From a paranoid centaur and a kleptomaniac dwarf to Artemis’ stoic right hand man Butler, each has a strong voice and a clearly relevant place in the overall narrative.
The development of central characters Artemis and Holly has been most impressive though, particularly Artemis. His personal journey from coolly calculating enemy of the fairy realm to their greatest ally is wonderful to see unfold. A close friendship with leprechaun Holly blooms out of intense hatred and the possibility of something more is dangled tantalisingly in front of us.
With the release of Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian the human and leprechaun worlds are again in peril and Artemis and Holly must battle one last time to rescue both races. Recurring themes about the evils of greed and power, the importance of the environment and the elegance of true friendship are evident but never overpowering.
For readers The Last Guardian will be a bittersweet but fitting farewell to a truly original and uproarious fantasy saga not soon forgotten.