Artemis Fowl is a boy (evil) genius, and when he and his faithful bodyguard, Butler, stumble across an honest-to-goodness fairy it opens a whole new world of potential trouble. Eoin (pronounced “Owen”) Colfer presents fairies in a new conception: little people with big gadgets. He updates traditional lore with modern technology: their wings are actually more like jetpacks, and invisibility comes from special reflective foil. They’re like James Bond with magic, and live below-ground in a huge metropolis unknown to humans.
Artemis is the son of an Irish crime lord, and at twelve is already an accomplished criminal. He manages to predict a fairy appearance and kidnaps the fairy in question, Captain Holly Short. While Artemis holds Holly for ransom, they form a grudging friendship and through the next several years have lots of adventures: rescuing Artemis’ father from Siberia, stopping a ruthless businessman from accessing advanced fairy technology, clearing Holly of a murder charge, even outwitting Artemis’ younger self in order to cure his sick mother.
As a character, Artemis is particularly intriguing because though he begins the series as a heartless villain, over the course of the next seven books he slowly begins to develop into someone who can feel remorse, guilt, and compassion. This wavers back and forth as he is mind-wiped several times, but he always manages to do good by being evil. It’s a constant battle of intelligence between the advanced technology and secrecy of the fairies and Artemis’ formidable intellect and ability to read people/fairies. He can flawlessly predict the antagonistic reactions of the fairy police, but kindness and friendship manage to surprise him.
Artemis doesn’t make the list this week because he’s a great hero. He makes this list because he slowly becomes a great hero because of friendships he makes. Left to his own devices he would undoubtedly end up a crime lord like his father, but as he reluctantly agrees to keep the fairy world safe from humans he is charged with a duty that installs importance and trust on him, which focuses his massive brain power on something positive. He’s still crafty enough to be enjoyable but is never truly ruthless.
The seven (soon to be eight) books of the series are great for middle readers, and Artemis’ steel trap mind is reminiscent of Eugenides from Monday’s post, though both more evil and more light-hearted. His ability to leaps of logic in a second—when Butler is fatally shot, Artemis immediately forms a plan to preserve his life: dragging the body to the freezer to get the temperature of the brain down to stop decay, which then allows Holly to eventually resuscitate the bodyguard with magic. It all takes less than three minutes, and most of that is the time Artemis takes to haul the 260-lb body to the kitchen. And of course the inevitable twist at the end of each book where he reveals his winning hand is always cheer-worthy.
The books in the series are: Artemis Fowl, The Artic Inicident, The Eternity Code, The Opal Deception, The Lost Colony, The Time Paradox, and The Atlantis Complex. Colfer has also written several books outside of Artemis-verse, which are well worth checking out. There is a film supposedly in the works, though nothing definitive yet.