Review | Artemis Fowl and the Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer

arcticincidentTitle: Artemis Fowl and the Arctic Incident (2002)
Author: Eoin Colfer
Publisher: Puffin
Read: 7th – 10th June 2018
Genre: children’s; fantasy
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“Someone has been supplying Class A illegal human power sources to the goblins. Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit is sure that her arch-enemy, thirteen-year-old Artemis Fowl, is responsible. But is he? Artemis has his own problems to deal with: his father is being held to ransom and only a miracle will save him. Maybe this time a brilliant plan just won’t be enough. Maybe this time Artemis needs help…” (Synopsis from the publisher)

After many years, I recently decided to re-read the Artemis Fowl series, picking up the first book a few weeks ago (see my review here), and moving swiftly onto this sequel. As I read these books previously as a pre-teen and teen, some of my most formative reading years were spent following the sometimes shady escapades of Artemis Fowl Junior and his bodyguard Butler, as they vexed Captain Holly Root and her fairy colleagues at the Lower Elements Police Force. Because of this, this series remains pure nostalgia, and does go some way to explaining why my particular reading taste has evolved into what it is now, namely a rather large penchant for fantasy with a healthy dose of wit – for all of this, I will always enjoy the Artemis Fowl books.

“Paris had once been a very popular tourist destination. But inevitably, it seemed, humans had claimed the European capital for themselves. The only place fairies felt safe was in Disneyland, Paris, where no one looked twice at diminutive creatures, even if they were green.”

This second adventure sees the action move away from the LEP Recon headquarters and the Fowl Manor respectively, and we find ourselves venturing into Arctic regions. The basic setup was already hinted at in the previous book – for some years, Artemis Fowl Senior has been missing (presumed dead) after a business deal went wrong somewhere in Russia. At the beginning of this book, Artemis receives some hopeful news that his father may, in fact, not be dead but rather held captive by the Russian Mafia. The young boy’s mission then becomes to ditch his boarding school, grab Butler and some of his toys, and head to the Arctic regions to try to track down his father. As always, however, he is waylaid when the LEP Recon forces erroneously believe he has been supplying rogue and dangerous goblin gangs below-ground with illegal human technology (AAA batteries to be precise).

 “Artemis had retired half a dozen counsellors from St Bartleby’s already this year. Truth be told, Po was on the point of packing his own bags. But now…
‘My mother, she…’
Po leaned forward on his fake Victorian chair. ‘You mother, yes?’
‘She forces me to endure this ridiculous therapy when the school’s so-called counsellors are little better than misguided do-gooders with degrees.’ “

As always, this book is very much about Artemis. It would be safe to say he’s a precocious teen and he’s on form even in just the opening pages of the story, as we join young Master Fowl whilst he’s roundly irritating his school psychologist. However, he’s quite witty and amusing in his observations, so I can’t help but continue to roundly love Artemis Fowl. Familiar characters from the first outing soon join his story, and I was delighted to see Mulch Diggums return, having spent the many months since he was pronounced dead during the last Artemis Fowl mission breaking into the houses of Oscar-winning celebrities in Hollywood to collect those shiny gold statues for himself. Similarly, the LEP forces are back, and some of them with a vengeance, and I liked the fact that the fall-out from the first book has resulted in repercussions for the team below ground – for want to not spoil it, I will say no more, but let us just say that not everyone at LEP feels all too loyal to the force after the events of Artemis Fowl.

“Initially Mulch just visited, savouring the thrill of defeating sophisticated Mud Man security systems. Then he began to take trophies. […] The Oscar thing began quite by accident. He nabbed one as a curiosity on a midweek break to New York. Best original screenplay. The following morning he was front page news coast to coast. You’d think he’d ripped off a medical convoy instead of a gilded statuette. Mulch, of course, was delighted. He’d found his new nocturnal pastime.”

Artemis Fowl and the Arctic Incident is a perfectly serviceable Artemis Fowl book, it builds nicely on the relationships (and, more aptly, the tensions) developed in the first book, and takes the story to more complicated and political areas. Likewise, we also see Artemis have to step out from behind his computers and gadgets and actually go “into the field”, a la James Bond, in order to try to track down and rescue his missing father. This results in a chase scene involving a train, and it’s safe to say I giggled a lot at the amusing image of a scrawny, weak pre-teen boy trying to clutch tightly onto the outside of a train whilst it hurtled at top speed. An interesting foil to the LEP forces is also introduced in this book, in the form of a certain pixie, and I know from my previous memory of this series that this first outing of hers is brilliantly wicked but tame compared to the levels of lunacy she reaches in subsequent books – I wholeheartedly look forward to re-reading, and re-experiencing, the rest of the Artemis Fowl books in the future.

“[Holly] was certain that, for once, Artemis wasn’t trying to manipulate anybody. He was simply a boy who missed his father. Maybe her defences were down, but she felt sorry for him.
‘We’re not giving up, Artemis,’ she said softly. ‘We’re regrouping. There’s a difference. We’ll be back. Remember, it’s always darkest before the dawn.’
Artemis looked at her. ‘What dawn? We’re in the Arctic, remember.’ “

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