Take a sonic trip into a magical underworld.
Before I begin my critique of the first entry in the bestselling series about an Irish twelve-year-old criminal mastermind taking on an underground army of fairies, trolls, and dwarves, I must let you in on a secret, and it's a pretty controversial one:
I prefer audiobooks over traditional text books.
This is both shocking and appalling, partly because I am a writer myself, but also because I have found that, in my experience, what used to be referred to as "books on tape" are considered, to be, put nicely, books for people who are too dumb to read. Despite the enduring popularity of audiobooks, it is a common occurrence that purists of the written word will look down their scholarly noses at the audacious notion of having a story read to you. Long commutes, long work hours, and longing for yet another alternative in the endless conveyor belt of entertainment offerings have all led me back to listening to novels, memoirs, and guidebooks, time and time again. I do read for leisure, but I'm always keeping an ear out for a quality audiobook. Stigma, schmigma, let's get to the d'arvit review already!
The inaugural novel in the wildly successful series written by Eoin Colfer was originally released back in May 2001 and has since spawned several sequels. Most recently, the franchise has taken the Disney plunge, resulting in a motion picture adaptation full of deviations from the original source material that are sure to make faithful fans rip their hair out in frustration. The audio version was released in 2003, skillfully narrated by Nathaniel Parker.
Millionaire criminal genius tween Artemis Fowl and his loyal manservant Butler (what's in a name?) acquire an ancient manual from a drunken sprite living in Ho Chi Min City. Using his wealth of resources, whizkid Artemis returns home to his fortified mansion in Ireland where he decodes the sacred tome's secrets, leading to a dastardly plot to rob fairies of their precious gold - rich as the Fowls may be, the family fortune is in trouble due the recent "death" of his crimelord pops, Artemis the first. Artie's mother has gone cray-zay with grief, living with ghosts of the past that haunt her memories. Captain Holly Short (short - because she's a small fairy!), an agent of the magical underworld's police force, the LEPrecon (like "leprechaun" - get it?!) Unit, unwittingly finds herself held captive by the boy as ransom in exchange for the underground treasure.
Another confession: I hopped on Audible browsing for fiction that was within the same general genre as my developing manuscript. While conceptually incomparable to my story, the overall tone matched, so I took a chance on this Fowl guy. “Artemis” delivered with a big adventure and even bigger inspiration - since readers took a chance on this delightfully devious tale rooted in science fiction, then there is hope for my similar-but-different superhero yarn.
Hearing Eoin Colfer's words come to life caused me to consider what your script sounds like when read aloud. Novels may be intended to be read first, spoken second (if at all), but reading your description and dialogue out loud can make you realize how eloquent your prose is - or if your brain was out to lunch while your fingers were typing. These language lessons focused my attention to the apparent POV-hopping within the narration of Artemis Fowl. In a typical scene, we hear the inner thoughts of prisoner Holly's reaction to her unwilling caretaker, Butler's sister Juliet, spouting off snarky comments while reluctantly bringing the captive some grub - only for the next sentence to switch, describing Juliet's view of the situation. As someone who is far more familiar with single POV chapters, such as the A Song of Ice and Fire series, this was a curveball.
"Artemis" is rich with eclectic fantasy characters as well as intriguing humans, all masterfully performed by Nathaniel Parker. The titular Fowl is voiced in an appropriately young-sounding pitch but with a smartest-guy-in-the-room flair. Male voice over artists playing female roles isn't always convincing, but Holly sounds feminine and genuine. The variety of accents given to each of "The People", as the fairy ilk are referred to, was a pleasure to listen to. From the resident "guy in the chair" techie centaur Foaly to the cantankerous head of the Lower Elements Police (LEP), Julius Root, each voice is distinct and expertly delivered.
As engaging as Parker's dry charisma is, it was the story itself that hooked me. As aforementioned, using my Audible membership credit for this book began as a research assignment to see (or hear, in this case) what the "kids are into" these days. These days meaning a book that came out about twenty years ago. Anyway, though children were the targeted demographic, I, like many other adults, couldn't help but get swept away into this blend of sorcery and science. As someone who never saw the appeal of the wizardry of Harry Potter, having Artemis Fowl steal my interest was a welcome surprise.
I give this audiobook 4.7 Diggums out of 5 1/2*
*review rating system has not been finalized