Why I Hated Artemis Fowl (And Then Changed My Mind)

Why I Hated Artemis Fowl (And Then Changed My Mind)

I always wanted to read books when I was too young for them. I read the Hobbit when I was seven because a theatre company were coming to our primary school to perform it and I didn’t want them to spoil the plot for me. Immediately I begged my parents to let me read the Lord of the Rings, but they were insistent that I would enjoy it more if I waited until I was older. Eventually we compromised – I could read LotR when I was eight. I started on my eighth birthday and had finished all three just over a month later.

It was later that year that I read Harry Potter, and I was probably at the perfect age to start reading the first one. But that was also probably the year I picked up Artemis Fowl in the local library – and hated it.

Having read ‘Stormbreaker’, I think I was expecting the main character to be the good guy. The guy in the title – this Artemis Fowl – he’d be like Alex Rider. He’d be the hero who saved the day. And he wasn’t. Suddenly, I was reading a book where the character I was supposed to like was a horrible person who kidnapped a fairy and held her hostage for gold.

I read an interview several years ago where Eoin Colfer said he’d never intended Artemis Fowl to be the main character. He was just the evil guy that Holly Short had to face. But eventually Artemis developed a conscience and more of Eoin Colfer himself started to go into him, and then he became more of a hero.

I like thinking about this. I like trying to work out where the book would have started if Holly was the main character and Artemis just the antagonist, and how it would have panned out. I like to think about which sections would not have been included and which would have been extended. That’s probably a writer thing, especially as I’ve been thinking a lot about point of view and voice recently, but it’s interesting to me.

At eight years old I couldn’t bring myself to like a character who didn’t have the same morals as me. You have to remember, I was brought up on Narnia and the Lord of the Rings, where it’s pretty black and white who is the good guy and who is the bad guy.

I took the book back to the library and thought no more about it for two years. When I was ten, a friend gave me a boxed set of the first three Artemis Fowl books for my birthday. By then I had forgotten that I’d ever tried to read the books, so I started reading the first one with an open mind. Several aspects of it seemed vaguely familiar, and by the time I was halfway through I was pretty sure I’d read it before.

But this time I liked it.

I remembered, later, that I’d tried it before. I remembered why I hadn’t liked it.

Now that I was older, I was interested in the idea of a bad guy being the main character. I was interested in the idea of redemption and I knew more about character development. I fell in love with the Artemis Fowl series and I followed them through right to the end.

At eight I was just too young to understand the beauty of a complex character like Artemis Fowl. Other eight-year-olds would have got it, but I was innocent and, despite my adventurous reading habits, quite young for my age in many ways. Now I’m proud to read Artemis Fowl books on the bus, even though others would dismiss them as children’s books. I don’t care who knows that I read them.

I think that probably Artemis Fowl was one of my first encounters with a slightly morally ambiguous character – ambitious of Eoin Colfer, when you consider his main audience. He taught me to love heroes that were flawed and villains that were heroic.

And so I am glad that after hating the books the first time I read them, I picked them up again with an open mind and tried again, when I was older. When I got it. But it raises the question: how many other books that I disliked in the past would I like if I read them again now? How much have I missed by reading things too young?

25 thoughts on “Why I Hated Artemis Fowl (And Then Changed My Mind)

  1. About the last two questions in your post – I’ve wondered that too, which is why lately I’ve been trying some books that I hated the first time around. Whether I’m rereading a book that I loved or hated several years ago, I usually pick up on a few more things. I like it. :D

  2. I reread books I hate/love/like all the time, too! Ditto to nevillegirl’s last statement, too. Every time I read the HP series, I pick up on something new and exciting, which I totally love. And for the HP series, for the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why anybody would want to read them, and one day I picked one up, and bam! I was hooked. (That may have been somewhat off topic) I also love the idea of the bad guy being the main character of any book. That appeals to the writer in me :)

    1. Oh, I resisted reading Harry Potter for ages, because I was convinced no fantasy series could ever compare to Lord of the Rings. Actually, there’s a blog post in that story. I’ll save it for later :D

    2. *waves to tomte* I wish I hadn’t read HP so young… I read the last book when I was 10 and had basically no reaction at all except, “That’s it?” *facepalms*

      P.S. This is random, but I love your avatar. He/she/it is adorable…

      1. Wait… you were ten when the last one came out? How old are you now? O.o
        Oh, apparently I was only eleven. Wow. I remember being WAY older than that. Like, thirteen or something. Apparently not.
        IT’S BEEN FIVE YEARS?!?!

      2. *waves back* Hello! As for the HP, I cried at the last movie. I was so sad it was over, kind of in denial that there wouldn’t be any more :( I think I discovered them in fourth grade…..? I finished them in about a week and a half, then went to the task of finding the movies so I could watch them all. I didn’t cry in the books, but I cried at the movie. *sniffle*
        I think my tomte avatar is an it, as the website I found it from said it was made out of marzipan. Interesting.

      3. I’ll be 16 in 18 more days. :P Yeah, I was surprised when I realized it’s been 5 years.

        OH NO! Don’t let anyone eat it! (The marzipan guy. xD) Someone could come along and munch on it and then the cuteness would be lost forever.*

        *I get really weird like that when it’s too early in the morning.

      4. Haha. It was about 8 here.

        Yeah, I guess I would be. (I’m homeschooled, so I only halfway pay attention to stuff like that. :P) I think the cut-off date (that separates who goes into what grade) is like late July or early August so I suppose I would be one of the oldest.

        *has read too much nerdy stuff about how that affects who does well in school and wonders if being about a year older than some of the other kids was what made it so easy for her in 1st grade* *or is maybe just nerdy, since she even remembered that stuff*

  3. I love Artemis Fowl for the same reason you hated him. I loved the idea that a villain could be the main character, and I’ve followed the series ever since. It kind of turned the idea of a protagonist on its head for me, and Artemis’ redemption in later books was great to see. The Lost Colony is my favorite, but The Last Guardian was a disappointment.

    1. I felt that the Atlantis Complex was the most disappointing. I enjoyed the Last Guardian (to the point of writing an essay on why the ending was actually the saddest outcome he could have written, in case anyone missed the long-term implications) but my favourite is the Time Paradox in all its mind boggling complexity :D
      It’s strange, but since then I’ve been a massive fan of villains being the main characters (hence the post I wrote a couple of days ago). It’s just that, at eight, I couldn’t get that. *shrugs* Don’t know why, just couldn’t.


    I started reading the AF books just last year, actually. I’m not sure what drew me to them, but I started reading the first book and loved it for some reason. Maybe because of how different it was. Maybe because of how sassy everyone acted.

    The first couple of books were by far the best, even though I did enjoy the dialogue in TTP and TAC. The Last Guardian as just wonderful. It made me cry. We’ll just leave it at that.

    Even if there are obvious flaws, and the author always seems to be outdoing himself, it’s still a great series. I’m really upset it ended, but then, I suppose all good things must.

    1. Ah, what the hell. I wrote a reply and WP lost it.
      There are flaws in all book series – often because it’s hard to make sure your continuity is good when you write book one several years before later books, and so the world is going to develop over that time. That’s why I’m writing solid drafts of the whole trilogy before I think about publication!
      Personally, I just invent headcanons to explain any little issues.
      I was obviously drawn to them because when I read them the second time, it was around the same time as I was reading The New Policeman by Kate Thompson, the book that got me interested in Celtic mythology and the fairies … and we all know how that turned out. So I was just becoming obsessed with fairies when I discovered a totally different interpretation of them and I thought it was amazing.

  5. Heh, I never finished the Artemis Fowl series – I got lost after The Eternity Code, as they all came out so fast and I was continent hopping a lot at the time. I think I read the first one at eleven, though, so I wasn’t exactly early for my time.

    As for what you missed, well, what better to do than re-read them? I did that with LOTR not long ago, and found myself getting ridiculously attached to Boromir, because I realised how many more layers he had going underneath his role as just “that other dude who dies in Book One who was played by Sean Bean”.

    That’s what books is for, eh? Re-reading and finding new gems amidst old mines :)

    1. I meant to re-read LotR this summer, but unfortunately illness and holidays overtook me and I was unable to do so. I might just about manage to finish the Hobbit over the next few days, though school starts for me tomorrow.
      I suggest you try again with AF, because from what I know of your tastes you would enjoy them. Plus, fairies with technology. It’s like Watching meets Avengers. It’s awesome.

    1. That’s interesting, because I read the Lord of the Rings just three months after the Hobbit and adored it. But I suppose everybody’s mind is different – I know people at my age who can’t get into books they used to love and other people whose reading is way ahead of typical.

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