This is a series that I keep coming back to again and again. Hmmm, haven't read this lately....
I was completely unprepared when I first read this book. I had just finished the four Harry Potter books that at that point were published and was looking for something similar when this was dropped in my lap. When I read the back, I was sure I was going to hate it. A boy thief who risks war with the fairies for gold? Yeah, a great book for kids.
And then I couldn't put it down. I finished it in one sitting (not hard to do, it's a short, well written book)and immediately went looking for the next one in my sister's collection.
Artemis Fowl is a criminal (and I firmly believe you should never forget that, no matter how much you may like him) but he doesn't STAY a criminal. He may be a genius, but he learns to listen to others. He learns to care. He learns to be a better person than his dad was. That is what made me continue. I had to see how far this transformation went. (Find out for yourself! No really! Go read the series. Now.)
While I am very partial to books that link the real world to the fantastical (far more than I am to sweeping epics in places I don't really care about), it is the characters in this book and the others that truly made the book for me. Artemis I've already spoken about. Holly, the kidnapped LEP, is such a wonderfully strong female character, who starts out with such righteous indignation and leaves with a small amount of respect. Butler, who works within his unenviable position of being the bodyguard AND the only adult presence in Artemis' life in order to guide him as much as he rather limitedly can. Foaly...can't describe him. Just read and love him. So many good characters and one of the best things about Colfer is that he never wastes characters. They'll pop up, maybe several books from now, but no one is ever wasted.
Colfer's delicate weaving of fantasy and reality is expertly done; you are also never bored.
The only reason in the end this didn't get another star from me is that while one of my favorite fantasy books, it does not fall into the category of books that I absolutely can not live without. It came close, granted, but that last star is very selective and (unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it)there is a lot of competition.
Advice: Go read. Best for young people and those that never grow old and lovers of fantasy.