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The Opal Deception (Artemis Fowl S.) by Eoin Colfer
Review by John Berlyne
Puffin Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0141381647
Date: 05 May, 2005 List Price £12.9 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

A new Artemis Fowl novel is a real tonic after all the 'heavy' novels I've been reading of late. This series, aimed at the young adult market is great entertainment whatever your age and if, like me, you've been looking for a break from the serious side of science fiction, you really need look no further.

We are now onto the fourth full length installment of this rip-roaring, run-away series, (there was a novella entitled The Seventh Dwarf released especially for World Book Day) and Colfer, a prolific and enormously successful children's author, offers another tale featuring his slick teenage antihero and his antics amongst the wee folk. The genius behind these stories is the wonderful fusion of high tech, hyper-cool gadgetry with the traditional fairytale species that every kid knows and loves. Stories involving dwarves, pixies, elves and goblins have appeared in many, many guises since folks first dreamed them up, but never with a spin like this.

It's no insult to Colfer to describe these stories as formulaic, for they certainly are and obviously so. In the case of The Opal Deception, the main plot is a simple one - Artemis must stop an evil criminal genius from taking over the world. It helps that our protagonist is himself a criminal genius, albeit a benign one - he has the wit, guile and style to succeed at any task he puts mind to - not to mention considerable resources.

In Colfer's world, the centre of the Earth is a fairy domain inhabited by all varieties of magical and mythological beings, but far from being stuck in the Middle Ages (where so often it is placed in fiction), Haven, the fairy capital is a thriving suburban, high tech metropolis. Up on the surface, interaction between fairy and 'mud men' (as they so delightfully term us) is sporadic and unproven. We only suspect their existence, but they sure know about us and the fairy police have a hell of a time keeping the two parties away from each other. The only human ever to properly infiltrate the fairy domain is our boy Artemis and his previous adventures have all but partnered him with Captain Holly Short, an elf policewoman. The most recent of these exploits resulted in Artemis agreeing to a mind wipe, but we learn that this didn't quite take hold as planned. This is just as well, given that Opal Koboi, the most evil pixie that ever lived has escaped custody, and in a plan of grandiose vengeance coupled with a desire for world domination that any self-respecting James Bond villain would be proud of, she has had Holly framed for the brutal murder of her superior officer. With Holly now on the run and Artemis next on Opal's hit list, it becomes a matter of who can get to him first.

These books are cool - the settings are cool, the characters are cool and the toys they get to play with are cool. They're not in least bit profound and (unless I missed it) there's no underlying message or metaphor at work. This simple lack of pretension makes then great, great fun (long live Mulch Diggums, my absolute fave character!) and if you're looking to get your kids away from the TV screen and into reading something apart from Harry Potter, these novels should be your first stop.

Be sure to check out my review of Artemis Fowl: The Artic Incident.

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