At KidLit Network, we have a special place in the cockles of our hearts for books which have been banned for one ridiculous reason or another. While the awesomeness of Artemis Fowl is widely known and certainly needs no promotion from me, I recently read all eight books in the series and felt the need to show my favorite banned teenage criminal mastermind and his fairy cohorts a little love.
The series has been banned in evangelical schools in the US, according to the British Council, “for supposedly being anti-Christian…others have objected to the depiction of violence and to Artemis’ cold, unfeeling character.”
Ooookay…so let me say two things:
1. “Anti-Christian” is a pretty vague accusation.
2. Have these people read the entire series? Because Artemis’ eight-book character arc is literally one of the best I’ve ever read.
In the beginning, yes – the boy is cold and unfeeling…well, except for his obvious concern for his ailing mother and his desperation to rescue his kidnapped father. And there’s his disdain for poachers and anyone or any business that blatantly disrespects the environment. In fact, in his own weird way, Artemis is a sort of conservationist right from the beginning.
But yeah, he’s pretty cold and calculating. He kidnaps a fairy, gets tangled up in the Russian Mafia, and attempts to sell fairy technology to a jerkwad of an American businessman. By the end of the series, though…I’d hate to spoil the end for you, so let’s just say there’s some pretty incredible character growth.
Perhaps the most memorable moment of the entire series for me was in book six – The Time Paradox – in which a maturing Artemis who is now questioning his life’s ambitions and actions travels back in time and finds himself trying to outwit his younger, crueler self. Young Artemis has defeated Older Artemis, and before parting, states:
“And if you ever consider crossing swords with me again, review your memory of this pain, and perhaps you will think twice.”
He leaves his older self, who has just been given a gut-wrenching taste of his own cruelty. Older Artemis’ reaction:
He was not beaten yet – far from it. He intended to cross swords with his ten-year-old self again just as soon as he possibly could. If anything, the boy’s mocking speech had fueled his determination.
Remember the pain? thought Artemis. I hate myself. I really do.
After going through five and a half books in this character’s egotistical, self-assured head, the phrase “I hate myself” packs quite a wallop. Artemis has certainly made a lot of mistakes – horrible ones – at a very young age. His path to redemption is equally large in scale. So to dismiss this book as inappropriate for children because of the “cold, unfeeling main character” seems to me to be perhaps a tad ignorant.
Is it better to simply have an antagonist who learns nothing and is ultimately destroyed? Is it maybe a better moral for children to watch a character go from cold and unfeeling to warm and loving, to see that it’s possible for someone to redeem him or herself? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the idea of salvation was something of a hot topic in Christianity. Why ban a book that exemplifies it?
But hey – banning a book certainly doesn’t have to stop anyone from reading it. So for any kids, librarians, teachers, parents, or just book-lovers in general out there wondering if they should dive into the Artemis Fowl series, here’s a list of reasons why I completely love it:
- Eoin Colfer described it as “Die Hard with faires.” Possibly the best comparison I’ve ever heard.
- Super high-tech fairy weaponry and gadgets that shame any Bond movie.
- Insanely fast pacing – one of those books that has you saying “one more chapter…okay, one more…”
- Dwarves who use their explosive farts both as weapons and tools for survival.
- Romance! (Later in the series. Worth waiting for – it’s completely adorable.)
- Crazy good world-building. Colfer makes the idea of fairies living beneath us is just as believable as wizards walking among Muggles.
- High stakes. Make that very high stakes. And they get higher with every book.
- Serious consequences. I’m not a fan of 100% happy endings – call me a cynic, but they’re too unbelievable. Actions taken by characters in earlier books have repercussions in later books, which I appreciate.
- Magic and science are pretty much the same thing. In other words, the magic has rules and logic – another sign of solid world-building.
- Did I mention that dwarf flatulence is used as weaponry?
Some may call this a “boy book.” As I’m of the belief that books don’t have genders, I’m going to call it a book for anyone who likes well-developed characters, lots of action, high-tech toys, and stories that don’t treat good and evil as two distinct, unchangeable entities.