The Rise and Fall of Artemis Fowl
Spoiler warning for ... well, the entire thing. I'm not marking individual spoilers; it's been long enough since the last book was released. Also this is really going to be rambling, I can just sense it. Consider yourself warned.
Ever since a friend loaned me the first book in the series, I'm a fan of Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series of books. The characters and re-imagined concepts of Colfer's stories captured my imagination.
As I caught up - at that point, The Time Paradox was the most recent book in the series - I'd realized that Colfer was a writer with flaws. With the release of The Atlantis Complex and The Last Guardian, I felt as if Colfer's writing had finally jumped the shark, so to speak. His characters and writing style became caricatures of themselves, with an over-reliance on his own tropes.
Mulch Diggums saving everyone, side characters with puns for names, recurrence of Opal Koboi as a villain, character such as Butler or № 1 reduced to becoming one-dimensional characters ... these are all devices that occurred more often as the series progressed, and devices that became especially prevalent in the later books.
For this reason, The Eternity Code is by far my favorite book in the entire series, because it's different and it avoids the trope traps that Colfer fell into. Artemis is beaten by Spiro, Butler loses a step after his death and subsequent revival, Opal Koboi isn't the villain, and so on. So many things are different about Eternity, and for that I enjoyed it immensely.
Another thing that I enjoyed about Eternity was that it was contained most of the moments where Colfer significantly changed something about the Fowl universe. Artemis's mind was wiped, Butler's physicality was questioned. Thereafter, the events of Eternity were hardly mentioned, save for the change in Butler's physical makeup. After a terrifying and distraught Butler scared the snot out of Arno Blunt in Eternity, I thought that it would be a sea-change for Butler's character, but it was not.
But back to the story. In the subsequent book, The Opal Deception - the last book where Koboi's appearance actually retains some semblance of novelty - Commander Root is killed. Root's character is not one I particularly ... ahem rooted for in the first three books. While he had his fair share of touching interactions with Holly Short, Root was mainly painted through other characters, and not always in a positive light. Nevertheless, this newfound willingness to change things - permanently - in Colfer's writing was encouraging. Eternity and now this? What would Colfer do in the next book?
The Lost Colony saw Artemis in puberty. The way Colfer handled Artemis's interaction with his love interest/unwitting half-villain Minerva Paradizo was not emphasized, nor was Paradizo even so much as given a shout-out in the final three books. Colfer says that Paradizo had lost interest in Artemis after his exile getting back from Limbo and was in the alps somewhere, but this was in a tweet, if I recall correctly. It would have been nice to get some closure on the plot point in one of the three books, even if it was just a throwaway line. Artemis's feelings were also not addressed in the rest of Colony. Despite this, Colony remains my second-favorite book in the series, for its new characters and addition to the Fowl universe.
Alright, time for another complaint. Colfer's writing called for a cast of heroes that always showed up. Characters were never split up for long periods of time. Mulch, Holly, and Butler always showed up with Artemis, and there were few extended, important scenes without the entire gang together. Even when it would have been easier to leave out characters - even the lovable dwarf Mulch - Colfer jams them into scenes. It would have been great to see more times where characters not have someone else to fall back on, which brings me to The Time Paradox.
Paradox pulls out all of the proverbial stops, but even so, Colfer's reliance on getting his protagonists out of jams with Mulch Diggums reappears. It would have been great to see Artemis and Holly have to finagle their way out of sticky situations without the assistance of Mulch or Butler, but again, Colfer didn't take advantage of opportunities.
The Atlantis Complex is perhaps my least favorite Fowl book. I felt as if the series had come to a nice conclusion with Paradox, but the two Opal Kobois in the timeline meant that a continuation was necessary - and another return for a villainess who became a caricature of herself in each consecutive appearance. But Complex doesn't deal with that - instead, Artemis is now seen with a magic-derived mental disorder. Colfer's pro-environmental sentiment - one which I agree with - reached a level of overt preachiness that I found distracting. The only thing that Complex has going for it is its callback to Deception with the death of Commander Vinyáya. But like Root, Vinyáya was never a major character, and the readers were never emotionally attached to her character.
For all of the missed opportunities in his characterizations, Colfer's depiction of Artemis's growth and maturity was excellent. The nearly amoral tween crime lord of the early books changed into a more conscious part-time crime lord. While still not the most upright of character, Artemis's machinations begin to nip at his consciousness in Eternity and eventually lead to his annoyance at his younger self in Paradox and then finally to his plan to save the world in Complex.
This is getting really rambling now so I think I'll move on and talk a little bit about the continuity of the series. Complex, despite my dislike, was possibly the most continuity-aware book, with the reappearance of Turnball Root after appearing in a short story years earlier. However, many minor plot points that make their appearances in the books - especially towards their respective ends - are thrown away in subsequent books and never mentioned again. This ranges from the aforementioned Minerva Paradizo to the Doodah Day/Mulch Diggums PI firm.
I feel like I'm complaining a bit too much about Artemis Fowl to the point where one might think that I'm not actually a fan of it. Yet for its flaws - which I've pointed out here in perhaps the least organized piece of material that I've written in my entire life - I still like the series. I just wish it hadn't petered out towards the end and done more of the things that made The Eternity Code so danged epic.