After finishing the book, I had a quick flick thru some other reviews of AFLG before starting this review. Obviously I've grown up with this series and everyone else sharing their opinions had their own ideas of how this should end (is this the end?) - I struggled for a while to decide on my rating. So here's my logic on going for the full 5 star treatment.
First of all, thanks to Eoin Colfer for putting together a truly imaginativeand memorable series. Some of it has required some serious concentration to disentangle the story, a great deal of suspension of disbelief, and sometimes an infuriating resorting to convenient story lines to get from one point to another (my personal bugbear was the squandered opportunity of Artemis' memory wipe circa book 3 which could have led to all sorts of fun and conflict, but was reversed far too quickly)
But what has kept me hooked throughout is the development of character and elegance of writing style. Artemis Fowl starts as a precocious, mean spirited, cold and calculating 11 year old who sees an opportunity to gain supremacy at the expense of an entire race of people. It takes considerable literary guile to develop him into a multi-faceted and admirable anti-hero who ,by the end of AFLG, has no hesitation in carrying out the ultimate act of selflessness. I've also been drawn in by the colourful and sharp-witted team around him, his loyal elf ally Holly Short, ever self-sacrificing bodyguard Butler, and the many characters who 've come and gone along the way. The death of Holly's commander Julius Root was a poignant and painful reminder that this was no child's play that Artemic Fowl frequently found himself drawn into.
Mulch is welcome light relief here as he has frequently been. It has been noted that his appearances in AFLG have been somewhat convenient for our heroes' escape from peril, but there has rarely been a literary hero who hasn't relied on a little luck to emerge victorious.
To the book itself, and with some relief I read the first few pages to be met with the reassurance that, following the disturbing lack of our hero through Atlantis Complex, (I've reviewed that elsewhere, and found it more than a little disappointing) Artemis is well and truly back with us, and this time we're straight into the action as all the jetsetting and dimension-hopping has been discarded in favour of getting back to the place it all started, the Fowl Manor outside Dublin, where super villainess Opal Koboi is preparing her ultimate plan for world domination. In true Mission Impossible 4 style, our heroes are cut off from their high-tech support system and have to rely on their own wits and courage to save the day.
Unlike some of the other books, I found the narrative quite straightforward and direct this time. No space-time continuum quandaries or paradoxes to deal with here. There are enough clues from the start to piece together how Artemis will try and outwit his opponent, but it is still satisfying to see him stay one step intellectually of everyone including his firends, and they all recognise this, but this matured Artemis recognises also the qualities of his friends that he has come to rely on in his many adventures.
I've noticed that some were hoping for more loose ends to be tied up - I'm not sure this necessarily leads to a more 'satisfying' conclusion than otherwise it might be. JRR Tolkein spent a lot of time on loose ends with LOTR and that just resulted in a great story that went on for far too long. Would we be happier if the last chapter of AFLG hadn't been written? Is 'The Sopranos' any less of a TV show given that we never find out what happens to Tony? Personally, I think the nuanced and complex relation ship between Artemis and Holly makes far more interesting reading than any Mills and Boon nonsense.
So, 5 stars to Eoin Colfer for delivering the characters we love, doing what they do best, and for coming up with the goods with AFLG after coming off the rails a bit with the previous book. Artemis Fowl, boy genius, we'll miss you