Our Second Session of Litereature 101 commences with a brief discussion on Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer.
I’m interested in exploring children’s literature further than my own childhood exposure and much more than my sparse current dabbling suggests. Sparked by my complete adoration of the Harry Potter Series, I decided my next venture should be in the children’s realm. I chose this particular novel simply because I had heard of it but knew absolutely nothing about it. I even thought the main character might be an owl or something (fowl would fool anyone); thus was my lack of exposure to this extremely popular series. (Also, the author wrote a “sequel” to the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series in the style of Douglas Adams—have yet to read it, but that earned points in my eyes)
What an unexpected little trip this novel took me on. Genius masterminds. Elves. Dwarves. Super Butlers. Secret worlds and limitless but not omnipotent magic. And probably the most unconventional aspect of the entire novel—the main “protagonist” as an anti-hero, a child no less. I was entertained throughout the entire novel, but definitely the aspect that caught my attention most was the fact that it circled around an intelligent 12 year old child who secretly delves into clandestine operations (usually illegal) to obtain as much money and power as possible. Perhaps this is a growing theme in children’s literature today, but I personally am not aware of many child characters who have taken on this role to such an extreme. Going against the grain of society, yes; being a troublemaker, of course; willfully participating in capture, blackmail and intrigue with a sidekick who has no problem killing, nope.
That aside, creatively this book took some unusual approaches to the common lore of fairy tale characters. Goblins, Dwarves, and Elves all interact daily; magical energy must be renewed by a solemn natural ritual; the magical world has a supreme (even if diminutive) military and governmental structure. Artemis Fowl (the child wonder, not an owl) and his Butler end up kidnapping a fairy named Holly Short, of the LEPRecon force (Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance). I found the clever nomenclature most entertaining, followed by the characterization of Fowl himself, hard-shelled but with a secret soft interior that must yearn to be a child and simply be loved by his currently unwell mother. Therein lies a deep emotional element to the otherwise silly storyline. I can only imagine that the following books in the series develop his character further (if written well, that is) in that regard, slowing cracking the exterior to let the reader feel a more human touch from the main human character.
Review: A fun ride, like I said. The dialogue was engaging—every character had his or her own personality, even if it sometimes felt that the author was pushing too hard to be witty or bring about the sarcasm etc. As far as writing goes, he need not have been so explicit in some descriptions of behaviors or point of views, but then I must remind myself that he is also catering to a young crowd who might need more accessible descriptions. Colfer throws in just about every single magical creature with real consciousness , a melee and medley of beings, but he avoids making it feel overly crowded. I skimmed through a few moments because it was drawn out a bit at times, I will admit.
One note—the funniest part of the book for me was the special “gift” of dwarves, as seen in the main dwarf of the series, Mulch. I refer to their talent to consume dirt, earth, rocks, etc… and then release it, by the other end. Yes, the dwarves have massive flatulence and it is showcased over and over again in the book.
So the novel doesn’t have the same depth or nuances as something like HP, but it’s a pleasure nonetheless.
The Feast: I’ve made fantasy themed spreads before (specifically based on the Harry Potter books) so this realm is not untraversed—and yet I was thoroughly stumped by the wide variety of characters, locations, and behaviors. Eventually though, I centered on the fact that main magical people were tiny! Tiny little buggers compared to the humans, so I decided I should have tiny food… But that’s not enough to feed me, let alone the tummy of my husband, so we had an impromptu fondue broth with the following:
- Turkey Acorns (ground turkey encrusted with walnut): acorns are the key forfairies to rejuvenate their magical strength, so it felt imperative to feature them somehow. I took ground turkey (half a pound), added with salt, rosemary, oregano, basil, chili powder, bread crumbs and half of a beaten egg mixed together, then rounded into small balls that I coated with crumbled walnut. Fried them on all sides, and since they were so small, I cooked them entirely, so when we added them to our broth they simply took on the flavor of the broth without being even remotely raw.
- Fondue broth: veggie broth, lots of lime juice, chili garlic chutney, garlic cloves, cumin, salt, chili powder. The garlic chutney made a huge difference, but if you don’t have it, just experiment. We love spice, so we made it zingy.
We had chopped broccoli and mushrooms and fennel leaves as well. And for dessert, in honor of the mud that Mulch likes to munch on, Tadaaa!:
- Fairy mud pie bites: White chocolate, ginger cookies, and butter crumbled and blended to make the crust, with chopped chocolate chips mixed into vanilla ice cream, and topped with melted butterscotch and chocolate to make it a deeeelightfully “dirty” dessert. The highlight of the evening no doubt.
Final thoughts: Gautam LOVED the turkey acorns. I was honestly shocked by how much he enjoyed them. But naturally the ice cream took first place.