Artemis Fowl, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Artemis Fowl, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Witty and exciting series start with irresistible antihero.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 26 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The process Artemis goes through to translate the fairies' book is quite carefully laid out. He uses computers but also a knowledge of other cultures' hieroglyphs to piece it together.

Positive Messages

It's mostly about wealth, power, and dominance. But there's a poignant message about how wealth and power are nothing without your loved ones.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Artemis Fowl is a contradiction, like all good antihero characters. He's a genius at age 12, raised in a millionaire family of criminals. He seems cold and calculated about kidnapping a fairy and holding her for ransom but adores and needs his addled mother and his hulking bodyguard, Butler. The fairy Holly Short may be after revenge for getting kidnapped, but she risks her life for an innocent person, even if she's not on her side.


An altercation with a troll in the climax is extremely bloody. The troll uses horns, claws, and sheer size to maim and almost kill (for a while you think he has killed), and the troll gets hit with a mace, cut up, and shot multiple times. Butler, Artemis' hulking bodyguard, gets in scuffles with people and fairies. He tries hard not to kill. Butler gets hit with electrical volts and bludgeoned with hard earth after an explosion. Another explosion on a ship sends a fireball into the air. A scuffle in a prison cell with injuries. A restaurant is destroyed by a troll, who is then set on fire. Tranquilizers are used three times: for a kidnapping, for drugging in drinks, and against fairies. A fairy bomb wipes out all animal life in a small area. Talk about Artemis' father lost in a boat explosion and feared dead. His mother stays in her room with a mental illness afterward; she only recognizes her son sometimes.


Only "damn" and "hell" about a dozen times total. A fairy curse is used often but not translated.


Only a couple of product mentions. Two mentions of Disneyland Paris.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A fairy commander has a fungus cigar habit; he smokes in many of his scenes. Dock workers roll cigarettes and are assumed not to be sober. One fairy is always drunk on rice wine. Artemis drinks laced champagne, saying he knows he's underage but wants to drink "just this once."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Artemis Fowl is the start of a best-selling series named after a 12-year-old millionaire criminal mastermind who takes on the race of fairies to get their gold. Because of the sophisticated and witty writing style and the complex characters, this is a great choice for adult fantasy fans to read along with kids. Readers on the younger side will dig in for the action. There's plenty of it near the end. A fight with a troll is quite gory: It's a mace and lots of bullets against a hungry behemoth with horns and claws. Earlier in the story there's a kidnapping, some fistfights, explosions, and tranquilizers used. Artemis' bodyguard, Butler, tries not to kill his fairy adversaries. There's some talk about why Artemis is left to his own devices: His father was lost in a boat explosion and feared dead, and afterward his mother stays in her room with a mental illness. Expect a fair amount of cigar smoking by the fairy commander and some drinking. While you're reading along with kids, this book is a great opportunity to talk about antiheroes such as Artemis. He's driven by power and money, and he's devious and sometimes cruel, but there's definitely good there -- just enough that readers may find themselves rooting for him and the fairies at the same time.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byCristina williams October 8, 2020

Perfect book

This book is fantastic. The main character is a criminal mastermind, he has an imagination of fairies and he wants to steal their gold to save his father that h... Continue reading
Adult Written byLiteratureHome January 1, 2019

A Man Who Can't Write Female Characters

This book, while full of adventure and fun, is also full of tired female tropes. The sickly two-dimensional mom? Check. The plucky female at an all-male workpla... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old January 6, 2020

So Thrilling!

This book is so good. I've read it twice, and it has me hooked on the series. It is very thrilling, and you will never be bored. I love how the main charac... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bykroge555 June 22, 2018

it was horrible

i think that the book was a wast of time it was so boring and it draged on for ever

What's the story?

After a jaunt in Ho Chi Min City to steal from a rogue fairy, it's finally his: ARTEMIS FOWL, age 12, millionaire criminal, has a copy of the fairies' sacred book containing all their secrets. With the help of his brilliant mind and some sophisticated computer software, he decodes the book and begins to make his nefarious plan to force the fairies to give up their gold. Stakeouts ensue around ancient oak trees, where fairies need to complete their rites and renew their magic. Poor Captain Holly Short, member of the fairy police LEPrecon Unit, heads to the wrong tree for the ceremony and gets kidnapped by Artemis and his hulking bodyguard, Butler. As the negotiations begin for her release, the fairies with their magic and sophisticated weaponry think they have Artemis easily beat. But they don't know Artemis.

Is it any good?

This witty, exciting series start boasts an irresistible 12-year-old antihero and a host of fantastic characters. There's kidnapped Captain Holly, who's determined to redeem herself; Butler, the perfect assassin who will do anything to protect his sister; overconfident and foolish Commander Root -- and they're all flawed and intriguing with plenty of tricks up their sleeves. Even as the action ratchets up, readers will be torn about whom to root for.

Another wonderful strength of the book is the way the story builds. Most of it takes place in one evening -- magical fairy time stoppage included. Even when a real clock isn't ticking, readers will be biting their nails counting down to the scary "blue-rinse" bomb. The big question throughout the action-packed evening: Is Artemis really one step ahead of the fairies or finally in over his head?

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Artemis. Do you like him? Why, or why not? Do you want Holly or Artemis to prevail, or both?

  • What do you think of the series so far? Will you keep reading? What kinds of hints does the narrator give about what's to come for Artemis and Holly?

  • Do you think Commander Root is a good boss or a bad one? Why did he hire Holly, and why does he want her to succeed?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and adventure

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