Artemis Fowl (Viking Press, 2001) by Eoin Colfer is the first in an eight-book children’s science fiction series. Born in Ireland, Artemis Fowl is a twelve-year-old boy genius. With the muscle of his manservant, a trained killer called Butler, young Artemis is the criminal mastermind behind innumerable schemes to regain the Fowl family fortune.
When Artemis embarks upon an elaborate scheme to take an elf captain hostage in exchange for a ransom of fairy gold, Fowl Manor is soon under siege by LEPrecon, the reconnaissance division of the “Lower Elements Police.” While the smugly brilliant Artemis is by far the most interesting and entertaining person in the book, the titular character definitely seems to take a backseat in the story and – in my opinion, unfortunately – the book focuses far more on Captain Holly Short, Commander Root, and the colorful, mythical cast of the LEPrecon unit than I would’ve preferred.
All the same, this was a fairly entertaining YA fantasy heist. There were some rather low-brow plot mechanisms that I didn’t think were altogether necessary; then again, I’m a 30-year-old woman, not the book’s intended audience of a 12-year-old boy. From a writing perspective, I was confused that the author wrote in omniscient voice; generally speaking, this practice is avoided. The narrative frequently head-hops between characters, often from sentence to sentence.
The bulk of my enjoyment of this novel stemmed mostly from the lively delivery and delightful array of accents performed by the audio book’s narrator, Nathaniel Parker. I’m looking forward to continuing listening to Mr. Parker’s performance of the series on audio.
“I am the Girl Who Cried Wolf. And now I am the only one who can save the lambs.” – p. 291
All Fall Down (Scholastic, 2015) by Ally Carter is a YA political thriller and the first book in the Embassy Row series. From the first page, I was intrigued by the character of Grace Blakely, sixteen-year-old army brat and granddaughter of the U.S. ambassador to a fictional European country, called Adria.
Right off the bat, we know that Grace is no “girly” girl. She jumps fences, climbs walls, fights like a man and can run a military obstacle course in her sleep. Three years ago, Grace witnessed her beloved mother die in what everyone says was a tragic accident. But Grace knows it was murder. She witnessed it, saw the murderer. Only, no one believes Grace. Her family and the police think the trauma of watching her mother die has made her crazy. Now Grace is back in her grandfather’s home on Embassy Row in Adria, staying in her mother’s childhood room, which feels more to her like a shrine. Visions and flashbacks of her mother haunt Grace around every corner, making the reader wonder if the teen really is delusional…until she comes face-to-face with who she knows is the killer.
Together with a team of skilled, genius and lovable teens on Embassy Row who want to help, Grace is determined to catch the suspect and bring him to justice before he kills again. This book was non-stop fun, action and suspense. The only thing I found myself wishing was that it didn’t take place in a fictional country, because it would’ve been even more fascinating if the author was educating the reader about a real place, even if embellished, in the style of Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon books. However, as I’m now a few chapters into the sequel already, I’m beginning to understand more of why a fictional country was necessary.
Overall, I found this a highly enjoyable and fast read. The end truly took me by surprise – I was not expecting it. If you like a fast-paced political thriller with plenty of fiction, teen suspense, a tiny dash of potential romance, and an unconventional, unreliable narrator, All Fall Down is a great choice.