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The name's Fowl – Artemis Fowl

The 13-year-old mastermind is back in high-tech fairyland

He goes to boarding school and dabbles in magic, but this teen doesn't want to save the world. He wants to own it.

Artemis Fowl, would-be master criminal, is back – along with his faithful sidekick Butler and their nemesis, Holly Short, the first female LEPrecon (that's Lower Elements Police officer to the uninitiated).

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But in another, unfortunate, contrast to the Harry Potter books, this competing series by Irishman Eoin Colfer appears to be running out of steam in just its second outing.

The reimagining of fairyland as a high-tech underground city was a high-concept hoot in the original, as was the rescuing of a leprechaun from blarney and breakfast cereal.

But there are few new twists this time around, and although clever lines abound, so does a greater reliance on violence – much of which may be too intense for readers under 10.

After saving his mother and stealing a hoard of fairy gold in the first novel, Artemis breaks out of boarding school to rescue his father, long presumed dead, who may be in the hands of the Russian Mafia. Our 13-year-old antihero joins forces with the fairies when they seek his help in ferreting out the supplier to some gun-running goblins. (Actually, they thought Artemis was the supplier.)

Colfer has a knack for the deadpan delivery of the police thriller and a brisk sense of pacing. And how can you not cheer lines like: "Two hundred goblins versus our three virtually unarmed heroes. It was going to be close"?

But what made the first book so satisfying were the clues sprinkled throughout that Artemis-the-evil-genius was not perhaps as blackhearted as advertised, culminating in an ending that was downright sweet.

In "Arctic Incident," the villains and heroes are clearly spelled out by Chapter 5. And Artemis limits his nefarious activities to toying with the school psychologist. "Which disorder would he have today? Multiple personality perhaps, or maybe he'd be a pathological liar?" (Book 3 may begin with the master criminal helping a little old lady cross the street, chuckling maniacally all the while, of course.)

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Without the inventiveness and narrative layers of the original, this sequel is just a kind of Junior James Bond with fairy-crafted gadgets.

• Yvonne Zipp is the editor of the Monitor's Arts & Leisure section.


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