The last book in a series, especially one as wacky as Artemis Fowl, is always tough to review because not only do you have to judge how it performed as a stand-alone book, but also how well it ties up the loose-ends of the series and whether it remains consistent with its prequels. The previous book in the series, Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex was a train-wreck. Even fans like me found it boring. Thankfully, Eoin Colfer succeeds in reviving the magic for this final journey.
Seemingly nothing in this world daunts the young criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl. In the fairy world, however, there is a small thing that has gotten under his skin on more than one occasion: Opal Koboi. In The Last Guardian, the evil pixie is wreaking havoc yet again. This time his arch rival has somehow reanimated dead fairy warriors who were buried in the grounds of Fowl Manor. Their spirits have possessed Artemis’s little brothers, making his siblings even more annoying than usual. The warriors don’t seem to realize that the battle they were fighting when they died—a battle against Artemis—is long over. Artemis has until sunrise to get the spirits to vacate his brothers and go back into the earth where they belong. Can he count on a certain LEPrecon fairy to join him in what could well be his last stand?
You realize from the first chapter itself that Colfer wants to distance this book from the events in the Atlantis Complex as soon as possible. We start with Artemis wrapping up his treatment (fully recovered) from the Atlantis Complex, fully in control of his mental capabilities and with a few choice moments reminds us of his genius. And then boom, the action starts, pseudo-scientific theories are thrown in, a global threat emerges and the adventure begins, marinated in magic and peppered with witticisms.
“Onscreen, Foaly rubbed his eyelids with his index fingers. "Yeah, yeah. Here we go. Captain Short goes rogue once more. Hands up who's surprised. Anyone?” - Eoin Colfer, The Last Guardian
The beginning and the end are fantastic and reminded me of all the reasons I love this series. Artemis aside, we have Captain Holly Short, who is as kick-ass as ever. Butler, Foaly and Mulch, each of whom bring their unique brand of protection, crazy intelligence and dangerous backside respectively. There are only two reasons for sticking with an author over the course of eight books - a well-planned story that gets progressively better with each book (Harry Potter anyone?) or enjoyable character whom you can root for. While the plot of this series got a bit crazy after the third book, it's the characters I continue to love. Every characters gets a moment to shine and have a characteristically funny moment. The newcomers, Artemis' siblings Myles and Beckett steal the show and left me in splits everytime they appeared. It also helps that Colfer's books are edited almost to perfection and how his writing balances heavy moments with hilarious zingers.
However, the book isn't perfect. While the beginning and end are great, the middle sags leaving the reader in a hurry to skip it and get to the end. While not as formulaic as Rick Riordan, Colfer's stories have developed a pattern. Also, there are several loose-ends from previous books which are left unresolved - hints of a romance between Artemis and Holly, Minerva's fate, Orion's predictions and the events of the Time Paradox. And for the first time ever, I saw the twist coming in one of Colfer's books.
I don't know if I would have liked the book if it hadn't been the Artemis Fowl book but the Last Guardian definitely feels like among the better novels in the series. From Myles and Beckett (potential spin-off?) to Mulch's invincible gastronomy to the zany magical world Fowl has been living in for the past eight books. I enjoyed it all. Books meant for young adults rarely have subtle messages (especially with today's sappy romances) but I admire Colfer for inserting themes of sustainability and responsibility so skilfully. I am no environmentalist but I did pause to think after a particularly moving paragraph about the effects our race has had on the planet.
I am gonna miss this series. I grew up with it, laughed till I cried and loved to feel smart inside the head of a juvenile genius and imagine the underworld of fairies. This might be the end of the road for Artemis' adventures but Eoin Colfer is coming back next with a brand new series called W.A.R.P. which I am definitely gonna try. A satisfying conclusion to a great series.