Gryffindor Tower #12: Fowl Lies

by Dan

I haven’t touched a Harry Potter book in two weeks. There. I said it. I actually tried reading OotP again, and two pages into it, I got anxious and closed it. Why, you ask? Well, because I had a pile of five books sitting in my room, waiting to be read, and to be honest, I couldn’t wait to jump into them. But now that I have finished them, I have started my next task: reading all five HP books again. And since I have no other books waiting around, I was able to start the HP books again guilt-free. But this week’s column, surprising as it may be, is not about Harry Potter.

Actually, it’s not exactly about Harry Potter, but it revolves around the HP world. See, as you may well know, I spent the last week on vacation. My best friend’s parents rented a beautiful three-story oceanfront beach house, and let me tell you, this was a dream house. It even had an elevator! And, wanting to become acquainted with every couch in the house (there were roughly fifty-six), I decided to spend this vacation relaxing with my favorite pasttime, besides writing: reading. So I went out and bought a few books, and that is where this story begins.

See, being a very serious HP fan, I try to read every newspaper and magazine article out there. And in many of them, I have seen references to two other sets of fantasy books that are considered HP rivals. One is Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy, and the other are the Artemis Fowl books, by Eoin Colfer. I also noticed that mentioning either of these books in certain HP circles is considered blasphemous, and punishable by death (in case you’re wondering, last time I uttered the word “Artemis” to a group of HP fans, I was immediately threatened with a cage of rather hungry Blast-Ended Skrewts, which are surprisingly cute when they aren’t blasting reams of fire from their bumsides). So, I did what I knew I had to do: I attempted to read those books.

MidColumn Disclaimer: You will always receive the truth in Gryffindor Tower, no matter what the repurcussions. Truth is somAething lost in the world of biased journalism, and I will not continue the trend along the hallowed halls of Gryffindor Tower.

So I started with Artemis Fowl. Of course, I went into those books feeling very hesitant, as I have heard that they are blatant HP ripoffs. I picked up the first book, called, simply, Artemis Fowl, a gold-colored book with odd symbols running along the bottom of every page. First I read the back cover, which gave a short synopsis of the book. Hmm…ok, so Artemis is a twelve-year-old genius. No biggie there, I was too…err…anyways, he’s also a crook. And there’s something about fairies. Fairies? Fairies are pansies, why am I even looking at this book? But I couldn’t be unfair about it, and I bought the book and took it home. First fifty pages went by interestingly enough. But it wasn’t one of those “I-can’t-put-this-book-down-even-though-I-have-to-go-to-the-bathroom-before-my-bladder-explodes-into-millions-of-tiny-shards-of-skin”. Yet.

The second day, I started around page fifty, and that was the end of my days not knowing about Artemis Fowl. I finished it the second night, and, knowing that there was two more books out there, eagerly anticipated getting the next two. I bought the second one before I went away, as a vacation read, and I actually bought the third one while on vacation, because I couldn’t wait to see how it ended. These books were, for lack of a better word, fantastic. Absolutely fantastic, in fact.

Now, about this whole HP ripoff thing. You all need to know this, because there’s no way around it: JK Rowling, the master, the supreme storyteller in my heart, unfortunately DID NOT create fantasy. She didn’t create centaurs, or trolls, or other galaxies before anyone else. Granted, she does it better than anyone else, but it doesn’t mean that she’s an innovator in fantasy. What she IS an innovator in is storytelling, in which she seems almost unrivaled. But Eoin Colfer has come damn close. When I first looked back, it seemed that I may have even liked Artemis Fowl more than HP. I realized, however, that I simply loved it because it was good, and different. It wasn’t Harry Potter, not in any way, shape, or form.

Examples are, I’m sure, in order. First, the ideas of magic. In Harry Potter, characters cast spells, make potions, etc. In Artemis Fowl, magic is used by fairies to heal one another. Second, the characters in Artemis Fowl eventually end up living symbiotically (they live with and off one another, for you younger readers), whereas in Harry Potter, the magical world for the most part lives apart from the Muggle world. Which brings another point: in HP, its magical and Muggle worlds; in Artemis Fowl, it’s the People (fairies, who live underground) and the Mud People (humans). And trust me, these fairies aren’t the kind of pixies that have little wands with dust coming out of them. In fact, their “wands” come in the shape of nuclear-powered weapons such as the Neutrino 2000. Next, and possibly, most importantly, is characters. The first thing I noticed was the fact that there is a centaur very prominent in Artemis Fowl, a centaur named Foaly, who happens to be extremely smart. Much like Firenze. However, unlike Firenze, Foaly is one hell of a smartass. Bigtime smartass, in fact, and he happens to be one of my favorite characters of any book ever. Don’t get me wrong, I love Firenze (I was so happy when Dumbledore introduced him as the new Divination teacher that I literally shouted out loud), but Foaly is cool in a totally different way. Those two characters are nothing alike, much like Harry and Artemis. For starters, Harry is part of the hidden world, where Artemis is not. Harry can do magic; Artemis cannot. And Artemis shows a whole lot more intelligence than Harry does. The prominent female role in HP is Hermione Granger, Harry’s best friend besides Ron (who, by the way, if Artemis Fowl is an HP ripoff, there is no character in Ron’s position in Artemis Fowl). In Artemis Fowl, the prominent female figure is Holly Short, a captain in the LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police Reconaissance) squad. Harry’s mentor can be Dumbledore, Sirius, or the like; for Artemis, his only adult companion comes in the form of Butler, the shaven-head manbeast whose only magic comes from a Sig Sauer and his ability to snap a neck before the enemy has time to soil himself. There are a million more differences, and even though Artemis Fowl is called the Irish Harry Potter, it is nothing like HP. It is a new, imaginative world, and I for one cannot wait to see it grow.

I ask you all to think back. I have, if nothing else, tried to get one message across, that message that is the selfless reason for my love of HP. Yes, personally, and quite selfishly, I love what HP does for me, but I love it more than anything else because of what it has done for the world: gotten kids to read. It should come as no surprise to you that the Dan’s Book Review this week is Artemis Fowl. I hope you all check out the three books: Artemis FowlThe Arctic Incident, and The Eternity Code. Also, if you want any background on Artemis Fowl, check out Artemis Fowl Fun, a great Artemis Fowl resource site.

The bottom line is this: there is no reason for anyone not to give these books a chance. I hope you’ll take my word for it that they are not Harry Potter ripoffs, because, as any of you who have taken my advice before will know, Gryffindor Tower offers only the truth. And whether or not you like the books after you read them, trust me, they are not HP ripoffs.

I’m currently reading the first Pullman book, The Golden Compass, and, to be honest, I don’t have much to say, because, so far, I don’t really enjoy it. But I am forcing myself to finish it, and I will give you a review when I get there.

This week’s Gryffindor Tower Flick Pick is the new Mandy Moore movie How To Deal. It’s a great story about life’s more unfortunate events, and the way that one girl gets through them with her family. And what a life it is: she goes through deaths, disappointments, divorces, adultery, car crashes, and about a million more horrible things. It’s a really fantastic movie, but even more than that (everyone under thirteen, skip to the next paragraph), Mandy Moore looks absolutely stunning…oh how I would love to just meet her, so that I could tell her that she should marry me.

Well, I think it’s about time to wrap this up. Two quick notes: my email is full to brim, since I was gone away. I will try my best to answer everyone, but please don’t be upset if you get a late reply, or none at all. I can guarantee you that, if you emailed me, I will read it. Second, if any of you Artemis Fowl fans know any good sites about the boy genius, please tell me. I’m having a hard time finding any.

Goodbye everyone, and I’ll see you next week.