I keep thinking that Colfer has run the well dry with the Artemis Fowl series, but he keeps proving me wrong. I've been impressed with the way he's developed the series from the money-making machinations of Artemis to being something a little more full-fledged, with Artemis becoming more likable over the course of the series. It was a risky move, considering that a lot of fans probably liked the anti-hero of Artemis, but Colfer didn't just decide to make Artemis a nice guy; he slowly steered the series in that direction. There's still some distrust from the faeries regarding Artemis, which is showcased in the opening scene of the novel, but there's also a lot of support for him from that same group. It's a nice balancing act, and Colfer has done well in pulling this tactic off in previous novels. It lends more to future stories, and expands the potential for the series.
That being said, though, I had a hard time getting in to this novel. It starts off with a scene where Artemis is suffering from OCD, managing everything to be in multiples of five, from the times he taps his finger to the number of words in his sentences. I think Colfer manages to capture the OCD well -- not just in the rituals, but in the way that said rituals interfere with his life -- but the change in Artemis' character is so severe that I thought maybe I had missed a book in the series that explained where this happened. It turns out that this affliction is part of the novel's plot, but the way the book started was so jarring that it almost lost me before I got well enough into the book.
Once I did get well enough into the book, though, it didn't really improve. The short of it is that very little happens in this book. There's a plot, and there are enough little details going on around it to keep the readers interested, but ultimately, the story is just centered around that one plot, and the orbiting subplots remain unresolved by the end of the novel. In fact, the whole story reads as one long setup for a future book. In earlier novels, the entire plot would cover the first 50-75 pages, and then launch into the larger plot, where the larger story lay. It was disappointing, in a number of ways, mostly because I know that the author can do better than this.
You probably won't be able to stop a die-hard Artemis Fowl fan from reading this book, but believe me, don't waste your time. Even if the second book redeems a lot of the details that are left unresolved with this one, it's worth waiting until that book comes out before reading this one.