As an ardent fan of Artemis Fowl from the first book onward, I was more than just a little excited to find out that THE TIME PARADOX was in the works. The previous book in the series, THE LOST COLONY, was one of my favorites, and it opened so many doors that I wanted desperately to see explored. After reading THE TIME PARADOX over the course of a single day, my reactions are mixed, but one thing's for sure: with Artemis Fowl in the mix, there's never a dull moment.
The storyline opens only a short while after the end of the previous book. Fourteen-year-old genius Artemis Fowl has been out of his home time for nearly three years as the result of the events of THE LOST COLONY, and the world has changed around him. But the presence of younger twin brothers at Fowl Manor is not nearly as surprising as the fact that Artemis has managed to retain some of the fairy magic that he stole while in the time tunnel, making himself part magical in turn. Early on in the story, the readers find out that Artemis has used this small magic to mesmerize his parents into forgetting all about his three-year disappearance, and is learning how to control it for specific purposes.
So when Artemis's mother develops symptoms of several deadly illnesses overnight, Artemis's first instinct is to use his fairy magic to save her. When that fails, draining all of the magic out of Artemis, his first call is to Holly Short, reinstated Captain in the Lower Elements Police. Holly arrives and diagnoses Artemis's mother with a rare disease known as spelltropy, usually passed between magic users by the use of power. The only cure is the brain fluid of a silky sifaka lemur--a species that became extinct nearly eight years ago, thanks to the work of a younger Artemis Fowl desperate for money to fuel the search for his then-missing father.
Artemis is convinced there's a simple solution to this problem: go back in time using the magic of demon warlock No. 1 and steal the lemur from his younger self before returning to his own time. Of course, with Artemis involved, nothing could ever really be that simple. Nonetheless, he and Holly both make the journey almost eight years back in time to outsmart the ten-year-old Artemis and a group of Extinctionists bent upon getting their hands on the lemur--not to mention a mysterious third player who may be manipulating everyone from behind the scenes.
The storytelling is vivid, the jokes are always funny, the puns are horrendous in the best of ways. The repartee between Artemis and Holly gets better in every book. But for whatever reason, I didn't enjoy this Fowl adventure as much as I did previous ones. It seemed somehow like there was less at stake. It was an interesting ploy, since the "villain" Artemis faces off against for the first half of the story is himself, but a lot of the major weight of the story felt psychological.
Of course, there were the requisite explosions and high-speed cross-country chases, but the focus of this book seemed to be more upon the minds of the characters involved, particularly Artemis and Holly, and their relationships to their own pasts. That's not to say the book wasn't good--it just had a different kind of depth from the others, one that I probably couldn't fully appreciate on a first reading. Some of the doors opened in THE LOST COLONY were closed rather suddenly, in my opinion, or led down passageways I hadn't thought they would explore, so that the main developments of this book were not what I thought they would be at all. But then, what would be the fun of a predictable book?
If Colfer is one thing consistently as a writer, it's unpredictable, and this book is no exception.