Ice-cool ArtemisArtemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer 304pp, Puffin Just a year after Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl captivated a host of young readers, winning the author the largest advance ever for a new children’s novelist and a bevy of prizes, its sequel Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident takes up the drama (for we are now in an era of never-ending stories). Not for the technically faint-hearted, this is a hectic fusion of real, imaginary and fairy gadgetry. From laser guns to mind-wipers, through battery-powered craft and anti-radiation suits, they make the work of James Bond’s Q look like child’s play. Helped by the addition of fairy magic which makes anything possible, Colfer’s invention is limitless, as the schoolboy anti-hero teams up with his former enemy, Holly Short, and her fairy police force. (Colfer’s fairies are not the gossamer-wing type, but dressed to kill and willing to do so.) Despite mistrust, the two sides must work together, as the fairies need Artemis’s help against the notorious B’wa Kell – a kind of diminutive triad – while Artemis needs fairy help to reach the depths of Russia and outwit the Mafiya, who are holding his father hostage. In Artemis Fowl Colfer blended Irish mythology with James Bond adventure to make a sparkling and tightly plotted fantasy about fairies and humans squaring up to one another; the larger scale and more complex structure of The Arctic Incident retains the sparkle, but lacks the focus. Colfer has embellished and increased his good-cop/bad-cop cast of goblins, fairies, and elves, all of whom are crossing and double-crossing each other in a series of plot strands that require absolute attention for fear that the “memory wipe” be turned on the reader by mistake. When Colfer returns to the central drama – Artemis’s trip to rescue his father – he gets back on track, ending the book with a most satisfying stakeout in which Artemis’s choice of action reveals that, despite being a criminal mastermind, he really does have a soft spot for his old dad. This, and the reappearance of the best of the original cast – Foaly, the techno-centaur in charge of defence, Mulch Diggums, the mud-eating dwarf (now stealing Oscars) and Holly Short, the renegade cop to whom Artemis is now drawn by something that is beginning to lean towards the sentimental – confirm Colfer’s storytelling flair.