If you ever thought fairy stories were for children – you’re behind the times. I encountered the magic of Eoin Colfer through the Artemis Fowl series and instantly fell in love with a story of an arrogant young nerdy thirteen-year-old who has to depend on some super high-tech fairy power from a girl. Brilliant said my fourteen-year-old self. Just brilliant.
Ten years later and it’s the final installment of Colfer’s WARP series: The Forever Man. Now I haven’t kept up with Colfer as much as I’d like. The luxury of having time to gallivant through the ages on the spine of a paper text has rapidly diminished. My experiences as a book-wormish teenager (who even says that anymore?) to a fully-fledged working adult (sometimes I like to pretend) has certainly affected my reading choices (though not necessarily my voracity) and I was pleasantly surprised that despite my lack of loyalty Colfer’s latest action-packed novel was as easy to read as… well, falling down a wormhole.
It’s not a new fancy shmancy word in fact it’s science (remember Interstellar?) and it’s just as punchy and fast-paced as Colfer’s trademark wit and intelligence deserve. It’s simple enough: Victorian orphan Riley and Shawnee FBI juvenile consultant Chevie are catapulted through time to face their biggest fear – evil incarnate and assassin extraordinaire, Albert Garrick. But as always with Colfer’s writing – there’s much more to the story than a mere until-death-do-us-part showdown.
If you haven’t caught the first two installments in the WARP series, fear not. Colfer fills you in and does so with a healthy dose of humour – and a fitting reminder that just because you’re reading a sci-fi novel doesn’t mean you need to take yourself seriously. After all, our protagonists are 14 and 16 and while Garrick may be the devil himself there are more than a few other obstacles along the way. These include some unexpectedly large mutations that tumble out of rifts in the sky; an over zealous town crier (also named Cryer) eager to rid his hometown (perfectly named Groaning Mandrake) of witches and their familiars – and of course an ephemeral and seemingly-battery operated spirit by the name of Professor Smart (obviously).
But the magic itself is in Colfer’s writing. His leads are delightful (and how wonderful to have a Native American heroine, though some parts are over-simplified and tad tokenistic) and the story is as charged as any typical penny dreadful – but it’s the humour and sheer mastery of multiple genres that takes it to a different echelon. It’s also, evocatively cinematic in its narrative – it wouldn’t be hard to imagine the WARP series becoming a set of films (though no one can do evil as well as the imagination) and if the initial few pages seem just a tad slow, it certainly picks up the pace as the story begins to spiral. A cross-century hyper digital burgeoning romance laced with plenty of opportunities for blood and gore to splatter; ingenious instruments of torture, a dash of magic and a science that demands you use google better to find out what you during physics are just some of the highlights. One of the most appealing features of the tale is that it (thankfully) doesn’t have your clichéd happily-ever-after sappy ending; it gives you a glimpse of life and its unexpected promise – and that is certainly more than some contemporary renditions.
An absorbing modern fairytale – no matter how old you are.