4 out of 5 stars.
Eoin Colfer finally strikes out into the world of young adult. The novels I know him for are all for junior-aged people, so these are a little different. The villains are a little scarier and the characters are a little more mature. It does still have all the creativity you would expect from Colfer though.
In the first volume, Riley is a Dickensian orphan who is pressed into service by a serial-killer magician who needs an assistant both for his act and his murdering. Chevron is a 21st century Native American (hooray for a diverse cast) FBI agent who is ordered to guard a time machine. Worlds collide when Riley and his horrible boss are sucked through to the present day. Now Riley and Chevron have to escape a madman who is slowly manipulating his way into the FBI, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.
The second one is a lot more Dystopian, where the first one was very solidly time travel/ historical fiction. In the second, Chevron travels back to her time, only the future has been changed into a bleak, fascist society. The Chevron of that future now has to deal with the FBI Chevron popping up in her head and demanding things like basic freedoms. Chevron is able to escape into the past and hook up with Riley, all with the goal of stopping the terrible future from happening.
One thing Colfer really excels at is writing very sympathetic male characters. They have personality, strengths, and weaknesses. They aren’t just structures to pin action onto, but boys that are allowed to have emotions. Similar with his female characters, who tend to be very strong and independent. Colfer has a great talent for making characters of both genders that will appeal to both genders. His books have enough action and enough character development to keep everyone happy.
I also really appreciate a Native American main character. I live very close to one of Canada’s largest reserves, and there are very few books about Native Americans, especially ones that don’t have the character’s Native-ness as the whole point of the work. It is so nice as a librarian to have minority characters so that I can have all my patrons reading about kids like them having adventures and being awesome.
The two books actually read very differently. The first one actually really reminded me of Terry Pratchett’s Men at Arms (good guys chase down a psycopath in a Dickens-like landscape) and the second is a lot more dystopian. The second is a lot more political and reads a lot more like a YA, whereas the first could still pass as an older junior work. Despite this, the two are very good, just quite different for being in the same series.
I am delighted that kids that read Artemis Fowl now have a series by the same author to keep them company as they grow older. I have yet to read something by this author that I did not like.