This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
28.01.20 / Quercus Books / Fantasy-Action / Hardback / 384pp / 978-1529402049
Target Audience: Readers looking for an insanely intense and explosive yet charming novel. A book that feels unique yet somehow familiar with captivating imagery and a great balance of high stakes and humour.
From the internationally bestselling author of the Artemis Fowl series: Eoin Colfer’s first adult fantasy novel is a hilarious, high-octane adventure about a vodka-drinking, Flashdance-loving dragon who’s been hiding out from the world – and potential torch-carrying mobs – in a Louisiana bayou . . . until his peaceful world’s turned upside down by a well-intentioned but wild Cajun tearaway and the crooked (and heavily armed) law officer who wants him dead.
Squib Moreau may be swamp-wild, but his intentions are (generally) good: he really wants to be a supportive son to his hard-working momma Elodie. But sometimes life gets in the way – like when Fake Daddy walked out on them leaving a ton of debt, or when crooked Constable Regence Hooke got to thinking pretty Elodie Moreau was just the gal for him . . .
An apprenticeship with the local moonshine runner, servicing the bayou, looks like the only way to pay off the family debts and maybe get Squib and his momma a place in town, far from Constable Hooke’s unwanted courtship and Fake Daddy’s reputation.
Unfortunately for Squib, Hooke has his own eye on that very same stretch of bayou – and neither of them have taken into account the fire-breathing dragon hiding out in the Louisiana swamp . . .
For Squib Moreau, Regence Hooke and Vern, aka Lord Highfire of Highfire Eyrie, life is never going to be the same again.
Highfire is a genre-bending tour-de-force of comedy and action by the million-copy-selling master storyteller.
(Edit: I wrote this review in Dec 2019 before I took an extended break from blogging. I am still attempting to get back into a rhythm but I am reading a lot more books again now so I should be there soon. Please enjoy the review bit excuse the out-of-date feel to the tone.)
It is incredibly rare I get to the opportunity say this but Highfire is a book that is truly unlike anything I have ever read to this day. Highfire exists in an intriguing, uproarious and disturbing vortex where fantasy, action, adventure and crime meet, mesh together and produce a wildly thrilling and ferocious novel. It is extremely cool but tread carefully, this book has a ton of bite. This was my first venture into the work of Eoin Colfer and I am glad I had the chance as Highfire is a smash hit.
The story follows teenager Everett ‘Squib’ Moreau who loves trouble almost as much as he does his momma. Squib is trying to fill the shoes of the man who abandoned him and his mother, leaving them high, dry and indebted to bad people. Squib’s mother has since become the focus of the local Constable Regence Hook which is bad news for the both of them. Regence is looking to seduce Elodie Moreau and at the same time punish Squib as much as possible to weasel his way into their family. Regence Hook is ex-military, a man who rarely takes no for answer and uses extreme measures to ensure he always comes out on top. Hook is currently looking to get out from under the thumb of the cartel, after years of doing their dirty business, and establish his own drug pipeline and take them head on.
Squib is taking every job he can to earn money for his momma, even dabbling in moving moonshine and other supplies around the Louisiana bayous. When Squib happens upon Constable Hook threatening a man during one of his clandestine trips, he resorts to filming the encounter. When the meeting turns violent, Squib captures the damning moment but also Hook’s attention. Cornered by a hunter and fearing for his life, Squib is saved by none other than a genuine fire-breathing dragon.
Vern feels bad for saving the boy’s life just to have to kill him but the dragon has rules that ensure his existence is kept secret. Only one person knows of him and that individual owes Vern a great debt. Vern, Lord Highfire of the Highfire Eyrie is the last of his kind. Nobody is allowed to see him and live. Vern has been hiding in the bayous for decades and passes his time drinking Absolut Vodka, watching Flashdance and minding his own business. When the kid escapes his grasp, Vern marks his home. The kid must go.
Before he can act Vern is forced to take Squib on as his aid as a favour to his only friend in the world. Squib has taken the existence of Dragons well and serving one seems to be a lucrative opportunity that no kid could ever pass up. Regence Hook has no idea how the boy got away from him that night but he is set on removing Squib and the evidence out of the equation. Hunting down Squib reveals a whole new world to Regence Hook and the chance of a lifetime to solidify his alpha status. It has been a long time since Lord Highfire has had anything to fight for and he is ready to release his rage.
I have to say that Highfire is most likely the craziest book I will read in 2020 even it being so early in the year. The sheer escalation and imagination in this book is simultaneously awesome and uncomfortable the entire length of the story. On the one side you have a charming yet troublesome teen and a hilarious, impressive dragon with a bad attitude and a drinking problem. On the other side is Constable Regence Hook. Vern, Squib and Hook all get individual arcs in the novel and while Squib and Vern are the main focus it felt like it was Hook who got biggest presence in Highfire.
Vern is an amazing character who is visualised perfectly and he stole show. Every moment with him was a stand out. I was reluctant to take a story about a dragon hiding in the bayous seriously but Colfer has hit all the right notes when bringing Vern to life from his biology, history and relationships to his presence out in the sticks. Squib is an interesting kid who has smarts, cunning yet is still wet behind the ears. He holds his own against a dragon and a cold blooded killer though and his interactions with both are fantastic. I really appreciated that Eoin Colfer wrote the dialogue with a great southern American drawl, it was really satisfying.
That leaves Hook. Regence Hook is an A-grade psychopath. A true force to be reckoned with. There isn’t a moment in this novel that lets you forget that Hook is a sadistic, sick and twisted individual. I found him incredibly off-putting from the outset. I do admit that as his focus shifts over the course of the story, he becomes fascinating in his own way as he is unshakeable in every sense of the word. But initially he didn’t sit well with me, grating at my attention. As the story escalates and Regence gets a few knock backs it does get a lot more bearable. I see what Eoin Colfer was trying to do with him and it did work but it just took a bit of persistence on my part.
Eoin Colfer delivered a story where there is a dragon hiding in the Louisiana bayous with serious skill, flair and convincing detail. Vern has a long and problematic history with humanity that stretches through millennia. Colfer has created a urban legend and ran with it, gaining a plausibility that was satisfying and then he blew the lid of the plot with some of the best action set pieces I have seen in a book for a long time. Vern’s involvement is no gimmick, no one time shot, he is fully on display with all the melting rampages, crushing blows and scaly armour you could ever want. I am honestly gutted that the book is already over and that I have to wait for a sequel.
I was worried that all the influences that are present in Highfire would result in a ‘too many cooks’ problem. I needn’t have worried as Eoin Colfer is a master of his craft taking a pinch from here and a drop from there to construct an epic story that I able to lose myself in. It is definitely an adult novel by the way, there is little left to the imagination. If you want a novel that is unique and 100% unpredictable then Highfire is a must read. If you love dragons then Highfire is a must read. If you love chaotic plots filled with escalating madness and epic head-to-head battles then, you guessed it, must read. Highfire is a stand out novel for 2020.
About Eoin Colfer
Eoin Colfer is the author of the internationally bestselling Artemis Fowl series, which has been translated into over forty languages. A Disney film adaptation will be released in 2019, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Dame Judi Dench. Eoin’s books have won numerous awards including The British Children’s Book of the Year, The Irish Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year and The German Children’s Book of the Year. Born in Ireland, Eoin was educated at Dublin University and qualified as a primary teacher, before turning his hand to writing in 2001. Highfire, his first adult fantasy novel, will be published by Jo Fletcher Books in January 2020.