- Eoin Colfer.
- 384 pages.
- My Rating: Hellyeah Book Review.
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 . . .
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Everett ‘Squib’ Moreau is fifteen-years-old. Squib is always getting into trouble with the law for minor infractions and small misdemeanours, nothing major and he is more of a rascal than a delinquent. Squib’s stepfather (Fake Daddy) ran off and left his mother, Elodie drowning in unpaid gambling debts that passed from him onto her. Squib has three different jobs and Elodie is a nurse working long hours as they try to keep their heads above water, survive and pay off the gambling debts left to them. Squib cares about his mother, loves her dearly and he keeps promising to change his ways and get on the straight and narrow. But, he is young, fallible and the promises never last for long.
Wyvern, Lord Highfire of Hirefire Eyrie, Vern for short is a vodka-drinking and Flashdance-loving dragon who relaxes in his La-Z-Boy recliner and is on the keto diet. As far as he knows Vern is the last of his kind and he is hiding away from the world and keeping himself to himself. Vern is a recluse living a life of solitude out in a bayou on the Louisiana swamp whiling away his days watching Satellite TV, browsing the Internet and drinking vodka with Absolut being his favourite brand.
Only one person, Waxman an elderly recluse who also lives out in the swamp and away from civilization knows about Vern and he supplies Vern with his groceries, vodka, Internet purchases and other necessities. One of Squib’s jobs is running errands for Waxman, like Waxman does for Vern, delivering his groceries and supplies. But, after an eventful and explosive night deep in the swamp when Squib rudely interrupts Vern’s night of TV watching and drinking with a bang and their paths cross for the first time. Squib, ultimately ends up taking over the role of Vern’s assistant, becoming his familiar and starts delivering the supplies to Vern instead of Waxman.
Regence Hooke is a former military man turned crooked and corrupt Constable who is in charge of the ward of Petit Bateau. Hooke is a bully, bad to the marrow of his bones with no morals and is a real nasty piece of work. Hooke has his eye set on courting Elodie who once publicly spurned him and he also has ambitious plans for the swamp too. Hooke is the sort of person who in the end always gets what they want, usually by any means necessary and when he becomes aware of Vern he plots to use him as part of his grand scheme.
The story in Highfire is told through the three perspectives of Squib, Vern and Hooke. Squib is likeable, he is a scallywag with attitude. But, he is loyal and even with his troubled upbringing he is a good kid. For Vern and Regence Hooke, they both have large personalities. Vern is awesome he wears a Flashdance t-shirt, cargo shorts and is seven feet tall, the size of a bear rather than the size of Smaug or Drogon (yes, he has his view on Game of Thrones that he shares during Highfire). He is irritable, cranky and grouchy. He is an old dragon living in peaceful self-exile. He doesn’t like or trust humans and with good reason. Vern also suffers from bouts of depression, a darkness that haunts him and a melancholic mood. He used to rule the land and the sky and now he is a lord of nothing who is reduced to living in a swamp. In the wrong hands, Hooke could come across as rather like a pantomime villain. But, Colfer is the right hands and Hooke himself fits the role of the bad guy perfectly to go up against the good guys of Squib and Vern. Hooke is a heinous individual, a sinister sociopath and a demon in the guise of a man. With Hooke, Colfer has created one of those characters that you immediately dislike, a vile person to detest and someone who, when you come to the end of the story you are fervently hoping that they get what they deserve.
The ward of Petit Bateau with its small-town feel and the Louisiana swamp is a vivid setting for Highfire to take place that really adds to the flavour of the events, giving them a little extra spice and it is a tremendous backdrop for the unfolding story.
From the start, Highfire moves along at a good pace. There is some stellar badinage between the characters and back-and-forth swordplay in the conversations. I loved the dialogue and interactions between Waxman and Vern and then, Squib and Vern too which are both fantastic. There is a plentiful amount of action to be found throughout the story which is at times very violent and visceral. Emotion and meaning are found in the pages too with Waxman waxing lyrical about souls, the reason why Squib’s real father isn’t around, Vern’s backstory and the fate of dragon-kind all serving to add extra depth to the narrative. For the humour, it is often hilarious and at times, it is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. Some jokes are, admittedly on the rather juvenile side. But, I won’t lie, I still found myself smirking away at them.
Squib and Vern, the teenage cajun and the old dragon are an odd couple and an unlikely duo who, for me are the heart of Highfire and I found myself rooting for them to come out on top against the nefarious Hooke. At its core, the story is about the gradual development of the friendship that grows between the pair where Squib learns some responsibility and Vern realises that he doesn’t actually hate all humans.
I don’t usually gravitate towards what could be classed as ‘funny‘ books and tend to stay away from them. I do like humour in books, particularly the dark humour that is found in thrillers and the gallows style humour that is found in grimdark. But, with those books where humour makes up a large portion of the whole book, I find them to be very hit-and-miss. However, I had a blast with Highfire and I found it to be a whole heap of fun, wickedly entertaining and a cracking good read.
Simply, like Vern drinking a bottle of his favourite vodka Highfire goes down an absolute treat.
Purchase Highfire by Eoin Colfer.
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