Oh, this was fun! Just as funny and heartwarming as I’d hoped it would be, considering it’s about an old, grouchy, eccentric dragon and a somewhat down-on-his-luck teen from New Orleans becoming friends.
I loved Squib, the poor kid. Maybe he hadn’t always made great decisions, like whatever it was he was doing with dynamite that cost him a finger that one time, but he was good. He was only 15 and working multiple jobs to help out his mom, whom he clearly loved with all his heart. He was respectful to people. He was curious. He had a bit of a cheeky, playful streak in him. One of my favorite moments was when he bought Vern a certain calendar, but I’ll let you find out exactly what kind of calendar for yourself when you read the book :-P
Vern was great too. Immortally old, the last dragon that he knew of, but not quite the regal creature you’d expect when you think of dragons. He was grouchy and gruff, but he could be cheeky too. He liked vodka and TV shows about foolish humans wrangling animals and the movie Flashdance. And once someone earned his loyalty, he was very loyal. Also, he didn’t have a human form, he was just a dragon that looked like a dragon, which I wasn’t expecting, but it made things more interesting.
Normally, when there’s an antagonist in a book who is just a terrible person with no redeeming features, I don’t enjoy their POV because I just hate them, but I actually found Regence Hooke and his POV to be interesting. I feel like he had more depth and complexity than these types of crooked cop characters usually have, and his POV was kind of fascinating, even though I did, in fact, hate him.
I loved how Squib and Vern became friends, and their whole friendship in general. It was adorable. Vern understandably hated humans, but he developed a soft spot for Squib because he could see the good in him. And Squib of course thought it was super cool to have a dragon as a friend but also was able to see past Vern’s grumpiness to see the good in him too. I think friendships between teens and adults, when written well, can be some of the cutest friendships in books. And these two both made such a difference in each others’ lives.
The POV occasionally confused me when it would hop from one character’s thoughts to another, but it wasn’t a problem most of the time.
One last thing to note about this book: no romance! Well, not unless you count Hooke’s stalker-y crush on Squib’s mom and the actual relationship she finds in the end, which I don’t, because Hooke’s feelings were not romantic, and the relationship was just a brief mention in the story.
The audiobook narration by Johnny Heller was great. He sounded natural and realistic. The voices he did weren’t all super different, but there was a slightly different way of talking or pitch or accent for each character, and I thought the voices suited the characters well. There was a light New Orleans Cajun accent for some of the characters (it’s not an accent I’m super familiar with, so I don’t know how good it was, but it sounded fine to me). Female voices weren’t that feminine, but there wasn’t that much female dialogue anyway. It’s an audiobook I enjoyed, especially since I feel like using the right accents can make a book feel more genuine, and I never would’ve been able to do these in my head.
Overall, this was cute, it was funny, it was heartwarming, the dragon portrayal was fun, the characters were easy to love, and the friendship between Squib and Vern was adorable!
Trigger Warnings: Attempted suicide due to depression.
Anyone who likes humor, dragons, good-hearted teens, New Orleans, friendship, and heartwarming stories.
From the New York Times bestselling author of the Artemis Fowl series comes a hilarious and high-octane adult novel about a vodka-drinking, Flashdance-loving dragon who lives an isolated life in the bayous of Louisiana—and the raucous adventures that ensue when he crosses paths with a fifteen-year-old troublemaker on the run from a crooked sheriff.
In the days of yore, he flew the skies and scorched angry mobs—now he hides from swamp tour boats and rises only with the greatest reluctance from his Laz-Z-Boy recliner. Laying low in the bayou, this once-magnificent fire breather has been reduced to lighting Marlboros with nose sparks, swilling Absolut in a Flashdance T-shirt, and binging Netflix in a fishing shack. For centuries, he struck fear in hearts far and wide as Wyvern, Lord Highfire of the Highfire Eyrie—now he goes by Vern. However…he has survived, unlike the rest. He is the last of his kind, the last dragon. Still, no amount of vodka can drown the loneliness in his molten core. Vern’s glory days are long gone. Or are they?
A canny Cajun swamp rat, young Everett “Squib” Moreau does what he can to survive, trying not to break the heart of his saintly single mother. He’s finally decided to work for a shady smuggler—but on his first night, he witnesses his boss murdered by a crooked constable.
Regence Hooke is not just a dirty cop, he’s a despicable human being—who happens to want Squib’s momma in the worst way. When Hooke goes after his hidden witness with a grenade launcher, Squib finds himself airlifted from certain death by…a dragon?
The swamp can make strange bedfellows, and rather than be fried alive so the dragon can keep his secret, Squib strikes a deal with the scaly apex predator. He can act as his go-between (aka familiar)—fetch his vodka, keep him company, etc.—in exchange for protection from Hooke. Soon the three of them are careening headlong toward a combustible confrontation. There’s about to be a fiery reckoning, in which either dragons finally go extinct—or Vern’s glory days are back.
A triumphant return to the genre-bending fantasy that Eoin Colfer is so well known for, Highfire is an effortlessly clever and relentlessly funny tour-de-force of comedy and action.