Artemis Fowl creator Eoin Colfer turns his hand to adult fantasy in this amusing piece of work that’s a southern fried Howard the Duck, a shade Dragonheart, and all original.
Vodka-loving, pop-culture immersed Vern – Formerly Wyvern, Lord Highfire of the Highfire Eyrie – is a dragon who’s been hidden away from human eyes for years, living in a swamp, watching Netflix and snarking on cryptid hunters. It’s not a condition he’s particularly happy about, but as long as he has access to TV and food, he’s generally content, though incredibly lonely and incredibly aware that he’s the last of his kind.
Squib Moreau is a young fatherless kid living in the swamp, whose sainted mother Elodie’s heart was broken by the disappearance of his stepfather. With a police record a mile long behind him and his mom struggling under the debts left by his stepfather, Squib wants to be good but is trapped in a cycle of rebellion. At fifteen, he’s got an apprenticeship with Willard Carnahan, a moonshine runner, and hopes he’ll be able to afford to pay off his stepfather’s debts and move his mother out of town at last.
Regence Hooke, meanwhile, is an extremely crooked cop with a thing for Elodie and a thing for vengeance. He’s trying like hell to take over the local drug trade, which is why he’s clashing with Carnahan’s bootlegging enterprise.
All three of our main characters collide, resulting in a truly funny and surprising battle for redemption, survival, and friendship.
Highfire is odd in a good way. It’s a delightfully bizarre book, a cross between a Burt Reynolds’ deep south good-ol’-boys action comedy and a coming of age fantasy. It’s ridiculous, raunchy and funny, and its characters are amusingly winning in a way that buoys the book.
The best character in the production is, naturally, Vern, who is the most interesting dragon figure I’ve read about in some time. The others stand out as unique enough but don’t draw as much attention as he does, with his confidence and cock-eyed sense of humor.
Hooke makes a fine villain – very much a tougher take on the Jackie Gleason role in Smokey and the Bandit.
But the slight blandness of Squib, who doesn’t pop to life as the others do, sticks out like a sore thumb among the vibrant cast of ridiculous and colorful characters.
The banter, action, dialogue and sense of humor, however, are all top notch and absolutely elevate Highfire to a high-recommended level grade. It’s a fun, ridiculous, rollicking trip that’s worth all of the little bumps along the way.