Dragon in the Swamp!

Highfire by Eoin Colfer

Publication Date: January 28, 2020

Summary from NetGalley:

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.

ARC provided by HarperCollins Publishers via NetGalley for an honest review.

Confession:

This is the dragon book that I didn’t even know I needed. It is funny, smart and so very dark with some good old boys tearing up the Louisiana bayou. I enjoyed this immensely and think many others will too.

Vern is just like a grumpy old man, who has seen too much of the world and has lost all of those he has cared for. He just basically wants to be left alone to drink and watch cable. But he still needs to have someone on his side to help him obtain his vodka and his other basic needs. He has one friend, Waxman, and is certainly not looking to make another. He is tough and mean and will kill to protect his privacy. He is somewhat lovable though, because you know beneath that tough exterior there is a soft heart.

Everett, also known as Squib, has had a tough life, and doesn’t know how to get himself and his momma out of the hole they are in. He is very protective of his mother and really wants to do best by her, but his options are limited. He is a smart kid, and thinks quick on his feet. When he is first confronted by Vern, he doesn’t completely loose it, but manages to keep his wits about him and convince Vern that he is worth more alive than dead. I just loved the relationship that the two of them developed. Vern almost becomes like a grandfather to him.

I also very much enjoyed Waxman. He is Vern’s only friend, and he is also not human. He also has a fondness for Squib, and he helps convince Vern that he can be useful. Squib is always quoting things that Waxman has told him over the years, and most of the time they have proven to be useful.

Regence Hooke was the only character that was a bit predictable. He is definitely a no good cop, out to just serve himself. Everything he does is motivated by what he can get out of it. He wants Squib out of the picture, because he wants his mother. He is despicably cruel and a complete socio-path with very little sense of morals or a conscience.

I loved the setting. The swamp full of alligators and other natural hazards was perfect, and at times really added to the story. The plot was really good too, it was mostly character driven and focused on the relationship that develops between Vern and Squib and how it changes them both. It is not a story for the faint at heart though. There is quite a bit of violence, with Vern burning people up, Regence mutilating and dismembering people and an alligator swarm. It can get quite gruesome at times. But if you don’t mind that then you will really be in for a treat of a story that is sometimes funny.

If you have enjoyed other books by Eoin Colfer than I think you should give this one a try. This is also a good one for those of you who are tired of the same old dragon stories. This dragon story is very original and unlike anything else you have read.

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