Cover Image: Highfire

Highfire

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An original, comical piece by Eoin Colfer. I really enjoyed this book. As a fan of Artemis Fowl, its nice to see that even though the story is more adult in content, Eoin is able to keep his trademark style. I'm not sure its that much fantasy though, as the only fantasy element for me was the dragon - but still a different and charming story nonetheless.
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What do you get when you mix a vodka guzzling, Flashdance-loving sweary hermit dragon with a mischievous teenage boy who's a magnet for trouble despite his good intentions, all set in the bayous of Louisiana? Why Eoin Colfer's first adult book!

Vern is the last of his kind, a dragon, who just wants to live the rest of his life hidden away on his private island, watching Netflix and keeping a low profile. So when Squib Moreau, on his first night working for a smuggler, secretly witnesses his boss being murdered by crooked cop Regence Hooke, Vern swoops in to save him before Hooke can get to Squib. Hooke is determined to find out who the silent witness was and permanently silence them, forcing Squib and Vern into reluctantly pair up to outsmart the dirty cop before he ruins everything. 

Highfire is a wild ride, lots of shenanigans, swearing and not the run of the mill fantasy book. Vern is like no other dragon you've encountered before! I liked the shake up of this fantasy story, it's easy to think Game of Thrones or a medieval type story when you think dragon. Not one set in modern times, in Southern-USA, who loves to wear clothes, watch TV and drink vodka! Be warned, there is a lot of swearing and vulgar humour in here. Something that doesn't usually bother me, however the frequency got a bit stale at times. The book does have a heart though, I did root for Vern and Squib and there is a sweetness to the story as well. You'll be hard pressed to find another dragon story like this!
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Best known for his Artemis Fowl novels for younger readers, with Highfire Eoin Colfer proves in no uncertain terms that his talents comfortably stretch to fantasy books for adults as well. Deep in the Louisiana bayou, Everett ‘Squib’ Moreau is trying hard to stay on the straight and narrow, but it’s not easy for a restless teenager, especially with the threat of the disturbing Constable Regence Hooke looming over him and his mum. When a potentially lucrative, albeit somewhat illicit, opportunity goes awry, Squib unexpectedly finds himself in the dangerous company of Vern, a foul-mouthed, bad tempered, vodka drinking dragon.

From start to finish this is an absolute blast, packed full of character and paced to keep the pages turning, whether delving into Vern’s backstory or roaming the waterways of the bayou with Squib. Colfer gradually builds up his world, effectively embedding a few carefully-chosen fantasy elements into a swampy sense of real-world bayou life to create a riotous mix of pop culture, fantasy, mythology and Deep South living that’s both deeply charming and surprisingly powerful and thought-provoking. It’s the sort of book that will have you in hysterics one moment, wincing at the insane amounts of violence laid down the next, and stopping to think about what life is really like for these characters soon afterwards. In short, it’s an absolute joy to read.
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Really well written book, I was so pleased to receive a paperback copy in the post before this was officially released. If you like the idea of a sarcastic drunk dragon, then this is for you!
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Such a fun and engaging story! I absolutely adore Eoin Colfer's writing style. I was anxious to see how he was going to write for an adult audience since his Artemis Fowl series is so perfect, but I was overwhelmed with how much I loved this story. I honestly can't wait to see what he has to offer in the future. Definitely picking a finished copy of this up to reread during quarantine.
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I grew up with Artemis Fowl so was really excited when I heard Eoin Colfer was writing a fantasy novel for adults. Really good fun, Eoin managed to keep his instantly recognisable sense of humour and bring it to the next level with this book.
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Highfire is an adult fantasy book which follows the story of the very last dragon on earth (nicknamed Vern from wyvern, as he’s not a large Game of Thrones type of dragon), who has successfully been hiding from humans in his ‘lair’ in Louisiana. That is until Squib Moreau, a teenager whom disaster tends to follow, accidentally finds out about his existence and a whole lot of chaos ensues.

The novel is teemed with Colfer’s well-known humour and casual writing style, as well as with his characteristic action-packed scenes. Although some readers might recognise traces of Colfer’s other characters in those of Highfire, it is actually rather evident that this book in not meant for children, as there is strong language throughout the book and some rather gory descriptions.

Although I did enjoy reading Highfire, and it did make me nostalgic about reading Colfer’s books as a kid, I was also slightly disappointed by it. At times, the language felt way too casual for my taste and it seemed like the only thing that made the story one geared towards adults was mostly the profanities and the gory descriptions.

This does not mean that Highfire is a bad book, not at all. It’s a very action-packed urban fantasy novel filled with humour and the classic good versus evil battle with a lot of twists. I am sure readers looking for a fantasy book that breaks the mould and differentiates itself from most fantasy that is out there will definitely enjoy reading about Vern and Squib’s shenanigans, as long as they know what sort of story they are getting into. I was falsely expecting a different type of story, and this is the main cause of my disappointment.
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Artemis Fowl was one of those books that I read again and again while growing up.

And so when I heard about Highfire, the latest novel from Eoin Colfer - and his first adult fantasy novel - I was pretty much hooked (an unfortunate enough expression, given the Big Bad of the novel).

The book follows the story of Vern - or, to give him his full title, Wyvern, Lord Highfire, of the Highfire Eyrie - a vodka-drinking, Flashdance loving dragon who has been keeping a low profile in the Louisiana bayou.

But when the well-intentioned Squib Moreau and crooked Constable Regence Hooke bring their (literally explosive) feud to his doorstep, Vern steps in - and it isn't long until his peaceful existence is turned upside down.

To be fair, he handles it all quite well. Sort of.

Wickedly hilarious, sharp-witted and all-around amazing, Vern quickly became one of my favourite characters in a book since...well, just about forever.

Besides his preferred movie and his tipple of choice (OK, it's more like he can drink a gallon of the stuff), Vern isn't the typical kind of dragon you would find in a fantasy novel.

Inspired by the urban legend of the Honey Island Swamp Monster, Vern isn't too fond of flying - unless he has to, that is - and prefers swimming the Pearl River instead. And at just under seven feet tall, he's more the size of a large bear than the typical legendary fire-breathing behemoths.

He's also understandably wary of humankind, after they killed the rest of his family and clan centuries ago - which means his first encounter with Squib doesn't get off to the best of starts.

The bulk of the book focuses on Vern's relationship with Squib which, later on, ends up capturing the attention of Hooke - the Constable-turned-wannabe-drug-lord with a reeeeally creepy obsession with Squib's mum Elodie and his own plans on what he's going to do with Vern when he captures him.

Highfire is the kind of book that will draw you in from the first pages. After sitting down to read "just a few chapters", it felt like I found myself a handful of pages before the end faster than you could say 'Honey Island Swamp Monster' - and I loved each and every second of it.
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Back in Publisher HQ...

Publisher: Colfer! THIS is a great Young Adult book. Really great stuff you got here. Here's the problem. Dragons. They ain't selling so hot right now. We gotta adult this up. Also, we are being sponsored by Absolut, WhatsApp, Amazon Prime, Google, Wikipedia, Snuggie, and Flashdance, so make sure to include those in the book at least once. I'll give you a week!

Colfer: Tanks a million fer dat feedback. I'll get right feckin to it.

A week later...

Colfer: 'Ere's me new manuscript. Added 83 fecks and 214 shites and too many to count cocks and balls, including a retractable dragon shlong. Not to worry though, no sex, only innuendos and a horny, sociopathic, crooked copper man! And our dragon only wears Flashdance t-shirts and guzzles vodka by the gallon because Americans don't understand pints, only gallons. Everything else is in there too. *Slaps manuscript* This baby holds it all.

An ancient beast, king of the skies, now in hiding in the bayou swamps. Vern, possibly the last dragon, lives out his days wearing Flashdance t-shirts, drinking vodka, and binge-watching Netflix. Squib, a Cajun boy, makes a deal with Vern, after witnessing the dragon to be his loyal assistant, bringing Vern whatever he desires, and in return, Vern promises not to kill the boy and his mother. It all goes wrong when Regence Hooke, a dirty cop, discovered Vern's existence and tries to manipulate Vern so Hooke can rule the drug underworld.

In a word, Highfire was disappointing. The book was obviously written to be a YA book, geared towards hormonal teenage boys who think dicks, balls, and pissing his hilarious. What made it even more disappointing was I read and enjoyed the Artemis Fowl series. I had really high hopes for this book and have really enjoyed Colfer's style of writing in the past, but this book is an extremely poor representation of Colfer's writing.

All three "main" characters were lacking in any sort of development and I just didn't care about any of them. Vern has a small amount of development where he starts to like Squib a bit more. Squib is an idiot kid who is fascinated with how Vern can retract his penis and hates Hooke. And Hooke? He's a disgusting character, between being horny for Squib's mother, constantly wanting to just kill everyone, wanting to become a drug lord, and just generally being an asshole, so it's quite understandable why anyone would hate him.

This book won't really be an "evergreen" book either. It's not going stand the test of time. The sheer amount of product and name dropping in this book is ridiculous. There were those I listed above, as well as Jimmy Kimmel, Google Maps, Beats by Dre, Game of Thrones, and WWE to name a few. It all felt a bit forced like the book was trying to connect with millennial. "Oh ho, gonna get those kids now, they'll never know this book was written by a 54-year-old man living in rural Ireland!" It was just sad and cringy. Give the book 10 years, and a large handful of these things will be so outdated, no one will understand the product references.

This book could've been so much more. Who writes about dragons living in a modern era? It had the potential to be interesting and fun to read, it stepped into the fun theories of "well what if that shut-in was a dragon? How would the world react? There was a bit of that, of course, but it was still very lacklustre.

I'm going to give this book two stars. Is this really a two star book? For concept, it had the potential to shine and be a tremendous read. The execution was poor and sloppy. If I were a 16-year-old boy, this book would be a riot, but I'm a 28-year-old lady and found it crass, vulgar, and disappointing.
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I loved Eoin Colfer's middle grade titles and was eagerly looking forward to his first adult fantasy novel.  Unfortunately this wasn't for me.  I found it a hard slog to get through and actually gave up half way through.  I found none of the characters likeable and the action was just taking too long to get to.
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Highfire shows us, once more, that you really have no idea what Eoin Colfer will come up with. Sure, we've had all kinds of magical beings in the world of Artemis Fowl and a gritty adult duology set in urban America among his works, but a dragon hanging out in the swamps of contemporary Louisiana is still a surprising jumping-off point for a novel. But with Eoin Colfer, I tend to go with it and see where it takes me.

The story as in the blurb starts from the perspectives of the three main players: Vern, the eponymous dragon, Squib, the teenage kid in the wrong place at the wrong time and Constable Hooke, the unashamed villain of the piece. Their fates become entangled and you know it won't end well.

Highfire is at its best in scenes where we learn about Vern. Eoin Colfer is of course free to invent his own dragon lore, such as his rich heritage and where he got the name Highfire, as well as his love of Flashdance and his disdain for fictional dragons (Looking at you, Game of Thrones). No, Vern is a long way from being anyone's pet and he doesn't take kindly to anyone interrupting his literal drinking hole out in the swamps. There's also some great detail on the logistics of his fire-breathing abilities as well as how he can fly and why he sheds skin. None of this even comes across as heavy fantasy as Eoin Colfer roots it all in the real world, Vern's vernacular is as human as it comes and the mention of pop culture and real-life events all help to ground the dragon's story.


In other words, we get an adventure story with the wit and wisecracking of an Eoin Colfer book.

The darkness of the story comes via Constable Hooke, a seemingly sociopathic, selfish and crooked cop, with a nose in the drugs trade in neighbouring New Orleans. He also has a deep hatred of anyone who tries to get in his way and a backstory that is well fleshed out. His resilience drives a lot of the plot and gets Squib and Vern into all kinds of trouble.

Squip spends his time on the bayou doing odd jobs for Bodi Irwin, the local bar-owner and runner of several businesses in the area. He's a nice kid, his mother will do anything for him, but he has a habit of getting in trouble himself despite her best efforts. His trips out on the bayou bring the swamps of Louisiana to life, making the setting a real star of Highfire. The references to alligators, turtles and all other kinds of wildlife make the world more fully-realised and Eoin Colfer does a great job in evoking this setting. The whole narrative takes place in and around the water, sprinkled with a cameo from the city of New Orleans in the latter third of the narrative.

There are some other fantastic characters too, one in particular an associate of Vern's with what I found to be the most enjoyable backstory. A real treat to read.

As is the whole book. Highfire is wildly entertaining, unexpected, packed with action and humour and plenty adult in places. A welcome gem.
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Unfortunately this book wasn't for me! 
What I expected from this was humour, and by that I mean of the laugh out loud variety. and it didn't deliver.  

I think it's important to mention that humour is a matter of taste. I can see a lot of people enjoy the humour in this one and that's fine. But for me it just didn't do anything except for a few chuckles at the beginning. There are lines that are clearly supposed to be funny, but like I said, it didn't do anything for me. It's a bit frustrating when this happens, because everything that's supposed to be cool, ends up irritating and feels like the author is trying too hard to impress. 

Also, I had no connection to characters. For me there was no emotional pull. There is absolutely nothing compelling about this people. I feel like in his attempt to create 'cool' dialogues and LOL moments, the author ended up creating something that is devoid of any emotion. It's difficult to enjoy a novel when there's no emotional connection there. 

Add to those two problems lack of original world-building, there's my reason to say I really really did not like this.
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Firstly thank you for giving me the opportunity to read this book early.

Secondly i am really sorry but this is a DNF for me at present. I have tried to read this a number of times and just cant get into it. Having previously read an enjoyed Eoin Colfer's Middle Grade/YA books i am not sure if it is just problem with me at this time or if his Adult Fantasy is just not for me.

I have however purchased my own physical copy and will hopefully manage to read this at some point and will post a review to Goodreads  at this time. I do not review DNF's as 1 stars on Goodreads as this is an unfair reflection on a book i have not been able to personally read and finish.
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Highfire is the story of Squib, a teenager being brought up in Louisiana trying to do his best to stay out of trouble and mostly failing. One day he discovers there is a vodka drinking, Flashdance loving 8ft dragon living in the swamps. And his life gets better, then worse for this discovery.
This is a humorous and occasional violent book but all the best for it. Squib is a likable character and Vern the dragon, or Lord Wyvern as his official title from hundreds of years ago, is the lonely dragon who softens to the teenage boy as opposed to planning to kill him to keep his existence a secret.
It is marketed as Eoin Colfer’s first adult book but it doesn’t always feel that way. Sometimes it reads like a young adult book but with the sexual references and violence ramped up to give it more of an edge. This helps as the easy-going read turns quickly to remind you that we are dealing with an actual dragon and also a psychopathic policeman who is after him.
A great fun read.
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A great outing for Colfer with a different tone to his previous works but the same quality and style he always provides.
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When Squib witnesses a murder in the swamps of his home town, he manages to get away from the scene and runs straight into the lair (hut) of a dragon!

Don't be fooled, this is not a book aimed at children. It puts a new spin on an old story; brave young squire (errand boy) tries to save his damsel in distress (his mother) from the evil intentions and affections of the local baron (dirty cop). He ends up working for Vern (dragon) when Vern's old squire (grumpy old man) goes into hibernation and can't perform his squire-y duties. Obviously there's more to it than that, so read the book and find out!

I loved how dark this book was, and the humour was subtle but excellent. If you're expecting something similar to the Artemis Fowl books, you will be disappointed. This is a richer, older story, and any fan of Colfer's style, or any fan of swords-and-scorcery, should enjoy this new addition to the genre.

Long live Wyvern (and Squib).
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While this was not quite what I was expecting from an Eoin Colfer book, it was an enjoyable read.
I almost wish that he could have released it under a pseudonym so that he didn’t have to fight through preconceived notions. 
Clever, funny, and different. The YA aged mc made it a little difficult to switch my brain into adult territory, but once I did.... Well done
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This book was so much fun! Not growing up in England, I never read Colfer's Artemis Fowl series. So, this was an introduction to me, and I loved it. The humor he added to the story, the fun writing was amazing. 
It's very easygoing, and I wish more fantasies were like this. I loved the idea of a Dragon hiding out with Vodka who just wants to be away from humans.  A great adult debut, I loved every second of it. 
Thanks a lot to NG and the publisher for this copy.
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I'm reading a lot more fantasy at the moment and it's because of books like this that really elevate the genre. "Highfire" is clever, funny, packed with high octane hijinks and the most unlikely friendships. For me there were echoes of Terry Pratchett. I ripped through it in a day and am feeling sad that it's finished. Eoin Colfer has played a blinder with this one.
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As a child, I absolutely adored Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series. It was so funny, so smart, so quick, and it absolutely hooked me while often making me howl with laughter. To this day, it’s still one of my favourite series. So I was delighted to find that Colfer was bringing out an adult fantasy novel for the very first time.

From the very first page, I got the sense that this would be unlike anything else I’ve ever read before. I know I say that a lot on this blog, but with Highfire I really really mean it. The novel is about an alcoholic dragon wearing a Flashdance t-shirt, for crying out loud. It’s certainly a memorable book. And I have never seen another one quite like it.

The same humour that I found in the Artemis Fowl books all those years ago [trust me, I don’t even want to think about how long ago I first read them because it makes me sound old] is stark across every single page. There’s lots of quippy lines, read-between-the-line jokes, and just funny happenings and situations. The action is made all the punchier for it because the humour really lends voice to the characters. Even though it’s in third-person, there’s a lot of narrative flair to this book. While I think anyone who loved the Artemis Fowl books will find this appealing, I will say that it is a very very adult book. There’s lots of profanity, talk about drugs, violence and mentions of sex. So you might want to consider that before buying it for a kid, or reading it in plain view on public transport :’D

To be honest, this helps a lot with the plot. If we’re being blunt, not a whole lot happens in it. But then, this is actually something I came to love about Highfire– it isn’t a fantasy book that deals with impending world destruction or giant-scale wars or kingdoms that need rescued. It’s a very small affair. Set in Louisiana, the book is really just about the characters doing their own thing. That’s not to say that nothing interesting happens, of course. There’s quite a bit of fighting and life-impacting stuff that unfolds over the course of the narrative, but, while there are some high stakes at times, it feels geographically focused and more… idk, down to earth? I know, it’s such a bizarre thing to say about a book like this, but there’s just something about its small-scaleness that seriously appealed to me. It was so refreshing. Not to mention it was hilarious trying to imagine a dragon living out in the Louisiana swamp.

As with all of Colfer’s oeuvre, the characters were very well developed. I came to adore Squib and cheer for him every time he appeared on the page. And while Vern was prickly, by the end I just wanted to hug him. I imagine the humour went a long way to making these characters likeable, but there’s also a lot of nuance to both of them and there were some serious, interesting backstories and things that balanced the jokes nicely.

I will say that the story wasn’t an immediate hook for me, and while it had a lot of stuff going for it, it missed a lot of the action and fast-paced moments I was hoping to see woven into it. As I said earlier, I do appreciate that the stakes managed to be legitimately high while also small-scale, but I could have done with a touch more action. There were definitely chunks of the book where I found it reasonably easy to put down, and the middle was a tad saggy. There are some high action moments, but there was also maybe just a smidge too much of a lull between them.

Overall, I’d give Highfire an 8/10 stars. I thought it was an utterly unique fantasy story, and I really have nothing to compare it to. The humour was as amusing as anything else Colfer has ever written, and you can definitely see his writing style shining through. But I do think the pacing lagged at moments, and it took a while to hook me and make me determined to keep reading.
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