I really enjoyed this book and I absolutely adore Eoin Colfer BUT let me backtrack a bit. When I originally asked to review this book it was a simpler time. This was pre-pandemic and before all of the other ordeals we have found ourselves facing within the span of 2 seasons INCLUDING (but not limited to): the threat of Murder Hornets, square dancing hurricanes, protests, rioting, and Meth alligators (which is somewhat apropos here). Yes, times were easier and a bibliophile was likely to leisurely request, read and review on a whim. Then came Covid-19 and our world was changed overnight and, sadly, with no relief in sight. Couple all of this with the tensions and anxiety such an environment can
trigger and voila, you have the makings of a newly minted agoraphobic hermit sporting a new state of being born of high octane terror and a dollop of hopelessness. The world was not the only thing to change, I fear I changed as well. BUT please excuse my digression... I only wanted to set the stage.
Back to the review at hand...
I will admit that I LOVED Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series (all 7 books plus 2 novellas), they are in my top 5 favorite middle grade reads! So, when I saw that he once again penned another publication, this time with an adult target audience in mind, I HAD to have it. The day I was given the ARC I was ecstatic. I finished the book I was currently reading at record pace and then dove right into Highfire... AND... I was extremely underwhelmed. I thought "this can't be right, I must be in the wrong headspace for this kind of story right now" so I put it down to come back to later and every time I revisited, I promptly put it back down again. Fast forward a (mumble mumble) number of months, plus a broken tablet with the ARC on it, and I felt like squelching on my deal to review this book... weren't these obstacles a sign telling me to let it go and simply bale?? Should I just bury my head under a pillow and wait for this wretched year to end?? Well as it turns out the answer was NO... good thing too because it seems that I just needed to enjoy this one auditorily and thus the Audiobook came to the rescue!
This (audio)book is not your average Colfer tale. It still bares his signature: elaborately luxurious world building plus his beautifully tangible characters, add in his penchant for unique premises and your product is a work of art that is sure to please a wide variety of readers! His characters are so well crafted that you can imagine them perfectly, clear as day, jumping right off the page... errr... speaker(?!?) and landing right smack into your (messy, reclusive) life. You'll either love them or abhor them but either way you'll FEEL something.
The book's namesake Highfire, or simply Vern (Wyvern), is not your run of the mill dragon. He is a Flash Dance tee shirt wearing, oil and Vodka guzzling, ornery recluse of a thing that may or may not be the last of his kind. He has no qualms about blessing some swamp folk (or villages of old) with his fiery breath. After a millennia he is (reluctantly) trying to learn how to coexist and actually care about Humans, or one particular human to be exact. He is trying to stop letting his past horrors, complete with folks always at the ready to wrangle up an angry mob, define Humans as a species. This is especially true with his begrudgingly bequeathed "friend" Everette (Squib) Monroe. I enjoyed Squib's character more than I thought I would and I loved the parts with his mother Elodie in them. I was smitten with Squib's adoration of his mother and the special, unshakable, bond they shared. Oh, then there were the alligators. They don't play a staring role but it is definitely good to have friends/subjects in low places.
True to Colfer form, the characters are the best part of the book although his atypical premise came in a close second. I loathed the antagonist more than I disliked a dastardly villian in a long time and could not wait to see how he, Hook, would meet his demise. Thankfully my question was answered and done so with style.
I couldn't believe the 180⁰ my attitude took... From the first time I picked up the book (nearly writing it off altogether) to getting the audiobook and relishing every second with it, my whole perspective and mindset did an abrupt about-face. My advice is: if you are having a hard time getting into this one as well, I highly recommend persevering OR do what I did, get the audiobook... it was well worth the time... you'll laugh, cringe and cheer.
*** I was given a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ***