- 20 Feb 20
Just in time for the cinematic debut of his wildly popular teenaged criminal genius, Artemis Fowl – and I have a daughter who vehemently swears by the series, having devoured all the volumes in quick succession - here’s Colfer’s first yarn aimed at a more mature audience. Fans need not fret too much though, the main character of Highfire is a dragon known as Vern who has hidden himself away from the world of men – an easier job for a creature who is closer to the size of a basketball player than the huge yokes last seen in the skies above Westeros - in the Louisiana swamps. He’s a crotchety auld arse hat too, with an Absolut habit that would give Keith Richards pause but, with only the local alligator population to talk at and fight with, perhaps indulging in the odd (and even) tipple is understandable. And surely only a surplus of spirits could account for Vern’s penchant for 80s movies like FlashDance?
He crosses paths with Squib, a skilfully drawn boy trying to stay one step ahead of local constable – and complete bastard – Regence Hooke. Hooke has designs on Squib’s hard working and long suffering mother Elodie, as well as an eye out for any opportunity for enrichment. Waxman, Vern’s “mogwai” – not a furry creature that you should avoid getting wet after midnight but the dragon’s long-living aide-de-camp – persuades his boss to take the boy on, to help out while he’s busy taking a regenerative break six feet under. Vern’s growing affection for Squib forces him to re-engage and step back from dark thoughts of self-harm.
Colfer’s highly enjoyable and recommended book is really more a crime novel that just happens to have a dragon in it – and a dragon that is accepted as reality by the other characters without a lot of wailing and gnashing - than the more overt fantasy one might expect, but it’s a caper delivered with the sure-footedness of a master storyteller.