Highfire is the story of a plucky young boy named Squib who is excels at going from the frying pan to the fire. His real name is Everett, but he’s called Squib after losing a finger in a dynamite accident. The parish constable, Regence Hooke, is nosing around chasing his mom, Elodie, and Squib is certain he’s a bad guy (he is) and follows him to catch him in the act, but frying pan to fire, he witnesses Hooke murder someone. Hooke then tries to kill him and he is carried to safety by a dragon, yes, a real fire-breathing dragon named Vern, short for Wyvern, and probably the last of his species on earth. And now he’s really in the fire because Vern plans to kill him, too.

He slips away while Vern is distracted and thanks to a mutual friend named Waxman, he becomes Vern’s “familiar” tasked to fetch and carry for Vern and tend Waxman’s “garden” so to speak. Meanwhile, Hooke is bent on discovering how witnessed the murder and finishing him off.

Full of action, suspense, and humor, Highfire delivers on every level. There is a strong sense of place, the Louisiana swampland is hot, humid, and omnipresent. The character development is strongest with Vern and Everett, the main characters. Hooke is a static uber-villain of complete evil from beginning to end. In fact, the bad guys are cartoonishly evil, but then this story would make a great animated film. This is an adult fantasy for the people who think children’s books are wasted on children. It is a bit cartoonish, with ridiculous villains and a big jump from dire straits to recovery with nary a word about how it was accomplished. But then, that’s what is its charm. It makes no effort to be plausible. It is about a dragon who loves vodka and cable TV after all.

I received an ARC of Highfire from the publisher through Shelf Awareness