Top critical review
Young Adult Fantasy with lots of swearing
Reviewed in the United States on January 30, 2020
I had to laugh when I read other reviews of this book as adult fantasy. It comes across with very much the same whimsical tone and magic-in-the-real-world plot device Eoin Colfer used in his children's series Artemis Fowl. The only differences are that the author makes liberal use of hardcore profanity (motherf----r is a favourite word of multiple characters)... that and dragon penis jokes. Hooray. Swearing and baldly done dirty humour do not graduate a book into the sphere of adult fantasy.
Despite Colfer's phenomenal talent to tell an engaging story (at least in other books), the set up and execution for this particular story never got me to quite believe in a three thousand year old dragon flying around the Louisania Bayou.
The story feels like a strange mutant between a fairy tale and a small-town crime thriller. It yo-yos between the two genres without ever settling into a single groove.
The lack of character development for the entire cast apart from the dragon Highfire is frustrating. No one seems particularly surprised at the discovery of a blinking talking dragon in 21st century America. And Highfire's journey from a cantankerous, human-hating recluse to a kind humanitarian in the space of a few months just comes across as contrived, especially when you consider he has the psychology of 3000 years of resentment and murder to overcome.
The other main character, Squib Moreau, is a scrappy Cajun teenager who loves his single mother and occasionally engages in petty lawbreaking when his youthful excitement or desire help his mom earn a living gets the better of him. But he does nothing worthwhile apart from getting repeatedly saved by the dragon or tricked and captured by the only truly gripping character in the book, the villain. Until the very end, where he suddenly shows above human levels of resourcefulness and physical endurance, in a very vague and told afterwards kind of way.
Lastly, I HATE how political many novelists have become. And Colfer is no exception. He can't resist throwing in a bunch of one-line religious/political/social statements delivered through his characters' thoughts and words that are very clearly his own convictions. You would think someone of Colfer's writing caliber would know better. There is nothing worse than being yanked out of a reading experience because of awkwardly inserted personal propaganda. Let the damn story speak for itself! The author's endless cheap shots at faith in God are pathetic and super-contrived. And become an eye-rolling drag.
All in all, despite being fast-paced, the overall story and characters are an ultimate disappointment.