Whoops. After an unintended mini-blog hiatus, I’m back.
I totally forgot I was going to do a review for this–got distracted by NaNoWriMo and then looming school work assessments and my own writing. Shame on me!
Disclaimer: I met Will Hill personally at Fantasycon, but I tried not to let that bias the review.
Department 19 – Will Hill
Dracula and Frankenstein were not works of fiction, but history lessons. Product description stolen from Amazon:
In a secret supernatural battle that’s been raging for over a century, the stakes have just been raised – and they’re not wooden anymore.
When Jamie Carpenter’s mother is kidnapped by strange creatures, he finds himself dragged into Department 19, the government’s most secret agency.
Fortunately for Jamie, Department 19 can provide the tools he needs to find his mother, and to kill the vampires who want him dead. But unfortunately for everyone, something much older is stirring, something even Department 19 can’t stand up against…
The novels play with the traditional view monsters–the vampires are cruel and twisted, and the secret M15-type department to fight them is good fun. Jamie’s quite a strong protagonist–he’s a bit whiny at the beginning but he quickly rises to the challenge of his new world he has been thrown into.
Jamie’s chemistry with the young female vampire is chillingly good at the beginning as they speak across a UV barrier that reminds me of the Hannibal Lector scenes in Silence of the Lambs. In fact, for such an action-centric and tightly-planned plot, the character development is not ignored, which I appreciate. Jamie has stumbled into a snarl of intrigue left behind by the older generations of D19, and Jamie learns that adults make their fair share of mistakes as well–including his own father.
The demographic is teenage boys, and it has a lot to appeal to its intended audience. There’s lots of action, lots of blood, and lots of violence, but it never feels like it’s gratuitous.
I love that the book makes allusions to classic Victorian monster literature and has flashbacks to D19 in differing time periods, as I think Department 19 will be a sneaky way to get kids to go back to the original text to see how Frankenstein compares to the character in the book, for instance, or understand the allusions to Dracula. D19 is an excellent way to bridge the gap between modern, fast-paced reading to the classics that inspire so many books today.
This isn’t really a weakness, but last I checked, I’m not a teenaged boy, and as such I didn’t fully connect with the character of Jamie Carpenter, though I’m sure others won’t have that problem.
I also would have liked a bit more struggle as Jamie develops his skills to fight in Department 19. It all comes a bit too easily and quickly for him. With almost no training he’s the best hunter the department has ever seen, which stretches credulity.
A strong debut that and a great gift to teenage boys, though there’s plenty to appeal to girls and adults as well. It’s very different from a lot of the vampire literature currently out there and it’s a quick, fun read. I read most of it in a day during my Read-a-thon not long ago. I’ll pick up the sequel without hesitation.