Department 19


Author: Will Hill

Publication: 2011, Razor Bill

Pages: 540

Overall Rating: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Rating for Action: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_35_zps7a173504[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Two years ago, Jamie Carpenter saw his dad murdered by a group of men in commando uniforms. Now, in a single night of terror, his mother’s been kidnapped by vampires and Jamie himself was only just rescued by a giant named Victor Frankenstein. He’s brought to Department 19, the most secret agency in the British government, established more than a hundred years ago by Abraham Van Helsing and one of Jamie’s long-dead ancestors. In order to save his mother and clear his father’s name, Jamie will have go into the family business and become a vampire hunter in his own right. But ancient forces are at work, and the monsters who want Jamie dead are more powerful than he could possibly imagine.

Age of Main Character: 16

What I Liked the Most: Hill takes vampires back to what they should be – no more sexy stud muffins who sparkle in the sun and get all mopey. His vampires are vicious, bloodthirsty beasts who burn up in the sun and explode in a rain of gore when someone stakes them through the heart. Oh, and did I mention the fact that Will’s sidekick is none other than Frankenstein, or that he works for an organization first established by Abraham Van Helsing and Jonathan Harker? We even get to see Van Helsing in action. For a vampire novel, it doesn’t get much cooler than that.

What I Liked the Least: I didn’t like Jamie Carpenter all that much, and his character never really rang true for me. Jamie is impulsive and driven by an unquenchable sense of rage. I get the anger – his dad was gunned down right in front of him and he’s had to live with the belief that his father was a traitor – but such constant and unforgiving rage made him hard to connect with. And I never really bought his intense drive to find his mother. We only see them together in a single scene – where he says that he loves her, but it’s clear they no longer connect. That didn’t create the kind of bond I needed in order to believe that he’d move Heaven and Earth and kill anyone in his path in order to find her. And then there’s his relationship with the vampire girl, Larissa. Their attraction felt forced and I had trouble believing she’d fallen for him hard enough to turn on her own people.

My only other disappointment was that I never felt like Hill really used Frankenstein to his full potential. I mean, he’s given us a creature straight out of legend – a mish-mash of body parts, well over a century old, eight feet tall and strong as an ogre. But Frankenstein barely has a chance to fight. He threatens a few people, rescues Jamie more than once, but he doesn’t get into a serious dust-up until the very end, and even at that point his part in the battle doesn’t last long. It was cool as all get out to have Frankenstein in the story, and Hill does a great job of bringing the monster to life, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d missed the chance to have Frankenstein shine – kicking vampire ass from here to Transylvania.

How Good was the Action? For a 540 page book about vampire hunters there wasn’t as much actual fighting as I’d been expecting. But some of the battles they have are seriously intense – with stakes flying, vampires leaping off the walls, and blood raining down on all sides. It’s gory, heart-pounding stuff that can’t help but draw you in.

How Engaging was the Story? That’s hard to say. You’ve got to balance the cool factor of Frankenstein, an ultra-secret vampire hunting agency, and Abraham Van Helsing with a main character who was less than sympathetic. Still, I think Hill does an excellent job of pulling us into the World of Department 19 and making the agency come to life. By interspersing action-packed flashbacks of the Department’s early days with Jamie’s introduction to the agency and his search for his mother, Hill keeps the story pumping along. Even though I didn’t always care about Jamie or believe in what he was trying to do, the Department itself, it’s colorful history, and Jamie’s relentless – often blood-soaked – quest to uncover the truth were enough to keep me turning the pages.

Overall Assessment: High on cool factor and gore. It’s old school vampires, Frankenstein, and blood, blood, blood. While the main character isn’t particularly sympathetic, Department 19 still makes for a fun, adrenaline-fueled ride.

Profanity: Some, but the ones used are fairly mild.

Sex: Not much more than kissing

Violence: Oh absolutely. This is old school vampire hunting and the blood doesn’t just flow, it rains down in torrents. Every time a vampire gets staked, they literally explode, drenching anyone around them in a thick coat of blood. And when the vampires aren’t getting staked, their busy slicing open people’s throats, drinking their blood, and biting off their fingers. So yeah, Department 19 is swimming in blood and gore.

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