Shroud Magazine 2011
Book Review by R. B. Payne
Penguin Books/Razorbill Press
Young Jamie Carpenter is in for the shock of his life. Accused as a terrorist, Jamie’s father is gunned down in a hail of submachine bullets from mysterious men in black body armor.
As Department Nineteen begins, these events darken the lives of sixteen-year-old Jamie and his distraught mother. Publically hounded into hiding, Jamie hopes for a normal life and wants to clear the family name. But evil forces are at work. When Jamie comes face-to-face with Larissa, a girl with supernatural powers that has been ordered to assassinate him, he learns of a secret department of the British government chartered to protect the citizenry from vampires.
Yes, blood-sucking vampires that feel no remorse at draining the life from their human victims. And there are thousands of vampires. Maybe millions.
Amazingly, he learns the truth from Frankenstein, the monster whose life is now dedicated to Department Nineteen and its top-secret mission. Jamie, recruited as an agent, discovers the department’s dark origins as the true story of Van Helsing, Bram Stoker, and Count Dracula is revealed. Not only are vampires real, there is an underground war where Department Nineteen stands as the last line of defense.
Department Nineteen is the first novel in a YA series aimed primarily at boys that might find the storylines in female-oriented supernatural stories unsatisfying. Having said that, readers of both sexes can enjoy this story as there’s plenty of action, suspense, blood and thrills as Jamie learns that his father once worked for Department Nineteen and that Alexandru, a vampire leader originally turned by Count Dracula himself, has kidnapped his mother.
This book (a hefty 440 pages) is a very enjoyable origin tale, and sets the stage for a much larger confrontation between Department Nineteen and the foes that strive to conquer the world and turn humans into enslaved blood banks. Adult readers may find the opening a bit clunky, and the plot lines a bit predictable, but adults are not the target audience for this book. A young reader will be swept along by the action and YA boys and girls will engage in the story of a normal boy secretly attracted to a vampire girl. Talk about adolescent relationship challenges.
The author, Will Hill, has done a commendable job of integrating his own vision of Department Nineteen lore with the classic horror novels of the 19th Century. The Frankenstein and Dracula storylines are paid homage to as Mr. Hill informs the reader (and Jamie Carpenter) what really happened, and how those fictional books hid the gruesome truth. Dual storylines, one in the present, and one in the past, explain the complex relationships between generations of characters. The scope of the story is ambitious and complex and Mr. Hill pulls it off quite nicely.
Department Nineteen should be on every YA reading list and bookshelf space should be cleared for upcoming sequels. The story is compelling and YA readers will want every exciting volume.
(c) 2015 by R. B. Payne, All Rights Reserved