April 19, 2011

Review: Department 19 by Will Hill

Department 19
Author: Will Hill
Publisher: Razorbill
Series: Department 19, Book 1
ISBN: 1595144064
Purchase Information:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depsotiory

*Novel provided by the publisher via Library Thing Early Reviewers

For more information please visit Will Hill's website.

Jamie Carpenter's life will never be the same. His father is dead, his mother is missing, and he was just rescued by an enormous man named Frankenstein. Jamie is brought to Department 19, where he is pulled into a secret organization responsible for policing the supernatural, founded more than a century ago by Abraham Van Helsing and the other survivors of Dracula. Aided by Frankenstein's monster, a beautiful vampire girl with her own agenda, and the members of the agency, Jamie must attempt to save his mother from a terrifyingly powerful vampire.

Department 19 takes us through history, across Europe, and beyond—from the cobbled streets of Victorian London to prohibition-era New York, from the icy wastes of Arctic Russia to the treacherous mountains of Transylvania. Part modern thriller, part classic horror, it's packed with mystery, mayhem, and a level of suspense that makes a Darren Shan novel look like a romantic comedy.

Department Nineteen, the debut in a wonderful series by Will Hill, has had a lot of hype surrounding it, and if ever there was a book that justified all of that attention, then this is it! It has a little bit of something for everyone: romance, action, horror, and a world where Dracula isn't simply fiction, but actual history. From the amazing writing, to a masterfully developed world, I was captivated, finding myself reading every spare moment that I could find! Fans of Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series will love this supernatural twist filled with horror and adventure!

From the first page, this story is filled with action and lingering mystery creating a world that is diverse, complex and has a scope that I honestly didn't see coming. The highly original spin on the well known lore of such legendary creatures as Frankenstein and Dracula was fresh, pulling these fan favorites into a new generation. This created an interesting world that I constantly wanted to know more about with such wonderful and richly developed histories that I couldn't get enough of. The tone and atmosphere of this story were wonderfully pitched as well, pulling of a air of suspense, action, and horror that mingled perfectly together. In truth, I must admit that I sort of put off reading this novel because how can it possibly compare to the original classics, or the sense of horror that they entailed? Well, all of that worry was completely unjustified, because this novel perfectly captures all of the world development and tone that is comparable to Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley's, perfectly fitting the wonderful breadths of these unparalleled worlds!

That characterization was utterly amazing, with lovable characters that were engaging and diverse. Jamie is such a wonderfully strong character that reader's can easily sympathize with him due to the vast amount of hardships that he's had to endure. There's so much pain in his history, and yet, he doesn't allow himself to wallow in self pity. Instead, he uses it to his advantage as he strives to bring pride back to the name of Carpenter. And while there is a lot of hardships that he must endure as he struggles to find his kidnapped mother, he has some wonderful friends in his corner. Most notably, the monster Frankenstein. Never before has this monster held such appeal to me. He's wonderfully devoted and loyal, but there is the monstrous rage underlying the calm demeanor that he is most well known for. There is also a great complexity within his emotions that really appealed to me as well that I  really hadn't expected to see, which really made me love the dynamic and growing bond between him and the teenage Jamie. Also in Jamie's corner is the teenage vampire, Larissa. Never knowing what to expect from her, I found her timid relationship with Jamie endearing, perfectly capturing the shyness of first love. But, we also never know exactly where she stands due to her vampiric nature, but as the story progresses we come to find out the truth behind this mysterious and complex girl.

But, it isn't only the team of good guys that were so wonderfully explored, but past generations of Blacklight figures such as Van Helsing and other notable characters from Bram Stoker's famous Dracula. We get new rich histories as well as insights into the aftermath of the famous demise of Dracula at his castle, and the plague that was unleashed by his disappearance by his brothers Alexandru, Valentin, and Valeri. We also come to get some insight into these monstrous relations to the most famous vampire in history with each possessing a unique personality that I always enjoyed seeing explored. There is definitely little doubt as to the evil that these figures possess creating a wonderful sense of good and evil within the story. But, the mystery surrounding their nefarious plot is what really held me captive because we don't know until the end exactly what their overall goal truly is.

The writing style itself was fluid, and highly enjoyable. Truly, Hill utilizes mystery, suspense, action and horror to his advantage, never shying away from violence or horrific gory scenes. Instead, this novel unflinchingly captures the supernatural world that the original monsters emerged from. The plot line was masterfully developed with never ending action that really kept me engaged throughout. While the mystery surrounding the traitor within the Department was quickly discernible, this didn't detract from the story as there were so many other aspects that keeps the reader on their toes.

Overall, this is a marvelous beginning to what promises to be an epic series. I absolutely loved the characters, tone and plot as well the the utilization of some of my favorite monsters from literary history. With a little something for all readers, I think this is a great read for teenagers and adults alike and I look forward to reading more in Hill's second installment!

My Rating: 5 out 5 Scars

Advisory: Some graphic horror related violence

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