This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

23 February, 2012

REVIEW: DEPARTMENT 19

Cover illustartion: Bose Collins; logo images. Shutterstock
Cover design: Harper Collins Publishers

DEPARTMENT 19
BY
WILL HILL

 ISBN: 978-0-00-736356-8
Pages: 489
 Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Published: 31 March 2011


On the cover:

DEPARTMENT 6 IS THE ARMY.

DEPARTMENT 13 IS MI5.

DEPARTMENT 19 IS THE REASON YOU'RE ALIVE.

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…

   I've always liked reading about covert government branches,  especially in non-fiction. So I must say that I was a bit skeptical going into this novel, (in fact if it hadn't been for a blogger friend of mine I probably wouldn't have gotten it,) too much knowledge of how these things function in real life can make it hard to suspend your disbelief at times.
   I did have some trouble with this in a part of this novel, there is a section that I felt was a bit poorly done in that regard. It certainly fits the story of the novel, but it did feel like realism was put aside for the convenience of getting the action going. And I think it could just as easily have been done in a realistic fashion without impacting anything else happening in the story.
   But as I said above I have read a lot about these things and I doubt many people will even notice it. And it didn't impact my overall enjoyment of the novel.

   It's a pretty gutsy move by Hill to use vampires in his book, and the way he integrates them into previously known fiction lore takes even more guts. (Nope, won't tell you which vampire mythos he's building on, it's a nice thing to discover for yourself.) The back story of both vampires and Department 19 are linked, and Hill presents much of this in retrospective chapters that are spread throughout much of the book.
   This technique doesn't always work in a novel, but here it works perfectly. What could have been irritating interruptions to the main story instead works as a welcome history lesson. The choices on when these retrospective chapters come is also very well done, mostly they serve as breathing space in a very action filled and fast-paced story. And they also adds most of the excellent world-building that makes this novel stand out from many of those that have a similar theme.

   As said in the previous paragraph, this is an action-filled story. There's a lot happening in the few days that the story takes place. At times it feels more like an action thriller than the Urban Fantasy it arguably is. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and as already said the action is backed up by great world-building. 
   The main character, 16 year old Jamie Carpenter, is also an interesting character. At times he may seem to adult for his age, but only in a minor way. He never feels like someone twice his age that is "shoehorned" into being a teenager for the sake of being a Young Adult protagonist.
   Hill has also managed to create a cast of supporting characters that are interesting in their own right. They all feel real and not like part of the scenery of Jamie's story.

   All in all this is an excellent novel for anyone interested in vampires, covert military organisations, or just wants to have some action in their SFF stories, whatever their age is. It is also has a great male Young Adult protagonist, and should suit a teenage boy who wants to read something in a SFF setting perfectly.
   I am really looking forward to the next installment in Hill's Department 19 series, this is a great "light" read with dept to it.

Bonus: Check out the author's website for a free Department 19 story.

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