Sunday, 19 June 2011

Review: Department 19 by Will Hill

Title: Department 19
Author: Will Hill
Released: 31 March 2011
Source: Boomerang Books Critics Club
Reviewed by: Sapphired Dragon
Sapphired Dragon rating : ***

Synopsis ( via Goodreads):
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.


I was really prepared to like this novel, I really liked the premise: Dracula was real and on return from vanquishing him, Van Helsing, the Harkers, Seward, and Holmwood together with the British government created department 19 to deal with the growing 'vampire disease' and all other things paranormal.  Fast forward to just over 100 years later and the descendants of the four friends, some new additions  and department 19 are still flourishing in secret. Enter Jamie Carpenter, who becomes aware of the department after his father is killed and mother is kidnapped by one of the oldest vampires alive.

However I do feel like this novel failed to deliver on its early promise. There was a story there but it became very much a cross between Alex Rider meets UK tv show demons with a 16 year old main character who is miraculously able to wield guns and all other manner of weapons to fight the supernatural after 24 hours of training compared to older men and women who have been training for years.  And Buffy Summers, Jamie isn't.

I think the biggest problem was that I did not connect at all with the main character.  He was contrary and angry, not listening to anyone and somehow still happening to pick the right path and right information.  It all felt very forced and while I get that a teenage boy whose mother has been kidnapped would be angry and scared, the problem was that I just didn't care. I had no emotional investment especially through the middle part of the book whatsoever.

In fact throughout the middle of the novel I practically had to make myself continue reading as while virtually every scene had some action it it, the way it was told was more like a timeline than a story and like the writer was marking time and going through the motions till he could get to the good stuff at the end.  I really had a hard time staying interested.

The ending redeemed the tale somewhat, there were a couple of twists one I picked, one I didn't and I like the greater tale this book has set up while wrapping the current tale.  I think perhaps if I were a young teenage boy, I might have enjoyed this a little more as much of the action and the slightly more blood and guts then i thought necessary did lean towards that gender however as it is, while the story itself was smart I think the promise was not fulfilled in the telling.

I will probably read the next novel when it is released but I doubt it will be top of by TBR pile.  I give this book 3 stars... just

Sapphired Dragon xx

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