2014 EVENTS:
Holly Bourne, Non Pratt and James Dawson - 30th October
Becca Fitzpatrick - 15th November

Saturday, 29 March 2014

REVIEW: Department 19 - Will Hill

Saturday, 29 March 2014
GENRE: Adventure, Fantasy
PAGES: 496
PUBLISHER: HarperCollins Children's
FORMAT: Galley
BUY IT: Waterstones
RATING: 3 Stars

In a secret supernatural battle that's been raging for over a century, the stakes have just been raised - and they're not wooden anymore. DEPARTMENT 6 IS THE ARMY, DEPARTMENT 12 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...

Department 19 is the coming of age story of Jamie Carpenter, descendant of John Carpenter - valet to the legendary Abraham Van Helsing. When Jamie's dad is shot by men in black, his mother is kidnapped by Alexandru, one of the 3 oldest vampires in the world. While trying to get her back Jamie is introduced to Blacklight, Department 19 of the British government, that deals with the supernatural dangers in the world. Unfortunately someone keeps giving away Jamie's whereabouts...

I really wanted to like this book. It has absolutely everything that I love: Dracula, Vampire, Frankenstein and a good bit of gore. But it really fell flat. I wrote my dissertation partly on Dracula and Frankenstein so I think there are grounds for arguing that I am just grumpy because of how much Department 19 takes liberties with the original stories. I think that if you were excited to read the classics after this you might have a bit of a shock. However, had those classics be written today perhaps this is what they would be like. I liked the idea of something major coming out of Dracula's world, even with the little addition of Vlad Tepes' background, but I have read reworkings that work so much better than this.

Boys and girls who love grizzly gore will love this and it's actually pretty disturbingly violent in places (like shoving a grenade in a mans mouth) so its definitely not for the younger readers. I felt that the characters weren't particularly fleshed out, I didn't associate or really care about any of them. I don't recall seeing one female Operator and would loved to have one of the descendants being a kick-ass girl. When Jamie is given his quick training at Blacklight it felt a little like 'Tron' and would transport well to the big screen. In fact a lot of the imagery is very bright and good, both the descriptions and the settings - I loved the village in Scotland in particular. However the rest of the description was overloaded with military terms and I became bored very quickly with it. There was very little emotion apart from "I miss my mom" and "your dad was my best friend". 

I found myself skim reading towards the end. I didn't care if Jamie ever found his mother. It's aimed more at YA boys who love constant action. I have to admit I was intrigued by the internal leak situation and finding out the truth about Jamie's dad but it didn't play out in a way that really kept my concentration.

I really wish I had more to say about this that was positive because its an absolutely brilliant concept. There are a lot of people that will find this fun and interesting and actually for people who have hated the classics you might find something more accessible here.

- Bex.

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