Department 19 by Will Hill
Department 6 is the Army.
Department 13 is MI5.
Department 19 is the reason you’re alive.
When I initially launched The Eloquent Page I didn’t even consider reading, never mind reviewing, any young adult fiction. Towards the end of last year I changed my mind and decided to take the plunge. I read The Enemy by Charlie Higson and All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and I have to admit I was just blown away by both. They were great examples of their respective genres and it was clear to me that young adult fiction had come a long way since my teenage years. With those experiences still fresh in my mind, I was keen to try another novel aimed at the teen market.
There has been a lot of buzz around the Internet in the last couple of months regarding Department 19 by Will Hill so when I got the opportunity to read an advance copy I jumped at the chance.
Seen through the eyes of sixteen year old Jamie Carpenter, the reader is introduced to the United Kingdom’s most secret government agency – Department 19. Jamie and his widowed mother are attacked by a strange creature one night in their home. Jamie’s mother is kidnapped while he is saved by Department 19’s top operative, Victor.
Jamie learns that his father was a member of the Department before his death and that they have an on-going mission to rid the UK of all forms of supernatural evil. As a descendant of one of the Departments founders, Jamie was destined to be invited into the fold when he reached maturity.
The Department’s main foe are vampires, specifically the progeny of Count Dracula. In this reality, Bram Stoker’s famous novel is in fact more historical text than a work of fiction. I felt that this is where the novel really excels. Hill has written a number of chapters that explore the founding of the Department. The reader is treated to flashbacks set in the late 19th and early 20th century. Names like Van Helsing, Harker and Seward pop up through out. As Jamie learns the Department’s history, he also discovers his own heritage. The mix of modern and historical action works well and kept me on the edge of my seat. I found that the historic elements never detracted, only enhanced, the main narrative.
When the book begins Jamie is on the cusp of adulthood. He starts the novel as a surly teenager that is prone to impulsive gestures but as the story develops you start to see more and more flashes of the man he will become. Victor is a terrific character as well. He guides Jamie in his new life and provides a steadfast mentor/surrogate father figure.
The book is aimed at readers in the age range of 13 yrs plus. There is quite a lot of blood and violence in the novel’s climax but I would agree that there probably isn’t anything that a mature 13 year old couldn’t handle. Anyone who has read Cirque Du Freak and the remainder of The Saga of Darren Shan will find a lot to enjoy here. Tonally, I felt there were similarities, but with Department 19, Hill has created something that is uniquely his own.
The author has created a raft of memorable and intriguing characters that easily held my attention for the novels duration. The good news is that there are plenty of loose ends left dangling that need following up so I’m sure any sequel will continue Jamie’s journey. There are some great things going on in Department 19 and I would love to tell you more but would be horrified at the prospect of spoiling all the magnificent twists and turns. Suffice to say, I look forward to where Hill will take the heroes and villains of Department 19 in their next adventure. If I could make one personal request for the next book – please more werewolves!
Department 19 is due for release on 31st March 2011.