Sunday, June 9, 2013

Review: Department 19 by Will Hill

Title: Department 19 (Department Nineteen #1)
Author: Will Hill
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: HarperCollins UK via NetGalley
Goodreads | The Book DepositoryAmazon

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 organisation 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.
Review by Nara

The thing about Department 19 is that it's listed as young adult on Goodreads, but much moreso had the feel of a middle grade novel for me. The only thing barring me from categorising it as middle grade was probably the violence (which wasn't actually that bad, but I suppose some people might find it inappropriate for younger audiences. I can't really comment seeing as though I was playing Halo at the age of 9). I didn't really enjoy the writing style. It was a bit too simple (which would probably be okay for middle grade readers, but no so okay for me). Don't get me wrong though, I actually really enjoy middle grade novels- e.g. John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series, Angie Sage's Septimus Heap series. However, while this one was just not my style, I did actually enjoy it overall.

The pace is ridiculously fast at the beginning- what puzzles me is how there can such a massive infodump and yet no understanding whatsoever. I was slightly confused for the first few chapters, but then there were a few much needed explanatory scenes which helped smooth everything out for me. The novel just got better from there on. Within the novel, there are glimpses of the past- initially it was a bit why the hell is this even in the book, but as the connections between past and present are established, we begin to understand Jamie's heritage etc. There was a strange mix of literary classics where the authors and characters both exist (or existed in the past) in the world of the book. For example, Frankenstein, Shelley, Stoker and Van Helsing are all real people (in the book).

Jamie was an okay character. He had an interesting compassion to him that the other solder-type characters in the book didn't really seem to understand. He was also a bit revenge-crazy when it came to the vampire that kidnapped his mum, and did weird things like throw around tables (not even kidding) when he didn't get what he wanted. Also the "love" between him and Larissa was really weird. It kinda came out of nowhere. I found the sudden recruitment of Jamie to Department 19 a bit odd. Casually sending him on a dangerous mission, casually giving him guns- yeah, okay...

Random side note 1: if the reason vampires can't go out in sunlight in the UV light, then would they be safe if they completely covered up? Or if they wore sunscreen?
Random side note 2: "Sir, his pulse is weak, his leukocyte count is through the floor. Sir." So, that patient just suffered from heavy bleeding, right? So I don't really see why his leucocyte (white blood cell) count (which is measured by concentration) would be down, but okay....

There was a massive cliffhanger ending, but would I read the sequel? Probably not. While Department 19 was enjoyable enough, would I read it again? Probably not.

Liked it

Overall: 7/10
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 2/5