Review: Department 19

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Department 19Department Nineteen by Will Hill
Series: Department 19 #1
Published by Razorbill on March 31, 2011
Genres: Adventure, Horror, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 540
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

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.

After reading the summary of this story, I was pretty intrigued and thought it could be quite interesting. Sadly, I quickly realized that the book would not be for me. There were a myriad of things that I did not like about this book: the characters (none of whom I gave a flip about), the jumps in time (which made it even harder to care about the characters, because so rarely did a scene continue on in the next chapter), the rather pompous chapter headings, the fact the vampires can fly (just leap up in the air and fly like birds), and the fact that there are two epilogues.

The timing and plotting of the story seem a bit weak. As an example of the former, I should like to discuss vampire killing. Readers of YA fiction are probably expecting Jamie, as the hero of the piece to be a bit of a badass. And he is. After only two days of training (upon the conclusion of which he does the best job of like anyone ever on some simulation test thing). And it’s not like he was particularly athletic in school. He seemed really average at the outset and then suddenly he has crazy vampire killin’ mojo? I just wasn’t buying it; yeah, there’s a family history for it, but that really doesn’t mean anything.

Not to mention the fact that the whole plot line of it being possible to bring Dracula back to afterlife could have been avoided if everyone were not stupid. Seriously. Spoiler Alert. It occurs to Van Helsing’s crew several years later that reanimation from his cremated ashes might be possible, so they go back to Transylvania to make sure he’s still there. He is, hurrah! The world is saved. Except that the guys just take the ashes and stick them in a super secure, totally unsinkable room. Which is, of course, breached. Whoever could have seen that clever plot twist coming?!?! What they should have done was dumped the ashes out on a windy day or throne them in the ocean. Good luck finding all of his pieces again.

In the climax of the story, Jamie finally finds Alexandru, having purposefully walked into a very obvious trap, what with Alexandru having left notes for him and all. Alexandru has killed hundreds of people to get Jamie’s attention and make sure he comes. After all of that, when Jamie gets there, Jamie’s mother yells for him to run to safety and Alexandru tells him “Listen to your mother, boy” (492). These are not the words of the man who’s been writing “Tell the boy to come” all over the place in blood.

Another frustrating element was his obsession with Larissa. She tries to kill him at their second meeting. Then, he comes to visit her in her cell and has trouble concentrating on saving his mother, because she looks so lovely with her face all covered in blood. Right… I’m not saying he can’t be into a vampire, but, seriously, she’s not going to be looking her best just then. Being covered in blood just isn’t sexy and, as a True Blood fan, I should know.

For a story with a lot of promise, I thought Department 19 was a major clunker. I was bored pretty much the whole way through (and it’s a long way through). Recommended to teen boys with more interest in action scenes and gore than in plot. For me, this is the end, even though a sequel is likely planned.

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