Book Review: Department 19

PrintE-mail Written by Ed Fortune

Review: Department 19 / Author: Will Hill / Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books / Release Date: Out Now

One of the concerns that older horror fans have is that horror novels aimed at younger readers have a disturbing tendency to feature romantic vampires, hunky werewolves and poorly realised female protagonists. They fear for the next generation of gorehounds and action junkies, terrified that the genre will vanish in a twinkly mess.

They need not worry, however. Will Hill's Department 19 is a sterling example that it's not all supernatural romance out there, and brings a much needed dose of action and adrenaline to that most peculiar of sub-genres; horror novels intended for young readers.

It tells the tale of 14-year-old Jamie Carpenter, whose life is turned upside down when vampires kidnap his mother. The plot thickens when he discovers that he is perhaps the last surviving heir to a bloodline of vampire hunters, and with a little bit of help from the shadowy Department 19, the young man goes into the night to fight the monsters.

Older readers may find this all a little cliché, after all, there are as many books about secretive monster hunting organisations as there are novels about twinkly vampires, but they’re missing the point; Department 19 takes the usual suspects from a Hammer Horror movie and makes them relevant to new readers. Hill presents a ‘greatest hits’ of vampire hunting stories, and this debut novel features all the things a young horror fan can wish for; horrible monsters, gore, explosions, conspiracy and maybe, just maybe, a little bit of romance.

Hill’s style is fast paced, and he’s the sort of storyteller who likes to fill the quiet moments with explosions and surprises. This is not a subtle book; it’s big, it’s loud and it’s a lot of fun, though none of it is terribly original. But then what is?

Older types should be aware that it is very firmly aimed at kids, and though the novel never talks down its reader, and features a lot of action and ungodly amounts of gore, it is closer to Men In Black than it is to Resident Evil. Definitely one for the discerning younger reader, and a good way to introduce loved ones to the joys of action horror.

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