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.
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…
It’s not hard to feel sorry for Jamie Carpenter.
His father died in a hail of bullets two years ago, leaving him and his mother with the legacy of being labelled as the family of a traitor and terrorist collaborator. The stories follow them wherever they move, lending the bullying he suffers at school an air of legitimacy amongst his peers. Friendless and unable to cross the widening emotional gulf between his mother and himself, Jamie has become withdrawn and cynical, the grief of his father’s death buried beneath layers of confusion and anger at what he’d left them with.
Until the secrets of his father’s past come looking for them, and his mother is taken by someone -something- that shouldn’t exist but that raises suppressed memories of the night his father died. It also brings him into contact with the top secret and enigmatic Department 19, and the war being waged in the shadows- a war only Department 19 can wage.
Even as legends come to life around him Jamie discovers that despite everything changing, some things remain a constant. Like the contempt his father is held in, a burden that follows him into this new and initially unwelcome life. But there are threads here that he can follow to unravel the truth of his father’s death -and his life. But to do that, and to survive and save his mother and himself, Jamie has to discover the strength inside himself and focus the long simmering anger within. But in a world where death is one mistake away that’s easier said than done.
The first thing that struck me about Department 19 is how undeniably more-ish it is. I opened the book on the train home after picking it up, and snapped at Liz when she shook my shoulder a few seconds later. Only it wasn’t a few seconds later- we were at our stop and I was 50 odd pages into it.
It’s a very cool concept, and the combination of the legends of Dracula and a secret organisation that’s a cultural smoothie of Blade, Alex Rider, Young Bond, SAS, B.P.R.D and MI5 has given Will a veritable treasure trove of cool stuff to play with, and he doesn’t waste the opportunity.
Amidst the cool weapons and lethal enemies (Huzzah- vampires that kill people and enjoy doing it!) Jamie has a lot to deal with, both internally and externally. There are times he comes across as petulant, but by and large you can understand where he’s coming from and live with it. Cleverly woven in amongst this is a backstory that tells how Jamie’s family came to be caught up in Department 19 and the deadly grudge that Dracula’s protege holds against them.
Written in a fast paced, visual style with no punches in the action stakes and where the vampires will eat your face long before they snog you, Department 19 sinks its fangs in from the start and doesn’t let go until the end.