A secret organisation dedicated to fighting supernatural evil. A teen hero discovering their part in the midnight war and learning to kick ass. Vampires, the old school version in all their throat-ripping, crimson-washed glory. These are a few of my favourite things.
Welcome to Department 19.
Will Hill's premise for his new book is simple. What if Bram Stoker's Dracula was not fiction, but Van Helsing's memoir? What if the heroes of that book, Dr. Seward, Jonathan Harker and Arthur Holmwood had, along with Van Helsing, set up a secret department within the British government dedicated to fighting the vampire menace?
And now, a hundred years later, the most powerful vampires in the world make their move...
It's a bit of a 'slap the head' moment. Vampires are immortal. Their minds work in the timescales of decades, centuries even. Setting things in place that may only pay-off a hundred years from now. Absolutely fantastic. Pure evil, genuis intellect with a patience only an immortal could have. More of my favourite things.
Jamie Carpenter is sixteen and has just been recruited into the department. He discovers the following:
1. His father was one of the Department's top field agents.
2. His father was the Department's biggest traitor.
3. The most powerful vampires in the world, three brothers turned by Dracula himself, want him. And not in a good way.
4. Said vampires hold his mother hostage.
5. His dad's best friend and his guardian angel is Frankenstein's monster.
Well, enough to spoil most people's day, don't you think?
The book centres around Jamie, but there are crucial glimpses of the past including a New Year's Day unmasking that would make even Richard Dawkins turn to religion.
Department 19 is high tech and gloriously so. UV bombs, stealth helicopters and the awesome T-bone, a gas-propelled stake launcher. I so want one for Christmas. Can I, Dad? Can I?
There's so much I want to say about this book. It's incredibly well researched. The references, historical, political, geographical and mythical are spot on. We have walk-on parts from Gladstone, Bram Stoker himself aswell as the key players from Dracula. There's a labyrinth of names and I understand from the author he's put in a lot of time assembling vast family trees and backstory. It shows.
Jamie's a likeable and believable hero who rises up to the challenge to prove himself to the doubters and clear his family name. There's something brilliantly naive about him, but he's no fool.
My only two concerns are these:
1. Larrisa, the homicidal vampire girl, doesn't get as much page-time as she should. She's a critical part of the story but only comes into her own well over half-way through. What's great is it's clear Jamie fancies her (and doesn't she know it) but she is a HOMICIDAL VAMPIRE. What part of that don't you get? For once, it's a vampire romance with 'doomed' written all over it. Mainly in Jamie's arterial blood. I suspect she'll be more involved in Book 2.
2. It ends on a nerve screaming cliff-hanger. OMG, I so want to tell you about it now. You have to wait 12 months before you find out what happens next. Some might find that BLOODY INFURIATING. I suppose all I'll do is re-read it just when Book 2 comes out next Jan.
The book comes out in March and closer to that time I hope to do a Q&A with Mr. Hill. However, in the meantime I have a little treat for you. I have a copy to give away. It's an ARC, but I think it's more beautiful than the final version (though that will be hardback and this is paperback) because the front cover just has the graphics on the front, no title, no author's name. Pure awesomeness.
The competition is open to all and all you need to do is comment below and include the words 'we wants in, my precious!' or something similar.
BTW, before I forget, I have another announcement. The winner of the Chainsaw Gang's '12 Deaths of Christmas' competition is Gwen Thomas. Huzzah for Gwen. She'll be getting a whole bundle of signed books shortly.
Also, before I forget and BTW, I have another author of awesomeness joining the 'Kiss Me, Kill Me' series. Will announce she shortly. Blimey, that's 12 of them now.