Jamie Carpenter is a perfectly normal boy, with a perfectly normal life – until the night his dad dies. Suddenly he doesn’t know what his place is anymore, as his mother moves him from town to town. It seems he cannot take much more when a creature from his nightmares once more turns his life upside down, and forces him into the world of Department 19.
Department 6 is the Army. Department 13 is MI5. Department 19 is the reason you’re alive...
Will Hill’s debut novel Department 19 is a storming read, showing us the world of Jamie Carpenter as he realises that the monsters from the fairytales are alive and living amongst us. It presents a vivid image of a secret governmental department – all James Bond or Spooks - rescuing the civilians from a world they don’t even know exists, with first-class weaponry and insane courage.
Jamie is a very likeable hero – realistically portrayed as he recovers from the death of his father, only to realise that life will never be the same again. His fear, bravery and even the teenage strops are perfectly portrayed, and I think that any teenage boy (or, indeed, girl) will be able to identify with Jamie. The secondary characters are equally well drawn – from Frankenstein (who is brought to life so capably that you never even have a moment where you don’t believe it could be true) to Larissa to the villains of the piece.
And what villains! Did someone say sparkly vampires? With a T-Bone, Hill has wiped them from existence – his vampires are the real deal! No sexy mooning after teenage girls. We have here three dimensional characters, with motivations such as envy, revenge and bitter memories. No two vampires are alike, just as no two people can ever be the same. With villains like Alexandru, you genuinely believe that none of these characters are safe as the blood begins to spill.
I’m not going to lie – blood really is spilled. Daubed. Smeared across most of the pages in Department 19. Vampires and their victims die, alike, in various bloody and imaginative ways. This is a deliciously ghoulish read at times, with moments of horror that might give a child nightmares – but in a Doctor Who manner. They will recall wanting to turn their face away from the page as they read, just as I fondly reminisce now about hiding behind the sofa while watching Doctor Who.
Hill also shows a dab hand at portraying moments from history. Not only do we have the high tech gadgetry of a James Bond film, we also have a London from the 1890s and a 1920s New York – all feel so authentic that I believe Hill could turn in a decent historical novel as well. The historical and military details are all woven into the story subtly, but convey the sheer amount of research that has gone into Department 19.
The prose is smooth and gripping – told so simply and directly that the pages keep on turning. Hill injects a number of moments with real emotional heart, as well as writing action sequences that have the blood pounding.
I am gushing, but with good reason. This book is going to be a phenomenon – you heard it here first. To all those publishers looking for the “next Harry Potter”? Harper Collins have found it in the form of Will Hill’s debut novel Department 19. This is going to be huge. Get in there from the very beginning.