Department 19 (series)

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A violent, gory, action-packed, graphic, fast-paced thrill-ride. There are vampires and blood and weapons and monsters and exploding body parts. Not a sparkle in sight.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is not a story. It is a history lesson. And it is shocking.

16 year old Jamie Carpenter has been in a hateful funk since his father, Julian, was killed in a shootout with the government two years ago, when they tried to take him away on terrorism charges. His mother’s kidnapping by an ancient vampire snaps him out of that. He learns of a secret organization, Department 19, dedicated to keeping humanity safe from vampires. Obviously not always fulfilling its mandate, as his mother can attest. How does he find out about it? Frankenstein tells him. Yes, that Frankenstein. (I love him. He’s a big softie, for an oversized grey-green monster).

Department 19 of the British government does not exist. Officially. Founded by none other than Abraham Van Helsing and his co-horts, after they discovered Dracula was not the lone monster terrorizing the world. Dracula’s faithful lieutenants, brothers Alexandru and Valentin and Valeri, the next oldest and most powerful vampires in existence, rule in his stead, turning new vampires, and waiting for him to rise again.

Jamie is descended from one of the founding members of Department 19; his father was one of the organization’s top vampire fighters. And he’s probably rolling in his grave to learn that Janie has hooked up with a vampire girlfriend.

The plot of this series is new. It is detailed and international in flavour. There are companion departments in the US and Russia and China, to name just a few countries fighting the threat alongside Britain. International cooperation and intrigue add to the story.

The characters are extremely all well drawn and developed. OK, to be honest, I didn’t really like Jamie all the time. He comes across as a bit whiny and poor me and no one understands the pain I am in. An angsty teen. But he is a teenage boy, loyal to family and friends, who has dealt with the death of his father and the kidnapping of his mother and the discovery of vampires. So maybe we’ll give him a pass.

The secondary characters, if you can call them that, fit into the story perfectly. Distinct, strong personalities, each one the reader can picture in action, saving the world from the scourge that becomes stronger by the day. All are equally important to the plot. Larissa and Valentin totally rock.

The detail is fabulous and credible. Everyone knows there really are secret government departments dealing with everything from aliens to vampires to zombies, don’t they? Every shadow in the night has become a vampire for me, and I really want my own purple ultraviolet flashlight and t-bone rifle! How cool is that? Aim just so, pull the trigger and whammo! Exploding vampire.

The five book series follows the first years of Jamie’s training and development as a top lieutenant in Blacklight, the unofficial name of Department 19. The rise of Dracula, the death and capture of different vampires, the eternal fight against darkness, are all chronicled with precision and ingenuity. This is a great, imaginative, new, vampire series.

Books 1 – 4 were gripping, and, although long, fast-paced. I can’t say the same for the 5th book, unfortunately. The story is good, the writing excellent, but it crawls in places. Too much emotion, not enough action.

Make no mistake, these are really good reads, but they are VIOLENT. (i.e.: When the vampires die, they do NOT crumble into dust, or disappear in a flash of light. No, they explode. Everywhere. In a shower of blood.) Not for the squeamish or the faint of heart.  I’m not wimpy about blood, but even for me, it was a bit graphic in places. So while these are definitely YA novels, they may be for the upper age bracket.

The Department 19 series is published by Razorbill.

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