My friend Sara recommended this book to readers of Geek Speak Magazine, back when that was a thing that existed and for which we wrote reviews, and since I admire Sara’s tastes in almost all things (her preference for Star Wars over Star Trek notwithstanding), when I saw it for sale a couple of years later, in hardcover but at a steep discount at one of those remainder bookstores in which I spend way too much time, I thought it worth the outlay of $7.
The first observation I would make of this book is that it is very long. For a YA novel, especially so — it’s over 500 pages, and they are not large print, as I had kind of assumed when first I saw it, knowing the book’s target audience. It doesn’t drag or anything, the pacing is actually quite zippy, and the 500+ pages gallop along pretty quickly. But it is quite an investment of time, which at first didn’t seem like it was going to be worth it. The story takes quite a while to get going.
But once it does, once we are thrust into a dark, often legitimately terrifying, world of literary monsters (Victor Frankenstein, Professor Van Helsing, the gang’s all here), and our young hero Jamie is battling against the stern director of Department Nineteen in order to save his mother from an insane, bloodthirsty vampire, the heft of the novel is no longer a factor, as every scene sets the heart racing and the blood pumping and it all just absorbs you in its mystical, blood-laden depths.
I should not have been surprised at how much I enjoyed this book — Sara’s recommendation and all — but I truly did, and am eager to seek out its four sequels. I’ll need some time before I do, though. This book genuinely scared me. There is a scene on an island that will definitely engender more than one nightmare. Usually, I don’t like being scared, and it is a little humiliating that it happened to me due to a YA book. But in this case, I am so impressed with the novel’s interesting take on the monsters-among-us underground-government-department thing, as well as its coming-of-age vampire-hunting fractiousness, that I will risk being frightened silly because I am so eager to see what comes next. The last time that happened to me, it was Stranger Things, and I couldn’t watch it alone. But a book is a wholly solitary experience, for the most part, so I will just have to toughen up.
I mean, if Jamie can do it…
TBR DAY 73: Department Nineteen (Department 19 #1) by Will Hill
GENRE: YA Fantasy, YA Alternate History, YA Steampunk
TIME ON THE TBR: ~6 years.
PURCHASED FROM: The Book Grocer
KEEP: Probably not.