Last year I read Will Hill's debut novel, Department 19, and I really enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun and a perfect introduction to the action/horror genre for a young adult audience. Vampires, werewolves and a secret organisation that keeps them all in check. I ask you, what's not to love? The second book is just out on paperback and it picks up the action shortly after the climatic events that ended book one.
It's nice to see the central character of Jamie Carpenter has continued to evolve. Still in his teens, he is starting to display flashes of the man that he's going to turn out to be. More confident and sure of himself than in book one, and more willing to take risks. The events on Lindisfarne have left their mark on him. Jamie is totally driven to hunt down the vampires that have caused his family and friends so much grief.
Interspersed throughout the main narrative, there are flashbacks that cover some of the more important historical events in the Department 19 universe. The readers get to learn some of the history of Jamie's grandfather, John, and his time in the Department. Also the origins of Dracula himself are finally revealed. It was great to discover the story of the blood thirsty warrior prince and how he became a monster with a thirst for blood. Dracula's first lieutenants, the Rusmanov brothers, are a highlight, and the urbane and sophisticated Valentin was a particular favourite.
When I reviewed Department 19 way back in February 2011, I specifically asked if there could be more werewolves in the sequel. I'm glad to say that the gods of young adult novels (or more likely Will Hill) were listening. As ever, I'll avoid any spoilers but let's just say that werewolves, well one in particular, play a key role in the plot.
The second novel is approximately two hundred pages longer than its predecessor, and Hill uses these extra pages to great effect. He takes time to explore more of the monster packed universe that he has created. There is an international feel as the plot moves all around the globe; from the UK, to France, and the United States. There is even a little insight into how Department 19′s counterparts function in other countries, which is a nice touch. The nickname for the US equivalent of made me smile.
This sequel is most definitely a case of bigger, better, faster, more. Hill has upped the stakes (excuse the terrible pun), and there is a genuine sense that things are hurtling towards an epic conclusion. I liked book one, but I loved book two. The final hundred pages alone are utterly bonkers. Lots more action, loads more exploding bloodsuckers (take it from me - this can only ever be a good thing) and more twists and turns in the plot than you can shake a pointy stick at. Bravo Mr Hill.
Department 19: The Rising is published by Harper Collins and is available now. The third installment, Department 19: Battle Lines, is due in April 2013. I'll be looking out for it.