In case you haven’t noticed, vampires are rather popular in fiction aimed at teenagers .
In 2011 a new author, Will Hill, entered the arena of young adult (YA) vampire stories with the first instalment of his Department 19 series of books. Last year saw the follow up Department 19: The Rising and just published is book 3 of the series Department 19: Battle Lines.
Department 19 is the secret government department dedicated to protecting the world from vampires, as the tagline says “They don’t exist. But they save your life every day.” The grand-daddy of vampires, Dracula himself, has risen again and plans to take over the world.
In Battle Lines Dracula has broken into Broadmoor, home to the UK’s most violent mentally ill prisoners, and turned them all into vampires – creating some of the most evil, psychopathic vampires imaginable. Department 19, with the help of a battery of high tech gadgets and some friendly vampires of their own, have to track down and kill them all before they can carry out Dracula’s plans. Oh yes, and they must keep it all secret too.
Meanwhile a jaded tabloid journalist has just discovered that vampires exist and one very disgruntled vampire is demanding his help to go public about their existence.
Aimed at readers aged 13 and over, the first thing that you need to know is that Twilight this is not: these vampires do not sparkle, they are vicious, blood-thirsty and kill regularly. Will Hill does not stint on the blood and the gore, and there is no sentimentality about killing off a sympathetic character half way through the book.
I have to say that I prefer my vampires a little more sparkly and do have a certain fondness for Buffy’s low-tech stake over the complicated weaponry deployed by Department 19. However I must also concede that I am not exactly the target audience for this book. My 13 year old son – the intended readership of the series - devoured all three books in the series so far in the course of a few days and declared them brilliant. In particular he liked the back history in the earlier books, and having recently studied Frankenstein at school appreciated his appearance in the first book.
The violence of the books is pretty unrelenting, and there are few laughs or reflective moments to balance the violence. However there is no denying that these books are enormously popular and have helped to reclaim the genre of vampire books from it's current image of teen-girl romance.
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