Friday 5 June 2015

Review: Department 19: Darkest Night by Will Hill

The epic conclusion in the blood-poundingly brilliant Department 19 series, from bestselling author, Will Hill.

The brave men and women of Department 19 have fought Dracula at every turn, but now Zero Hour has passed and the ancient vampire is at full strength.

Inside Department 19, the Operators are exhausted and fractured. Jamie, Larissa, Matt and Kate are each struggling with their own demons. When the friends need each other most, they are further apart than ever.

Outside the Department, the world reels from the revelation that vampires are real. Violence and paranoia spread around the globe and, when it finally comes, Dracula’s opening move is more vicious than anyone could have imagined.

A final battle looms between the forces of darkness and the last, massed ranks of those who stand against it. A battle that will define the future of humanity. A battle that simply cannot be lost…

Back in 2005 a certain US author released a book that transformed the merciless, blood thirsty vampires that I had grown up watching on TV, DVD, etc. (Hammer's Christopher Lee Dracula movies, Fright Night, 'Salem's Lot, Blade, Buffy) into pouting, lovesick 'teens', almost like a Mills & Boon with vampires. And of course, due to its success, many other writers followed suit. As far as I was concerned, vampire fiction was dead in the water as far as Young Adults were concerned. And then, towards the end of 2010 I was incredibly fortunate to read a copy of a book by debut YA author Will Hill, and from that moment I was absolutely, completely hooked on a book (and subsequently a series) in a way that hadn't happened since the Harry Potter series ended. 

That book was, of course, Department 19, and with it Will Hill had well and truly reclaimed the vampire from the mushy bollocks of the sparkly brigade and made them scary again. And vicious. And blood thirsty. And ruthless. And just plain bloody brilliant. 

Yesterday saw the release of Darkest Night, the fifth and final book in a series that in my opinion has just got better and better with every book released. With that first instalment, Hill set the bar pretty damn high for YA action and for YA horror, and ever since he has raised that bar higher and higher, leading to me naming him the Sergey Bubka of YA fiction, when I wrote my review of Zero Hour. With Darkest Night Hill tears up all the records and leaves the competition standing. 

I've lost count of the number of times I have heard bloggers and reviewers moaning about dreadfully poor 'third books in trilogies', or series that have gone on one or two books too long. That can never be said about the Department 19 series, and Darkest Night is the most fitting and perfect end to that series that I have love so much. Hill continues to shock his readers, and let's face it, after the last few books we pretty much know that no one is safe, and there is no guarantee that any of our favourite characters will make it through to the final page. Jamie, Larissa, Frankenstein, Matt, Kate... will they all be alive and well come the final page or...?

Darkest Night is also far much more than the final battle between the members of Department 19 (and their various international compatriots) and Dracula and his legions of the undead. In fact, if you're expecting 700+ pages of the battle to end all battles then you've obviously not been paying attention in the last few books. Will Hill weaves all kinds of themes into his D19 story: loyalty, trust, betrayal, love, loss, survival and humanity, and it is the latter of these that jumps into the front seat in Darkest Night. With Jamie now a vampire, will he manage to retain his humanity following the climatic battle at the end of Zero Hour? What lengths will the leaders of D19 and the other international organisations go to in order to defeat Dracula? And just how low will humankind stoop in the name of war? 

With these themes central to the first half of the book Hill adds so much realism to what is essentially a fantasy horror tale (or is it?). We all know the atrocities that man is capable of committing in the name of war: Syria; Kosovo; Iraq; Northern Ireland... the list goes on and on, and it isn't always the perceived main villain(s) committing these diabolical acts. Sometimes it is the supposed good guy, always claiming that they may be doing the wrong thing, but it is for the right reasons. It is exactly this that Hill weaves as significant strand through the first half of Darkest Night. He isn't content with merely entertaining or scaring his readers - he really wants to make them feel uncomfortable, and have them asking what they would do in a similar situation.

And then, of course, comes the final battle. I urge you not to start reading past halfway unless you devote another few hours to the book there and then, as you really! As battle scenes go it is up there with Helm's Deep, the Attack on New York, the Battle of Rourke's Drift, and the The Bride vs the Crazy 88s in Kill Bill vol 1. It is bloody, brutal and completely unforgiving (for the characters and the reader), and when the dust finally settles the world will never be the same again.

Thank you Will Hill for creating this series and its world and characters. I have never looked forward to and simultaneously dreaded reading a book so much since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and you have not disappointed. I look forward to reading whatever journey you decide to take us on next.


  1. Yes!I totally agree! Will Hill has done an amazing job at finishing the series. I think he deserves more publicity. He did a better job at concluding the series than J.K. Rowling! I really like D19. Read the series now if you haven't already!

  2. A very tiny part of me was worried that perhaps Will Hill wouldn't manage to pull it off, that perhaps the last book just wouldn't quite be able to live up to the gargantuan bar set by the previous four. Thank you for burying that tiny bit of doubt. Darkest Night is going to be an absolutely glorious read - I cannot wait to get my hands on it!

  3. omg so awsome love Larissa x jamie

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