Dept. 19: The Rising – Will Hill #2

the rising

So if you loved the first one that it will come as no surprise that you will love this one too. This book starts off where the last one finished. Frankenstein is dead after fighting with a giant werewolf and falling off a  cliff after the Lindisfarne incident. Jamie and Larissa are now an item but are keeping it secret from Kate, who has a secret of her own. Alexandru Rusmanov is dead but his brother Valeri has managed to find Dracula’s ashes and resurrect him – sort of. Valeri calls on their other brother, Valentin, currently living quite pleasantly in New York, to join the battle and attack Blacklight and kill them all. He’s not to keen on this and comes up with a plan of his own.

The other part to this story is that Frankenstein is not dead but has lost his memory. He is lost in Europe but a nagging memory makes him head to Paris where he meets his old ‘friend’ Latour. He ends up in this weird version of hell with a crazy vampire called Lord Dante, the self proclaimed Vampire King of Paris.

Jamie is settling in at Dept. 19, as are Larissa and Kate. His mother is now, unfortunately, a vampire but she lives quite happily in the secure basement and he goes to visit her. They are all supposed to still only be about 16 so they have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. Jamie is also a pretty angry bloke. He befriends the doctor who is doing secret experiments in the secret lab and discovers that he is trying to find a cure for vampirism. Sounds like a good thing right? Hmm, well wait and see. There is also the appearance of another character who everyone assumes is dead but is also on a quest to find the cure so that he can save his wife.

This is a big book. I loved it. I was a little bit excited to read it and cannot wait to read the rest- they are so well written and gory and just a bit crazy, but I think that’s why I like them. I did also really like The Enemy Series by Charlie Higson so that might be why! The idea that the government has a secret department to deal with the supernatural is kind of conspiracy theory gone mad, but how exciting if it were actually true! I also like the historical element of it. I liked the way that it had a split narrative in the first one and this isn’t quite the same but, there are some bits set in the past and it fleshes out some of the main characters and how they got to be in Blacklight in the first place. Also, because of the first one it’s difficult to know which people to trust, especially in the organisation.

If you haven’t read this series then why are you ignoring me?! Get to it….

Further reading: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and anything gothic. Also The Enemy Series by Charlie Higson but definitely not Twilight – it’s too wholesome!

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs


Thanks to Jodie Lee for recommending this one; it was a little weird! This is also, coincidentally, the second book I have read this summer that has a story and random photos in it. Both books use photographs that the authors have found and  intertwined them with the story. At first the technique is a bit strange because how could the author have found photographs that exactly match the story?! But, I read an interview with Ransom Riggs and he explained that he had hunted through thousands of photos to find the ones that would exactly fit the story: clever huh?

So, Jacob lives in America with his mum and dad. His mum is part of a family that have a chain of stores and are incredibly rich. His dad is a part time author and all round not very successful person. He also lives near his Grandad, Abe. When Jacob was little his Grandad used to tell him stories about when he was young. His family were Polish and Abe was sent from Poland to a small island in Wales as an evacuee. He goes to a ‘children’s’ home run by Miss Peregrine. He has some photos of the friends that he made in the children’s home who all have special abilities. Some of the photos are pretty strange but Jacob believes his Grandad and thinks its pretty cool. But as he gets older he starts to realise that the stories Abe told him can’t possibly be true and starts to distance himself from his Grandad and everyone else. He is not exactly Mr Popular and, although he has a job in one of the family stores, his life is not going too well. One day he gets a call from Abe saying that he is being attacked and, thinking that Abe is going crazy but not wanting to be at work, he calls his one and only friend Ricky and they head over to Abe’s house. They find Abe dying in the woods behind the house, and Jacob sees a creature that he cannot explain.

Several trips to the psychiatrist later and Jacob convinces his parents to let him go to the island to investigate the children’s home and get some closure (as the Americans like to call it!). His dad insists on accompanying him and off they go. At first it all seems pretty crazy but the further he investigates to more he finds, including a matching set of photos in an old trunk in the now derelict Home. Then he hears whispering voices and running feet and his adventure begins…

I really liked this book. I made the mistake of watching the trailer for the film and they trying to compare the storyline but I think the film will be really different. Jacob is a bit of a lost soul, which kind of influences his decision making process at the end of the book, but I loved the characters. Emma can create fire, Olive can fly, Enoch can bring things back to life and Bronwyn is the strongest girl at the fair. And Miss Peregrine? Well she’s a shapeshifter of course! The clue is in the name!

This is the first in a series and I will get round to reading the next one at some point. The trick with the photographs really made the story come alive and I’m guessing the film will be spectacular. This also a debut novel and the author works in films so really gets the connection between visual and words spot on. I’d hate to see what his attic is like though, what with all those photographs just waiting to be written about!

Further reading: Sweet Caress by William Boyd (This is the other book and although anything by William Boyd is good, this is really good!)

A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows – V E Schwab

a darker shade of magica gathering of shadows

This is a series and I have read the first two, so for the sake of ease I will review them both in the same section.

Most people only know one London, in this book there are four and Kell who is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons – goes between them as a messenger.

There’s Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to a girl who is scrapping a living together by thieving but who dreams of being the captain of her own pirate ship and ruled by the mad king George III.

There’s Red London, where life and magic are revered and people live under the watchful eyes of the Red King and Queen.

Then, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne; in this book the evil twins.

But once upon a time, there was Black London… so powerful and deadly that is has been sealed off and not even Kell and Holland, the other Traveler can go there. They are the most powerful magicians left and each has a grudge with the other.

Kell is owned/ adopted by the King and Queen of Red London and is brother to Rhy, a self absorbed prince who always gets his own way. Kell’s two main jobs are to take letters to the rulers of the other Londons and look after Rhy. He is also not allowed to take anything between the worlds, a rule he often breaks. White London is ruled by a sadistic pair of twins who are controlling Holland, who is also their messenger and just as powerful in magic as Kell.

When Kell collides with Lila Bard in Grey London and Rhy is given a gift by Holland, all hell breaks lose. The first book introduces all the main characters and, at some points I was on the edge of my seat because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. Kell and Lila are likeable characters and the sadistic twins in White London made me wince. The elements are also really interesting, and how magic controls each one.

The second book leads directly on from the first so it would be good to read them back to back (I didn’t and I forgot some of the key things that happened!) and is a little reminiscent of the Hunger Games. Red London is hosting the Elemental Games where competitors from all the other lands can compete by showing off their magical skills.

Lila is off on her travels and meets Alucard Emery; who has a connection to the royal family and one in particular which I wasn’t expecting! They are called back to London for the games and Lila reconnects with Kell. The plot has some great twists and Kell and Lila (and their relationship) grows a little more. A character that you think has gone also makes a surprising reappearance with devastating consequences.

Get in to this series, it’s excellent. The author’s knowledge of London is amazing considering she is American, some of the language let’s it down because of this but in general it’s really well written. If you are a fan of fantasy fiction that is a little less soppy then some of the others then this is for you, and by you I mean you Jodie Lee!

Further Reading: The Peter Grant Series by Ben Aaronovitch – these books are fantastic, if a little wacky. The first one is called Rivers of London.

Further further Reading:  Department 19 Series by Will Hill – also fantastic (see review of Dept 19 and a review of The Rising    to come)


Five Children on the Western Front – Kate Saunders

five children


This book is one of the Carnegie shortlist books and was probably one of the easiest to read. It is a kind of sequel to Five Children and It by E Nesbit which was first published in 1902. The original book follows five children (Robert, Anthea, Cyril, Jane, and their baby brother, known as the Lamb) and their adventures with a sand fairy or Psammead who they discover in a gravel pit at the bottom of their garden. He allows them to make one wish a day that will only last until midnight. Unfortunately they keep making mistakes with their wishes and end up in silly situations. Finally, because the wishes were so disastrous, the Psammead agrees to correct the last wish under the condition that they will not make any more wishes. They agree, but Anthea wishes that they will meet the Psammead again one day and then he disappears. End of book.

Five Children on the Western Front starts with the five original children waking up the Psammead two years later in their old nanny’s home in London and wishing to see the future. Not too far but far enough. The Psammead takes them to 1930 where they meet their old friend the Professor. Jane notices that the professor has photographs of the girls when they are older, but realises there are no photos of the boys. After they have left, the professor starts to weep; a portent of what is to come. The story then jumps forward nine years to October 1914 and England is on the brink of war with Germany. Anthea is now at Art School, Robert at Oxford, Cyril has joined the army and is hoping to be posted to India and the Lamb is at school with his best friend and neighbour Winterbum. They also have a new sister (not in the original book )  called Edie. Edie and the Lamb discover the Psammead one day when they are playing outside and realise immediately that he is the sand fairy of their older brothers and sisters stories. Edie falls in love with the Psammead and treats him like a pet – while the professor is doing some research about the Psammead and realises that he is more powerful then they thought. He has lost his powers and, after a visitation from a skeleton, they realise that to get his power back he needs to make amends for his past mistakes. Meanwhile the war is going on around them. Cyril has joined up and is on the Western Front, Robert is just finishing at Oxford and is then going to join the army and Anthea and Jane both help nursing the wounded. The Lamb and Edie help the Psammead to finish his quest and regain his powers and their last wish is the most heart breaking – I will admit I shed a tear.

I liked this book but I wasn’t really sure why the author decided to make the connection with the original. The book could have just been about the children’s experiences of the war and what happened to them without adding the quest to save the Psammead’s powers. Although if you had read the original it would be nice to reconnect with the characters and see what happened to them, it was a well written book about the consequences of war, and a most brutal war, and how it affected a nice middle class family. I enjoyed the relationship with the children and their reactions to the glimpses of the future – it was clever the way the author made them witness scenes so that we all knew what was going on. On the whole, if you have read the original book or seen the film then this is a nice book to read, or even if you haven’t you will still enjoy it.

Department 19 – Will Hill

There are a couple of things I would like to share with you before I talk about this book. Secretly I am the worst kind of book snob who would see the cover of this book and immediately think ‘oh, it’s for boys. I don’t want to read this’ and put it back on the shelf; which is exactly what I have been doing for the last couple of years. Next, I Googled it after I had read it and discovered that not only is it a series of five and counting but is also has a huge cult following online and there’s manga and all sorts. And it is super popular. And now I’m going to tell you why.

Jamie Carpenter is the son of a government worker and his wife who live in a house in the woods. A couple of years before the book is set, Jamie is waiting at the window for his dad to return from work. When he hears the car he takes a look and sees his father getting something out of the boot of his car and black shapes moving along the ground around him. The next thing he sees is his father surrounded by armed police and raising a gun, he is shot. Jump forward two years and several moves later and Jamie is in school and not coping very well with the loss of his father. He arrives home from school one day to find that the house has been smashed up, there is blood everywhere and his mother is gone. He also meets a creepy man who makes a run for it when Frankenstein appears (!) yes, THE Frankenstein. Cue Jamie being taken under the (huge) wing of the monster and taken to a secret government facility where he is briefed on the fact that; yes, his father did work for the government but for the secret government department known as 19. Department 19 is essentially a group of vampire hunters who travel the country killing as many vampires as they can. The big one (Dracula) was killed a few years ago but his three oldest converts are still around and wreaking havoc. People in the Dept. believe that Jamie’s dad sold secrets to the vampires which resulted in some of them being killed; so they all hate him and think Jamie is a wrong ‘un.  One of the original vampires Alexandru has kidnapped Jamie’s mum because Jamie’s dad killed his wife (Still with me?) and he wants revenge and Jamie. Jamie also meets a girl vampire, Larissa, who was supposed to kill him but chickened out and was punished by Alexandru. She is picked up by Department 19 and is now is prison there. She tells Jamie her story and they develop a connection.

I can’t really fit the whole story in here without taking ages and then you won’t go and read it! I really liked this book and I will be reading the rest of the series over the summer. I especially liked all the flashbacks that helped to explain the situation between the leaders of Dept. 19 and how it was all set up. There is also some classic characters from literacy fiction here; Dracula, Van Helsing, Frankenstein etc. and it should be a gothic horror novel but the author keeps it light enough so that you want to find out what will happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if this kind of place really existed in the government. I’m not sure that Frankenstein would be able to walk the streets without getting a few stares though! Get in to this series, you won’t be disappointed. And I pinky promise that I will not be put off by a boyish cover again.

(AND I am aware that I used and at the beginning of way too many sentences in this post!)