‘Department 19’ By Will Hill

This is a very crazy book; loads happens in its absolutely wild and feral storyline. The book is pretty long but very exciting; it keeps you on the edge of your seat and is a totally worthwhile read. It’s sort of a spin off of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, with the characters each having ancestors who featured in it (some are the actual characters from Dracula because this book contains flashbacks from the original).

The book is set up neatly and nicely. Will Hill has worked hard to make this happen. It all ticks along nicely page after page (and there are 490 pages). I was unsure of this book after reading the blurb. I decided to give it a try and boy was I surprised. It was much better than the blurb made it sound. I really liked it.

The book is about a boy called Jamie Carpenter who is 16 years old. He lives in England with his mum. He has no friends and is bullied at school because his Dad, Julian Carpenter, had supposedly been a terrorist and been shot dead in front of Jamie. This back story would probably make a pretty good book!

One day his life changes. He meets a weird girl called Larissa and it turns out she’s a vampire sent to kill him. For some reason, she doesn’t. It gets worse. His Mum is kidnapped by Alexandru, the second oldest vampire in the world. If you can believe it, Frankenstein’s monster turns up (it has adopted its creator’s name). Frankenstein’ takes Jamie to a place called Department 19, which is the country’s kind of ministry for hunting vampires. It’s also known as Blacklight (it’s kind of a company as well). The Department’s job is to slay vampires.

When he arrives inside, somewhat dramatically, a victim of a vampire attack is wheeled in and so is Larissa. Turns out Larissa is a vampire. She’s been injured by another vampire, but has been arrested for attacking this victim whose name is Matt. Jamie is still taking all these happenings in, when he finds out his Dad wasn’t a terrorist. Instead, he had been a traitor to Blacklight, by giving information to vampires about one of its operations, causing the death of many people.

To save his Mum, Jamie decides he wants to become a Blacklight operative called an ‘Operator’ (they only have one job – killing vampires!), so he goes through 24 hours of brutal training and learns as much as he can about Blacklight and vampires. They get a few leads on where Alexandru and his Mum are but a few of them are tricks and traps. Larissa offers to help and Jamie agrees. This is frowned upon by a lot of the Blacklight operatives (she’s a vampire!).

While this is happening, in Russia, Valeri, one of the brothers of Alexandru, and a pack of other vampires,  have launched an attack on a Russian military base and stolen the contents of one of Blacklight’s vaults. Those contents are Dracula’s ashes. They’ll use them to try to resurrect Dracula. Alexandru launches an attack on a small island called Lindisfarne killing many people and leaving just a few survivors who manage to get to the mainland. Blacklight only send in a small team because they think the Russia incident is more important, The team is Jamie, Larissa, a man called Thomas Morrison, who Jamie had became friends with, and two Blacklight operatives called McBride and Stevenson. Valeri is long gone by the time they get there.

The Blacklight team get to Lindisfarne and find a lot of dead and dying people. One girl called Kate, who is about Jamie’s age, is alive. They see a ancient monastery and take a wild guess that Alexandru and Jamie’s Mum are in there.

Read the book to find out the rest and boy will you be surprised. There are a few sort of flashback stories in between the chapters of the book and those are what make it so long. I recommend this to over 12s who like adventure and fantasy sort of books (it’s not a horror even though it has lots of Dracula and Frankenstein references). The book’s characters are written very well; they are believable (even if the book is totally unbelievable!). This book is one of a series; I am yet to read the rest.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck

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‘The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones’ by Rick Riordan

This is a thrilling book. It really keeps you on the edge of your seat. It has a great storyline and likeable characters. I love how Rick Riordan wrote this book, as the rest of the books are written by other authors. It’s cool to see one of my favourite authors writing this sort of book. I recommend the book if you like reading adventure and mystery stories because this book has a hell of a lot of both!

It’s about 14 year old Amy and 11 year old Dan. They are orphans, but only because most of their family don’t care about them. Dan has a photographic memory and Amy is very smart.

They are driven to their millionaire Grandmother’s funeral, where they find out their new family is massive. Relatives come from all of the world. In their Grandma’s will they are given the choice of a million dollars or the first clue in a deadly sort of scavenger hunt where everyone is willing to kill to win. This clue is the first of the 39 clues that give the books their name. They take the clue.

They get their Au Pair, Nellie, to chaperone them on the hunt which travels all around the world. After cracking Grandma’s clue, they make their way to Paris, where they must crack the next clue. But their bloodthirsty relatives are going to be a problem. This is a game with no rules but only one winner.

The competitors are family teams. The Cahill Family is divided into five branches: Ekaterinas, Tomas, Janus, Lucians and the Madrigals – the secret family – which Amy and Dan are part of (they actually don’t know this until one of the other books in the series). The first team to crack all the clues will become mega rich and the most powerful person in the world. .

I love books with many characters who are written so you can get to know them. This book has this.

There are an incredible number of books in this series. Though there are actually 5 series. I have only read the first series. I’m not sure I’d read any more because it sort of got boring after a while. I’ve moved onto other books. I think the idea is good but there are just too many books. 39 clues mean a lot of books by different writers. That’s too many for me.

Review by Finn Buck, aged 12

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‘H.I.V.E Higher Institute of Villainous Education’ by Mark Walden

This is one of my favourite books. I find it so crazy good. You’ll want to read it all the time, wherever you are. It’s a series as well and all the other books are fabulously good. The first book (this one) doesn’t have much of a plot, but is still great. The rest of the books in the series have better plots. The story’s about a 13 year old boy called Otto Malpenese. He has surprisingly white hair and is extremely and amazingly smart – not in the nerd sort of way! He is smart in a devious, technological, analytical (my Dad spelt that word for me) and Mi6 agent sort of way (if you know what I mean). Otto makes a device which can control someone via a teleprompter. He uses this on the Prime Minister who was in the middle of a meeting at the time; actually while giving a country-changing speech. Let’s just say, things don’t end well for the Prime Minister. Now, a school called H.I.V.E. – the Higher Institute of Villainous Education – has noticed what Otto did. They kidnap and transport him to their volcano island school where he has to spend 6 years learning about villainy with no link to the outside world. They are trying to make super-villains. He soon wants to escape, so with his friends, Wing, Laura and Shelby, he plans an escape. It goes well until they get to the part involving getting off the island. They have been tricked – it turns out that the Headmaster, Dr Nero, knew all about what they were doing all along. After the attempted escape, their friend Nigel shows him Wing, a carnivorous plant, which is quite small but it grows at an incredible rate in the middle of the night to become huge! It will destroy H.I.V.E if Otto doesn’t manage to stop it. This is going to be extremely hard! I don’t want to spoil the rest, so you’re going to have to read the book to find out what happens. This is an all-action easy to read book. You need to read the whole series to really know what’s going on in Otto’s world.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck.

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‘Skulduggery Pleasant’ by Derek Landy

This is a brilliant, action-packed, fantasy book. Derek Landy pulls you in and traps you in this book’s claws. I recommend it to kids who like magic, action and danger, as this book is full of these. The book has great characters and it is even quite funny for what is. Well, the story is about a 12 year old girl called Stephanie Edgly. She is a bit bored with her life, then her Uncle Gordon dies. She inherits his big house and everything in it. But an old friend of Gordon’s turns up at the funeral – his name is Skulduggery Pleasant. He saves her life while she’s home alone at her uncle’s house and somebody (a mystery man!) tries to kill her. She finds out Skulduggery is a skeleton and that there is a whole world of magic out there. Soon she is tied up in that world. There people have to take a name to stop other people from controlling them, so Stephanie becomes Valkyrie Cain. Here’s the plot. A man, Nefarian Serpine, has taken the Sceptre of the Ancients, which has extraordinary power – it can kill gods (the Faceless Ones), making him almost unstoppable. Valkyrie and Skulduggery are the only ones who can stop him from controlling the world (with a little help from friends in small places). They also want to solve her Uncle’s murder. I don’t want to spoil the rest of it for you. This is the first in a series of books (there are ten at the moment). I recommend them all; I’d read them again!

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck

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