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.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 will.not.want.to.put.it.down! 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....more
When I read the first Department 19 book, I stated that it was the best action horror that I had ever read. And then Will Hill raised the goddamn barWhen I read the first Department 19 book, I stated that it was the best action horror that I had ever read. And then Will Hill raised the goddamn bar with his second book, The Rising. Then, like the great Sergey Bubka, he teased us by raising that bar even more for Battle Lines, and as spectators we were left wondering whether Will Hill had it in him to continue doing so. All we could do was watch and wait. And now Zero Hour is upon us, and yes, that bar has gone up again and Hill has sailed over it.
Before I continue, a word of warning. This is the fourth book in the series and as such this review will contain spoilers for previous books, so if you haven't read them then please do not read on. Secondly, I'm not sure how much I will be saying in this review anyway - with every new book that comes along in this series it feels more and more wrong to mention plot points in a review. Seriously - if you want to know what happens then just read the book.
As a quick reminder, the end of Battle Lines left us with 46 days till Zero Hour. Things had not gone well for Jamie and his team (understatement). Jamie's friends had also gone through hell, whether physically or emotionally, both in the UK and, for Larissa, over in the US. And then there is the matter of Julian Carpenter - alive and well, and back on British soil, but as a high security prisoner whose identity is known only to one or two people.
Zero Hour picks up the story with seven days till Zero Hour, and things are beginning to look very desperate indeed for the members of Department 19. The breakthrough they have been hoping and praying for just hasn't materialised. Kate and the Intelligence Division have data that predicts nothing but disaster of apocalyptic proportions for the world's non-vampire population. Larissa is wracked with guilt as she strongly suspects that Julian Carpenter is alive, but she can't find a way of telling Jamie. Jamie himself is still reeling from the events of Battle Lines, and also struggling with the growing realisation that his girlfriend is one of the most powerful vampires in the world, so where does that leave him, a mere mortal human? Matt Browning has been working night and day, desperately trying to find a cure for vampirism, but so far his efforts have all been in vain. And then there is Valentin Rusmanov, now allied with Department 19, but long absent, off on his own search for an answer to their prayers.
So, all things considered, things aren't looking good for the human race.
And then things get worse.
On finishing Zero Hour I sent Will Hill a Twitter message, congratulating him on what I thought to be his best book yet, and I told him it was his Empire Strikes Back. There are two reasons for this: the first is that the first two three quarters of the book are a gradual build up to the climactic final quarter (more about that in a minute). The second was the feeling you get, as you turn the pages, that things just can't get any worse. And yet then they do. And again, you think, oh well, at least things can't get any worse. And then they do, again. And this continues again and again as the plot progresses, and all of the time you know that every crappy little thing that is thrown at the D19 team is only a precursor to everything hitting the fan when Dracula finally reaches full strength. There were times when I felt slightly sick with nerves reading this as I have become so invested in these characters over the past few years. Especially given what happened to Shaun Turner in The Rising: we already know that Will Hill has the balls to kill off key characters.
So how could things possibly get worse for the D19 team? Well, I've thought long and hard about what I should or shouldn't reveal, and I decided that I would expand on one key plot point only. Simply put, word gets out. We sort of guessed this would happen following the events of Battle Lines, but now we are talking worldwide media coverage, social media and YouTube, and all the grief that that brings with it: protests (by both vampires and humans); condemnation of the work of D19 by the press; accusations of ethnic cleansing. Not exactly what the team needs to keep them focused as they prepare to do battle with their greatest foe and the biggest ever threat to mankind. However, as far as things getting worse for the team, this is only one of them, and in some ways fairly minor considering some of the other big reveals that come in this book.
Just now I said I would mention more about the climactic final quarter of the book. However, before we reach that point I want to touch on three moments in the first three quarters that pretty much took my breath away. The first was a major fist-pump moment which happens just as the clock has ticked over to two days until Zero Hour. I'm not saying any more other than it sort of relates to my favourite character in the series and it's nice to see justice done. I reckon Will Hill took great delight in writing this particular scene. The other two key moments happened within twenty pages of each other and I actually uttered a word that I can't and won't repeat here when I read it and I felt as if I had been punched in the gut. And if that wasn't enough, twenty pages later I was left with more than a few tears in my eyes as Hill tore out my heart and crushed it. Will Hill has balls of steel and does not hold back in this book!
And then there is the climactic final portion. Seriously, if you have any energy left when you get to the chapter titled "The Calm Before" I suggest you put the book down, go outside and get a breath of fresh air. Perhaps treat yourself to a bar of chocolate and a can of red Coke (or whatever your beverage of choice happens to be) because hell, you are going to need it! The final part of this book is fast, furious, bloody, violent, and definitely takes no prisoners. It's a no-holds-barred climax that comes with one rule only: kill or be killed, and should come with a theme park style warning about readers with heart conditions, etc.
You also need to make sure that you have plenty of time to finish the book, as once you start reading this chapter you will find it impossible to put the book down until you have reached the final chapter, more than 100 pages later.
With the fifth and final book titled Darkest Night I have a feeling that things are probably going to get even worse before this series comes to an end....more
Brothers To The Death is Shan at his very best as a writer, and I challenge any fan of his vThis review first appeared on The Book Zone(For Boys) blog
Brothers To The Death is Shan at his very best as a writer, and I challenge any fan of his vampire books not to find this a rewarding and deeply satisfying read. I have a feeling that, come the final words of this book there will be a legion of fans who, like I did, feel a broad grin erupt on their face, at which point they will probably, again like me, reach for their well-read copy of Cirque Du Freak and continue the story. I don't think I am spoiling anything when I say that, due to the way Brothers To The Death ends with everything slotting together perfectly, Cirque Du Freak will from this point on forever feel like the perfect sequel in a way that would have George Lucas going green with envy.
One of the things I like the most about Shan's vampires is that, with a minority of exceptions, they are not evil creatures. They are just different from humans, and by and large prefer not to interfere in the politics and actions of mortal man. This allows for much better character development of the vampires than we usually see in such novels, where the main protagonist is quite often a human, and Darren Shan is not afraid to turn our perception of these supposedly hateful characters on its head. As such, over this series we have seen Larten aid troops during the Great War, and even fall in love with a mortal (without wanting to drain her blood). In this instalment, much of it set during the horrors of WWII, we see even more humanitarian actions from Larten and some of his compatriots, as they help to heal victims of the war, both in Germany and post-atom bomb Japan. We also see Larten make friends with a community of monks. Unlike the majority of religious people in vampire fiction, these holy men do not look on the vampires as evil incarnate, but as just another of God's creations.
As I mentioned, some of this book is set in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s, and as such the Nazis play an important role in the plot. As a result of loose talk, Adolf Hitler has discovered the existence of the vampires, and sends emissaries to meet with members of the clan with a view to forging an alliance. Larten finds himself accompanying one of the vampire princes to one such series of meetings, and finds himself put on the spot and asked for his opinion. The answer he gives will go on to affect his life in a way he could not have dreamed, and leads to an event that sees him spend much of the rest of the book thirsting for revenge, travelling the world in search of the perpetrator.
Fans of the the original books and now The Saga of Larten Crepsley have been asking numerous questions as this prequel series has progressed, and they will be very happy that those questions are all answered in this volume. There has been some speculation in the comments sections of some of my reviews of the books as to the fate of Wester, as he is not mentioned in original series. To those who took the time to comment on this I say you will not be disappointed! Other queries related to Larten's relationship with some of his fellow vampires that we know from the original series are also fleshed out, as is his connection with the Mr Tall and his Cirque, and also how Madam Octa came into his possession.
Much as I loved the original Saga of Darren Shan, and also his Demonata books, I think the four books that now comprise The Saga of Larten Crepsley are now my favourite Darren Shan books. His writing has matured considerably since Cirque Du Freak, especially in the way he develops his main characters. Larten is the ultimate anti-hero, deeply flawed and carrying some rather despicable baggage from his long life, but Shan manages to create an emotional bond in his readers that have them pitying him rather than condemning him. Many young readers will find themselves able to relate to this lonely wanderer, who goes through lengthy periods of low self-esteem, and I think many will be deeply moved by the events that happen in this book.
This books marks the end of an era for Darren Shan, as it is his goodbye to vampires and Harper Collins. In September we will see the release of his new twelve-books series, Zom-B, with Simon and Schuster, and after this brilliant end to The Saga of Larten Crepsley I am looking forward to that more than ever. However, I feel one must never say never where Darren Shan is concerned - it would not surprise me if he decided to return to writing about his vampire world again some time in the future. ...more
If there was one 2012 release that I was looking forward to reading more than any other this yeaReview originally posted at The Book Zone (For Boys).
If there was one 2012 release that I was looking forward to reading more than any other this year it was Will Hill’s Department 19: The Rising. I do not think I have stopped shouting about how wonderful I thought the first book was – I have bought multiple copies over the past year for various godsons, relatives, etc and I have recommended it to all of my friends and work colleagues who have teenage sons. It goes without saying that it was also my Book Zone Book of the Year 2011. Imagine my excitement when I discovered that an early proof copy was heading my way just before Christmas – it would make the perfect in-flight reading material for my journey to Canada. Imagine also my utter despair when it had not arrived in time – everyone else seemed to have received theirs, but Bracknell must be in some kind of different time zone as far as post is concerned as this was yet another slow arriving parcel. However, my tweeted despair quickly turned to elation when the wonderful, generous, thoughtful Will Hill emailed me a pdf of The Rising so that I could read it on my Kindle. I joyfully proclaimed that I would read it in a single sitting during my many houred flight, and Will replied that he would be very surprised if I did, as it was 700+ pages long. Was that a gauntlet I heard being thrown down?
Come the following morning the plane took off, and as soon as I was allowed the Kindle was turned on. The next nine hours flew by, the inflight entertainment system (and my long suffering wife) completely ignored/forgotten about, as I was drawn back into the author’s world where nasty, blood gulping vampires exist, as does a government agency, the eponymous Department 19, established decades ago to counter the threat of these unread. And I ‘won’ the challenge – I clicked over onto the final page just five minutes before the light came on to tell us to turn off all electrical gadgets in preparation for the plane’s descent, at the end of what was possibly one of the most enjoyable flights I have ever made. If you thought Department 19 was amazing then fasten your seatbelts tight as the sequel is one truly fantastic ride. Will Hill has taken everything that was so great about the first book, and turned them up to 11!
Now first the bad news – I really cannot tell you very much about the plot except for the very basics. At the end of the first book we were left with a number of questions (and one massively huge jaw-dropping epilogue), and many of these questions are answered in one way or another in The Rising. There are also a number of key developments/revelations that, should I spoil them in any way in this review, HarperCollins and Will Hill might just string me up by my unmentionables and leave me to rot. One or two of these really key developments I had guessed before they were revealed (honest guv!), and one in particular had been niggling away at me ever since I read the first book. This is not to say that they are obvious though, Will Hill keeps his readers guessing all the w ay through this one.
If you haven’t read the first book then you might want to turn away now as I am about to mention THAT epilogue (in fact, if you haven’t read it then leave this review now, and go and buy it or get it from your local library this very minute). As I was saying, THAT epilogue. The Dracula thing that had all those jaws thudding across the land. Yes, in The Rising Dracula has returned, but before you get your hopes up, this story is less about Dracula and more about loads of other things, and it is all the better for this. It is about how Jamie is struggling to cope with the loss of his close friend Frankenstein and his mother being turned into a vampire. It is about Jamie and his growing relationship with fellow Department 19 operative (and vampire) Larissa. It is about Larissa, hating her fangs and vampire abilities and desperate to be seen as a normal person. It is about Kate Randall, the girl they rescued from Lindisfarne. It is about Matt Browning, now recovered physically from the severe injuries he suffered in the first book, but mentally feeling that there is a huge hole in his life. It is about the history behind Dracula becoming a vampire, and the subsequent turning of his faithful followers Valeri, Valentin and the since destroyed Alexandru, and how not even vampire brothers necessarily share the same goals.
Despite it having more action, more gore, and more horror than its predecessor, The Rising is very much about the characters, good and bad, and in my mind this makes it even better than the first book. I became so immersed in their various stories that my emotions during that flight were all over the place. At times my heart was racing, desperate to get to the outcome of an action scene, and then several chapters later I would feel tears almost pricking at my eyes. I went from excited to saddened to fearful to elated and then back again, running the whole gamut over and over again. There was one scene in particular, at the beginning of which I was genuinely afraid for the characters involved, and come the end of that climactic scene I challenge anyone not to be genuinely upset. Will Hill – you are a genius!
This book is a rare thing indeed - a sequel that is better than its brilliant predecessor. It almost wants me to go back to my reviews on Amazon and GoodReads and drop them down to four stars. But Department 19 was my favourite book of 2011 so I can't justify that, so I will just have to imagine there being a sixth star. There is so much more I want to say about it but can’t (I value my unmentionables to much). Yet again I already have a frontrunner for my book of the year – author’s please note, Will Hill has set the bar and in 2012 it may take an effort of Olympian proportions to beat it....more
Ever since publisher Harper Collins held a press event at the Cabinet War Rooms last September there has been a lot of talk amongst bloggers about thiEver since publisher Harper Collins held a press event at the Cabinet War Rooms last September there has been a lot of talk amongst bloggers about this book. Now it is finally released, is that early buzz justified? Hell yes - every single word of it. It is possibly the best teen action horror story I have ever read and if managed well I can see a very bright future for it, including movie deals, video games and so on, with a franchise that could rival the megastardom of Resident Evil. I think a minority of authors these days write books with the hope that it will be picked up by a Hollywood movie company who will plough millions of dollars into turning it into a blockbuster release - if ever there was a book that deserved that sort of treatment then it is Department 19, although at no point does it feel as if Will Hill has deliberately set out with this in mind. In fact, very early on in my reading of the book it wasn't so much movie treatment I was thinking, but just how easily the plot, characters, monsters, locations, weapons and vehicles would transfer over to the PS3 or X-Box as a superb First Person Shooter.
The basic premise of Department 19 revolves around one simple question: What if Bram Stoker's Dracula had not been a work of fiction? From this one question we find ourselves joining the dots and the only conclusion we can come to is that if it wasn't fiction then the only possible alternative is that his much loved story is in fact an account of a real life battle between good and evil. Sometimes great books are born from such simple questions, and Department 19 is one of these as it follows the assumption that if Dracula was real, then so were Van Helsing, Harker, Holmwood et al. I can just imagine the excitement Will Hill must have felt as his synapses started firing as he answered every subsequent question that arose, making connection after connection and thereby coming up with the idea for the secret branch of the government that is Department 19.
What really makes Department 19 something much more than your average action horror is the back story that Will Hill has created. Not content to have his young hero battling all kinds of evil, he makes sure that the reader truly believes in the world he has created. The action occasionally leaps back in time, and as readers we are able to follow the adventures of Van Helsing and gang in the early years of the Department. We also get to find out how Jamie's ancestor, John Carpenter, first met Frankenstein, saved his life, and then the latter making a vow that goes on to be honoured for generations of the Carpenter family. Oh, did I not say that Frankenstein's monster was real as well? Keep up - surely if Dracula was real then Big Frank has to be as well, but this time he is fighting for the good guys. If you trawl back through the Spill The Ink blog you will see photos of some of Will's handwritten notes, showing family trees of his characters, a list of the previous commanding officers of Department 19, a guide to the strengths and weaknesses of vampires, and even a detailed list of authorisation codes for the various members of Department 19. And I am sure that this is just a tiny selection of his notes - the detail the author must have gone in to to ensure that his world seemed real must be hundreds of pages in length, and that's in addition to the research he must have carried out into the various historical aspects of his back story.
As well as great back story, Will Hill is also highly skilled at other aspects of the craft of writing. This book has a multitude of great characters, some of whom are not fully fleshed out in this first instalment, but promise to be interesting members of the cast in future stories. Best of all, some of the best characters in the story are the vampires themselves (hey... everyone loves a good villain!). These are certainly not the insipid, vacuous blood suckers that we have had to endure in recent years - Will Hill has drawn on the nastiest examples of these creatures to create his monsters for his inspiration, and in doing so has reclaimed the vampire from the girly, fawning Twilight brigade.These monsters are Homicidal (and yes, I meant that with a capital H): think the sheer single-minded evilness of Kurt Barlow from 'Salem's Lot, the ambition of Deacon Frost from Blade, the sadistic bloodlust of Marlow from 30 Days of Night. Nasty, every one of them, and that is what Alexandru, Valentin and their various minions are like. However just as all these vampires from the annals of horror are very different characters, so too are Will Hill's creations, each with their own personality traits and motivations.
Mr Hill also knows how to write action scenes that leave the reader breathless; over the years I have read many action thrillers, both for kids and adults, and Will Hill's writing of the all-important fight and chase scenes is up there with the best of them. Of course, many of these scenes involve Jamie, Frank et al battling against the evil vampiric hordes, but thanks to the imagination of the author they have a lot more than wooden stakes in their armoury. These vampire hunters are like the British SAS, US Navy SEALs and the Israeli Sayeret Matkal all rolled into one, and they come armed to the teeth with UV cannons, MP5 machine guns, armoured vehicles and best of all, the T-18 pneumatic launcher, aka the T-Bone. One squeeze on the trigger of this marvel of ingenuity and a metal stake explodes from its barrel, with devastating effect for any vampire that just happens to be in its line of fire. But that's not all: said stake has a trailing wire attached to it, which then pulls the stake back into the barrel, and it is reloaded and ready to fire all over again. Genius! How I would love to see Edward Cullen on the receiving end of this weapon.
On top of all this the dialogue that Will Hill writes also flows well throughout the story, and is never intrusive or unrealistic. It fits the characters, and the various time periods in which we see them. And this is his début novel - I imagine there will be many an aspiring author sticking pins in Will Hill voodoo dolls whilst going slowly green with envy.
I read a couple of early reviews of Department 19 on here a while back, written by someone as part of the Amazon Vine programme. Said reviewer, at the end of an otherwise cracking review, questioned whether Will Hill's treatment of Stoker and Shelley in their respective flashback scenes showed disrespect to these two authors. Another reviewer questioned the credibility of some of the plot. I think these reviewers take themselves a little too seriously, obviously know little about teen fiction and need to carefully remove the self-righteous rods from their proverbials. To the first I would ask how can an author who has written a book that treats the creations of these two authors with such reverence be accused of disrespecting their characters? I would not be surprised if many kids who have not yet discovered the joys of Dracula and Frankenstein will actually be encouraged to pick up these books for the first time following a reading of Department 19. And to reviewer number two I would proclaim that teen boys (and many, many girls) are going to totally love this book - they won't care about 100% credibility when there is such an exciting, fast-paced, well-written story to hold their attention. At what age did this reviewer lose the ability to suspend disbelief and enjoy a full-on action adventure story for what it is?
Department 19 is the first book in a series, but unlike many books like this it does bring the main plot of the story to something of a natural conclusion. However, Will Hill very cleverly tacks on a couple of epilogues that have the reader salivating even more for a sequel as he teases us with a couple of very short scenes that in just a few pages set us up for some very exciting plot developments that no doubt will appear in the sequel. I have no idea how many books are planned in this series at the moment, but I am more than happy to keep on reading them for years to come if they are as good as Department 19.
Back in November some bloggers got a little carried away on Twitter by proclaiming Department 19 to be the next Harry Potter. If I'm brutally honest I cannot agree with this as the secret behind Harry Potter's success was its cross-generational appeal, and it was only in the later books in the series that the plot started to get a lot darker and less kid-friendly, but by then everyone was already hooked. Department 19 will sadly not achieve this broad spectrum of appeal as it is certainly not suitable for younger kids and may create a few premature heart attacks amongst the blue-rinse brigade - it is after all an action horror story with many a gory moment, and any movie made would certainly not get a PG rating. We have also heard many publishers in recent years claiming that this new book or that new book will be the next HP - I remember Chicken House saying something akin to this about the Tunnels series (good, but hardly flying off the shelves HP-style), and I wouldn't be surprised if Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson books were also touted like this at some point. However, in my mind Department 19 is far better than all of these, and in this case I feel the hype is very much deserved. I have already stated that another book will have to be pretty darn special to beat Department 19 to the top spot in my list of Books of the Year for 2011 - I am more than happy to be proven wrong as that would mean yet another outstanding book is on the shelves, helping even more young people to develop an enjoyment of reading for pleasure. ...more
Over the last few years I have become infeasibly bored of vampires. Those blood-sucking garlic-phobes are everywhere and I rarely go out of my way toOver the last few years I have become infeasibly bored of vampires. Those blood-sucking garlic-phobes are everywhere and I rarely go out of my way to read a YA vampire story these days. For some reason though this one grabbed my attention. The cover is a triumph of graphic design and the synopsis made it sound a little different from the usual post-Twilight drivel that has been flooding the market, so I decided to give it a go, and so should you.
Before I go any further, a word of warning. This book was, I believe, originally written for the adult market, but has been repackaged by Walker Books who are marketing it as a Young Adult novel. It therefore has a more adult feel to it than many of the books I review on this site: there are a considerable number of swear word throughout the book, scenes of a sexual nature and it deals with themes like repression that even despite its occasional light tone may be a little too much for younger readers. I am very much against age banding but a PG ratiing on this would be justified and I wouldn't recommend it for readers under the age of 15 (and if you look very carefully on the back cover you will see the words 'Includes some adult content' printed in small letter just above the barcode).
Having grown up watching reruns of The Munsters and The Addams Family I guess I was expecting a 21st Century version of these stories: a family of vampires trying to live a normal life in modern day small-town Britain, and the initial light-hearted tone of the book did not do anything to dispel these expectations. However, I was soon proved very wrong - there are laugh-out-loud moments in this book but its overall tone is considerably darker than these shows ever were. In my opinion the book is all the better for this as I really do not think it would have had the same impact on me if it had been written as a comedy.
Although this book is very obviously about vampires, for me this is just the plot element used to make the Radley family different from everyone else. This story is really all about trying to fit in and live an ordinary life against all the odds. Forty plus years ago the Radley parents could have been Russian sleeper agents living a deep cover existance in 1960s suburban USA, instead the year is 2010 and they are vampires who feel that the traditional vampire traits are immoral and therefore they are abstainers - blood is certainly not on the menu. They are trying to bring up their unknowing children to live a normal life, although they are hindered by son Rowan's 'allergy' to sunlight that requires him to slather himself woth Factor 60 ever morning, and his sister Clara's need to engage in some form of teenage rebellion, in this case by becoming a vegan. Yes, it does sound like the makings of a dreadful ITV sitcom, but please believe me when I say that Matt Haig has the talent to make this work deliciously; he is certainly a master of finding the right balance between light and dark, and this becomes increasingly important as the kids find out the truth about their ancestory and then blood drinking Uncle Will appears on the scene.
If you have ever sat at your bedroom window watching the world go by, and wondering if the occasional odd things your neighbours do are just the tip of a sinister iceberg then this book might be just the thing for you. If you also like vampire stories but want a change from the recent Twilight copycats then this book is dfinitely the thing for you; it is the sort of book could defy all your preconceptions regarding the vampire genre....more