Author: Will Hill
Length: 704 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (31 Dec. 2014)
Fourth, Not Dull:
“Kate sat at her desk for a long time… Her mind was racing, struggling to process everything that was going on around her, trying to stop her being crushed into paralysis by the sheer scale of it all; Shaun, Paul, Zero Hour, Dracula, the Intelligence Division report. She looked at the folder lying on her desk and felt a sudden rush of hatred for its contents, for the warning it contained…a warning that could not be rationalised away, or ignored.
It is the end of the world, she thought. Unless we can stop it.”
Zero Hour is the fourth book in the Department 19 series. However, don’t let that put you off, especially if it is going to be your first read of the series. First, you won’t have a problem following the story; second, you are not going to get bored.
Now, where do I start? Yes, the end of the world is nigh. By “nigh”, I mean just a little over a week. Dracula has risen, with the help of his loyalists. Department 19 (D19) is pursuing various leads to stop him from taking over the world as well as preventing the public from knowing the truth about vampires.
John Bell, a.k.a. Adam, has been on the D19 radar for a while. He is the only one rumoured to have been cured of vampirism in recent memory. Needless to say, his blood is precious to D19 who sees it as a resource to manufacture a weapon to give humanity an edge against Dracula in the war to come. The first mission to retrieve Adam fails - few team members were hurt by a bomb planted by their target. D19 sends another team and though they get the blood, they could not get their hands on Adam, who commits suicide.
For a long time, people assume Valeri Rusmanov is Dracula’s first victim, the first person he turned into a vampire. However, new information from Grey, the oldest vampire in the UK, reveals that the first victim isn’t Valeri but another. Thus D19 sets up a squad to find this new person, who is said to have been living in the dark forests of Romania for centuries.
Amidst these missions is the tension between Carpenter (the son of a D19 legend), Larissa (a pretty lady turned vampire) and Tim Albertson, a D19 officer infatuated with Larissa and seeking to damage her relationship with Jamie, her boyfriend. Also, the feud between Valeri Rusmanov and Valentin, his younger brother, is leaving trails of dead bodies strewn around Europe as various nets close in on Dracula’s secret location.
Department 19 – Zero Hour is a horror-action novel that goes full-throttle from the first page and does not let up till the last. Not many writers have a knack of writing incredible fight scenes, but Will Hill seems to have a gift for it so much so that some of the battle descriptions will haunt you off the page.
The narrative style reminds me a bit of James Hardley Chase – loads of short, simple phrases, clear and effective. At over 700 pages, Department 19 – Zero Hour may seem like a fairly big book, but you are likely to wish for more as you approach its end.
My gripe with this book is the use of clichéd characters like Dracula and Frankenstein. It makes the writing, which is of a good quality seems cheap and fan-fic-like. Despite this, I would recommend what I think is a fantastic book to action-horror fiction adherents.
Incredible fighting/battle scenes
Few clichéd characters
Many thanks to Chelsea Tresp at HarperCollins for review copy.