Book review: Department 19 #3: Battle Lines by Will Hill (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013)
When you’re dealing with a time bomb, it’s not the ticking you need to fear. It’s what happens when the ticking stops.
As the clock counts down to Zero Hour and the return of Dracula, the devastated remnants of Department 19 try to hold back the rising darkness, while dealing with a new and deadly threat to their existence.
It’s only a matter of time until everything goes bang …
The Squeeze was the first to read this novel, and his first reaction was that you can tell that it’s a mid-series book, because the plot feels like it’s dragging on a bit and nothing new is happening. “He’s trying to milk the series”, to paraphrase. As the series is meant to be five books, I don’t think “milking it” is fair, but I do agree that while things obviously happen, the plot itself doesn’t feel as if it’s progressing much.
Larissa is in Nevada, on loan to the Americans who think she’s cool (the people at D19 bear a grudge because of her being a vampire). One of her squaddies keeps hitting on her, but she’s not so sure about him. Besides, Jamie.
Jamie has to deal with looking after two rookies and taking care of a massive problem, although the entire organisation are on the case. All the inmates of a mental hospital for the criminally insane have been turned and set free … and one of the inmates is a bigger problem for Blacklight than the others.
Kate is helping Paul Turner with the unpopular internal investigation, trying to find the mole that caused the ruckus in book two. Matt is working in the lab. Meanwhile, Matt’s and Kate’s fathers find each other over the internet and get in way over their heads. And the kidnapped head of Blacklight? Being tortured by Dracula. Oh, and there’s this guy who shows up at Area 51 with an unexpected authorisation code that causes a stir …
The whole book only spans a few days, although it’s set a while after the previous book, but yes, things happen and it’s very engaging, occasionally gory, and as teenage-angsty as before. I like it, which is just as well considering the page count is 704 – and this is a young adult novel! If it’s just as good as the previous two, maybe, maybe not, but if it isn’t, it’s pretty darn close.
If the plot had progressed more, then it would have been perfect, but as it is, I’m wondering what the point of Larissa’s American trip was, for instance. The Las Vegas encounter (if at all significant – time will tell) could have happened anywhere, and setting up some kind of love triangle feels unnecessary. All those pages, just so she can return to Blighty with some new friends and Mystery Man? I don’t get it.
On the plus side, Frankenstein’s back, and we’re both looking forward to the penultimate instalment, Zero Hour, due out this March.
4.8 out of 5 printing presses.