Darkest Night (Department 19, Book 5) by Will Hill

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Darkest Night (Department 19, Book 5) by Will Hill

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Nigethan Sathiyalingam
Reviewed by Nigethan Sathiyalingam
Summary: Masterfully written, Darkest Night is an absolutely stunning conclusion that surely cements Department 19 as one of the very best YA series around.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 736 Date: June 2015
Publisher: HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0007505890

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Warning: Spoilers for the previous four books in the series lie below. If you haven't read them yet, I would highly recommend starting with Department 19.

Zero Hour has passed. Despite throwing absolutely everything they had into a full on assault on Dracula's forces, the combined might of the supernatural departments failed to destroy the ancient vampire, and he has returned to full strength, ready to strike at humanity with unadulterated violence. Secrecy is no longer an option as the entire world reels from the revelation that vampires are real. Department 19 has been through so much, shaken to its core by secrets, betrayals and losses. With the public eye now firmly upon them, the very fundamentals of the Department come under fire, as issues of morality that have long writhed beneath the surface finally burst to the fore. Jamie, Larissa, Kate and Matt have always found themselves at the centre of the chaos, and despite each struggling with their own demons, their friendship and companionship has helped them survive and even thrive within the department. Humanity's last stand will need them at their very best, will need every force that the supernatural departments of the world can muster, whether it be human, machine, monster or vampire. For failure simply isn't an option when the entire future of humanity is at stake.

Darkest Night was by far and out my most anticipated book of the year, something I would never have expected after enjoying the first book in the series, but far from been completely enthused by it. Fortunately, positive reviews from trusted reviewers made sure I got round to reading book 2, and the rest was history. This is a series that requires somewhat of an investment, but it is one that pays off massively. One of the most defining traits of the series, for me, has been the growth and refinement of Will Hill's writing style as you go through the series, with each book setting the bar exponentially higher from the previous one, leaving book 5 with frankly gargantuan expectations. A very small part of me was worried that he wouldn't manage to pull it off. It turns out I was foolish to even consider it. There are all the ingredients for a stunning conclusion. Hill has created a world with wonderful depth and complexity, brimming with rich history, a massive cast of incredibly well-rounded characters, and a plot filled with winding, twisting strands laid down with exquisite care, just waiting to be unravelled. Furthermore, in Will Hill you have an author who is not just at the top of his game, but someone who cares about every character, every chapter, and every single sentence. Barely a word is wasted in over 700 pages, making for a finale that concludes the series in superb style.

In earlier books, I really loved the depth into which Hill explored his characters and their unique thought processes. While that is still very much apparent in Darkest Night, there is also the added wonder of having come to understand these individuals so well, that you often don't need any explanation, don't even need to be told who said a particular line of dialogue, because each character has such a distinct and uniquely crafted personality. Jamie himself has matured so much from the impetuous, angry, brave teen we met back in book one. He is still as brave as ever, but he's also slowly learned from the many mistakes he has made, learned to be more considerate, to think before he acts, and to genuinely trust his friends and colleagues. As a result, he has become an incredibly likeable hero and a genuine leader. Kate, Larissa and Matt are as far from sidekicks as you can get, each having grown into amazing characters in their own right, by getting through their own difficult challenges. Similarly, the rest of the cast are uniformly well-rounded and fascinating to read about. There are so many things I'm going to miss, from Paul Turner's eternal stoicism, to Frankenstein's undying loyalty, to Valentin Rusmanov's seemingly limitless supply of delightfully quotable dialogue. Best of all, in Dracula you have an exquisitely evil villain, a terrible force of nature who provides the perfect foe to the massed ranks determined to stop him.

The absoluteness of Dracula's evil strikes so hard because everything else in the story is so far from being black and white. Characters are flawed and changeable, relationships are far from set in stone, and right and wrong are rarely clear-cut. Media extracts and tightly written chapters focused on peripheral characters are used to great effect to provide an insight into how the revelations of the supernatural have affected the world as a whole, allowing an appreciation of the scale and complexity of the issues that have arisen, without getting bogged down in massive amounts of exposition. Uncomfortable questions are asked that start to question much that may have been taken for granted in previous books. How long can good intentions continue to justify some of the actions taken by the supernatural departments? Difficult decisions and significant sacrifices have to be made, simply for them to even stand the smallest of chances at taking on Dracula. Even if they somehow survive the final battle, just how much humanity will they have left?

We've seen some absolutely incredible battles throughout the series, with the visceral, brutally gory action making for thrilling scenes. The battle at the end of Zero Hour could easily have been the final fight of the series, such was the scale and intensity. Yet Hill somehow manages to escalate one final time, making for a battle of epic proportions that had me silently screaming with excitement as I raced through it. The conclusion is riveting, emotional and immensely satisfying, with just enough left open to my own imagination, where I'm sure Department 19 and its characters will have many a starring role for years to come.

My thanks to the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Department 19 is no doubt one of my favourite series of all time, so in terms of recommendations I find myself looking to some of my other most highly rated series. For pure entertainment value, with similarly exquisite action and mind-blowing fight scenes, Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant series is definitely worth checking out. For more gritty realism, thrilling action, and an amazing cast of characters, I'd highly recommend Gone by Michael Grant. Finally, for another brilliantly brutal depiction of vampires, you can't go wrong with Darren Shan.

Will Hill's Department 19 Books in Chronological Order

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Buy Darkest Night (Department 19, Book 5) by Will Hill at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Darkest Night (Department 19, Book 5) by Will Hill at Amazon.com.


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