If you're looking for a pretty, shiny vamp who'll take you to the prom, you won't find one in Will Hill's The Rising. The second book in the "Department 19" series takes vampires back to their fang-baring, throat-tearing, blood-sucking roots. All the way back, as in back to Dracula, and the result is a novel that is hard to put down.
The Rising continues the story of teenager Jamie Carpenter, whose family helped to found Department 19, a secret branch of the British government created to combat vampires. Jamie joins/is drafted into the organization at the age of sixteen and has already killed one of the oldest and most powerful vampires in the world, at an age when most kids are still struggling with calculus. But that's nothing compared to the threat now faced by Jamie and his colleagues—Dracula, the world's first vampire, has been resurrected and is hungry for blood and destruction. Being part of a series, it's not exactly a spoiler to state that Dracula is not dispatched by the end of the novel. But there's more to the story than just getting the bad guy. And there's more than one bad guy.
The great thing is that Hill creates characters with roiling emotions and complicated personal histories, then places them in situations that are challenging. It's still a YA novel, so sometimes the characters' emotions are a little simplistic. But the action and mystery both more than make up for a handful of whiny outbursts.
As for those complicated histories, don't expect a lot of rehash of the previous novel. Readers are given the Sparknotes version of events from the first book, so you'll still have to do your own reading if you want to learn all the gory details (Sorry). Oh, and speaking of gory, the book is that, and then some. It's definitely not for the squeamish. Heads are imploded, innards are laid bare, and all manner of torture is applied to various characters. Consider yourself warned.
As enjoyable as the story is, there are couple of shortcomings that are worth mentioning. First, the narrative jumps back and forth in time in a way that's sometimes jarring. Second, and more egregiously, there's a particular plot twist that crops up multiple times, and by the third time it happens, you might find yourself a little exasperated. More about that can't be said without major spoilers.
Overall The Rising does everything a book should do: it entertains, it keeps you engaged, and most importantly, it tells a satisfying story while leaving you wanting more. As a bonus, it offers some truly gasp-worthy moments that will remind you why vampires generally don't make good boyfriends.
What's your favorite vampire novel?