My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This wildly vivid and intense addition to the Zero Hour series by Will Hill basically re-defines nerve-shredding.
Department 19 is standing against the darkness. The problem is that the thin red line that they provide is getting thinner by the day and now that the Big Bad is making itself known, things are getting very scary indeed. It’s time for Department 19 to face Zero Hour.
Zero Hour is part four of a series and whilst there are elements of the plot and characters which won’t make much sense if you’ve not read the others, I have to applaud Hill’s skill in making this book accessible to new readers. He weaves in detail and backstory so solidly and never once resorts to the great and awkward technique of “So what did you do last Summer?” “Well, thank you for asking mysterious stranger, this is exactly what I did.”
Mythology wise this is good and great stuff. It’s a dark weaving of tapestry; of blood sodden story and painful pasts and it all just fits. What Hill does with his Big Bad in this book is just perfectly awful. He fits. It works. There’s very little to say other than this book features one of the darkest characters I’ve ever read in young adult literature and yet I couldn’t not read him. I wanted to. I was bound to those pages and did the terribly cliche thing of sort of forgetting to breathe just a little.
One thing to quickly note is that there are some intensely graphic moments of violence in this book. They are all really well handled (I’m oddly amused by my turn of phrase there), and it’s a credit to Hill that they all feel part of this text and not gratuitous nor sensationalist in anyway. The violence in this book is narratorially (that’s not a word but go with me?) and textually deserved. As ever my suggestion is if working with children or recommending this to them, read the book and trust your instincts in how you handle this and work with this book.
What I love about books like this is when they remember that despite all the strangeness, the weirdness, the werewolves and the vampires, is that underneath it all, people are people. Still. Always. Hill gets that, I think, and his people are joyous. Idiotic. Brave. Loving. Passionate. Real.
Every time I think back to Zero Hour, I just exhale a little bit and go “Ooof. That was a good book.”
My thanks to HarperCollins for letting me have a look at this via NetGalley.