The popularity of young adult fiction has exploded over the last ten years, particularly in the speculative fiction genres. From J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter to Heather Brewer’s Vladimir Todd to Susan Collins’ Katniss Everdeen, the heroes of modern YA are larger than life yet still grounded in the difficulties and challenges that teens everywhere face.

In today’s installment of Horrifying Halloween Reads, we’re going to look at two new individuals to add to the growing list of unforgettable heroes.

Department 19: The Rising
Will Hill

Sixteen-year-old Jamie Carpenter’s life was violently upended when he was brought into Department 19, a classified government agency of vampire hunters that was formed to deal with a little problem . . . known as Dracula.

But being the new recruit at the Department isn’t all weapons training and covert missions. Jamie’s own mother has been turned into a vampire–and now Jamie will stop at nothing to wreak revenge on her captors. Even if that means facing down Dracula himself.

2011 brought us Department 19 by Will Hill, an edge-of-your-seat action adventure that was part thriller and part modern horror. It introduced us to Jamie Carpenter and Department 19, a secret organization in the British government responsible for policing the supernatural across the globe and founded more than a century before by Abraham Van Helsing and the men who had accompanied him on his epic quest against Count Dracula.

Jamie Carpenter is back in Department 19: The Rising and the one event that the men and women of Department 19 feared more than anything else has become a reality – Dracula himself has risen from the grave. Jamie must deal with grief over the death of his closest friend, his growing love for the vampire girl Larissa, and the legacy left behind by his famous father – all while trying to stop the world’s oldest vampire from conquering the planet.

International locales, cutting edge weaponry and gadgets, and a non-stop pace make this one you won’t want to miss!

For today’s second selection we move halfway around the world and back a century or so in time to meet Shigoko, the hero of Jon F. Merz’s episodic new adventure, Zombie Ryu!

Zombie Ryu: Episodes One and Two
Jon F. Merz.

A swarm of zombies has swept over feudal Japan brought forth by the maniacal ravings of a mad monk opposed to the Emperor and his lords. The dead walk at night, searching to feed upon the brains of the living and turn others into their mindless brethren.

Soon, they will have an army of virtually unstoppable opponents and the fragile peace brought forth by the band of daimyo will be shattered forever as the nation plunges into chaos. Only one group of elite warriors stands ready to save Japan from certain destruction: the Zombie-ryu.

Comprised of samurai and ninja who have banded together forming a rag-tag band of ronin, they scour the countryside for zombies and dispatch them with courageous and outlandish battles. Each of the nine warriors is lethally adept with a different weapon.

Shigoko (“secret talk”) is a sixteen year old girl who longs for a life of adventure, but was born into the family of a farmer. She lives alone with her father and their most prized possession is an old samurai sword. Late one night, her family’s farm is attacked by zombies and she only just manages to escape, fleeing alone into the dark night. When she stumbles into the camp of the gnarled ronin Fudo and his squire Nishi, her life changes forever.

ZOMBIE-RYU is written like an episodic TV series – 25,000-word adventures, each with its own episode arc, that weave together to become part of the greater story arc for each “season.” Season One will consist of twelve episodes with a new episode released each month.

Merz’s Lawson Vampire series has been riveting adult horror fans for years now and I suspect Zombie Ryu will do the same in the young adult space. We’re only two episodes in, so there is plenty of time to join Shigoko on her quest to stop the seemingly endless ranks of zombies bent on destroying her beloved Japan.


Joseph Nassise is the author of more than twenty novels, including the internationally bestselling Templar Chronicles series, the Great Undead War series, and the Jeremiah Hunt trilogy. He is a former president of the Horror Writers Association, the world’s largest organization of professional horror writers, and a multiple Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award nominee.

You can find him online at Shades of Reality.

Click here for a full list of Joseph’s picks!

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