This is an amazing prequel to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It tells the story of Victor Frankenstein as a teenager. Victor lives in Chateau Frankenstein with his twin brother Konrad and his distant cousin Elizabeth. They have an idyllic life until Konrad falls ill with a mysterious disease of the blood. This sets Victor on the path of finding a the Elixir of Life. He discovers a passion and talent for alchemy and delves deeper into the Dark Library they discovered in the Chateau.
Victor and Konrad are twins but they couldn’t be more different. Victor is the dark to Konrad’s light. Where everything comes easy to Konrad Victor struggles. While there is no doubt that Victor loves his brother he is also jealous of him. This jealousy comes out in regards to Elizabeth. Konrad and Elizabeth are in love, but Victor is also in love with Elizabeth. He tries to convince her of his affections at every turn. She is innocent and religious compared to the dark and scientific-minded Victor, but she also has a wild and animal side that comes out on their adventures.
And their adventures are grand in this book. The quest for the Elixir of Life is fraught with danger. They have midnight quests through dangerous forests; they explore deep underground in flooded caves, and the final ingredient almost costs them their lives.
This book pays homage to Mary Shelley’s book and does a great job of tying the two books together. It has been a while since I read Frankenstein but I think Shelley would be fine with Oppel’s interpretation of Victor’s childhood and introduction into alchemy. It is a very real descent into the world of dark magics and alchemy and his motivations are clear. But we also see his passion and ambition that sets him on the path to Frankenstein. Very interesting book and definitely one I would recommend.