My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I have a love/hate relationship with literary prequels/sequels. I usually dislike them but I can’t seem to stay away. This one I didn’t hate. I didn’t love it either and honestly, this did not have to be about Victor Frankenstein to make it work and that, to me, is a weakness. Oppell very obviously did study the source material (though there is one detail I wonder if it was there but it’s been forever since I’ve read the book). The family is right for the character with the exception of the addition of Victor’s twin brother, Konrad.
They are identical in all ways. Together they find a hidden ‘Dark Library’ in a hidden vault within the honeycomb of secret passages in Castle Frankenstein. Alphonse Frankenstein, their father, warns them and their cousin and constant companion, Elizabeth from ever going there again. It’s too tempting for Victor how has a fascination with the alchemy and sorcery he finds there.
However, when his twin falls gravely ill from something that looks suspiciously like an autoimmune disease or leukemia (though the symptoms don’t quite fit), Victor turns to the Dark Library once more. In the actual Frankenstein book, Victor did have a deep interest in alchemists such as Cornelius Agrippa, Von Honheim (Paracelsus), and Albertus Magnus and this book gives him reason to. Victor finds the hidden, half burned tome that will decode the Gibberish alchemy texts were coded in.
His mother’s head maid turns him onto Dr. Polidori, someone who had been a successful alchemist until someone died and Victor’s own father barely saved the man from hanging. Polidori is now crippled and wheelchair bound with Krake, a lynx, as his companion. Polidori promises to help decode the text and make the Elixir of Life for Victor.
In his quest to make the Philosopher’s Stone, Victor, accompanied by the fiery Elizabeth and his poet friend, Henry, have to track down three nearly impossible ingredients and they have to do it before Konrad dies.
In the middle of this, it takes a dark bounce when Victor realizes he and his twin are in love with Elizabeth (and if you’ve read the source material you know how this turns out). However his is a devious and jealous manipulative love which frankly takes him down several pegs in my eyes. This, along with the very dark and over the top ending took it from four stars down to three. That said, it ends right where I figured it would. Warning both man and beast suffer greatly at various points so it’s not for the sensitive. It’s going to be a movie (well kudos for not being yet another 70’s TV show option) and there is another book to come. Also kudos to the author for the in-joke with the alchemist being named Polidori. If you don’t know who John Polidori really was, I’ll let you explore the joke on your own.
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