TDE – HORN BOOK (Starred Review)
Konrad and Victor Frankenstein, fifteen-year-old identical twin brothers and best friends, live with their family in a chateau just outside of Geneva in the late 1700s. Konrad is sensible and charming, whereas Victor is rash, headstrong, and arrogant. When Konrad contracts a mysterious illness the doctors are unable to cure, Victor, their cousin Elizabeth Lavenza, and their close friend Henry Clerval search for an answer in the Dark Library, a secret room inside the chateau where they discover alchemist Cornelius Agrippa's Elixir of Life recipe. In a race against Konrad's failing health, the three friends repeatedly risk their own lives to track down the elixir's ingredients. Secrecy, a love triangle, and ultimately deception complicate this dangerous quest, but as Oppel makes hauntingly clear, it is Victor's intense desire to save Konrad's life, no matter the cost, that propels the novel's action. As a prequel to Mary Shelley's gothic classic Frankenstein, this is both meticulously researched and highly original, with the invention of Konrad providing a provocative backstory. The story continually hints at how the brothers' personality differences and Konrad's illness will inevitably lead Victor down the dark path that consumes his adult life. Written from Victor's perspective and filled with his believable internal moral struggles, Oppel's novel is a gripping tale of undying devotion, mixing hope with foreboding.
– CYNTHIA K. RITTER, HORN BOOK (Starred Review)