This Dark Endeavour turned out to be delightfully chilling, with Oppel providing a real insight into what could have caused Frankenstein to act as he does in Shelley’s classic. I was, I confess, slightly wary about reading this—prequels, if well written, are a joy to read, but so often there is a complete lack of reference to the book itself—but I am pleased to admit that my fears remain unrealised. It was a book about alchemy, and about loyalty, set deep inside the mind of a character who I have had the (mis)fortune of knowing very well indeed (thank you GCSE English Lit(!)), but it somehow managed to be immensely original and enjoyable.
Yeah. Original. There were new characters who were introduced but who, for whatever reason, had no effect on the plot of the original novel. And it worked! It really, truly worked. Not in a meh, it’s okay kind of way either; This Dark Endeavour made best use of what already existed, and then added so much more. Frankenstein is creepy, and quite rightfully is known as one of the best gothic classics, but This Dark Endeavour was far more than simply creepy. Oppel presents a raw, animalistic side to every day live, embodied in a character who is so often seen as being the most human of men. In this young Victor Frankenstein, we see the beginnings of a dark and dangerous obsession, created in fear, and tried and tested in passion.
And after all, Frankenstein has a narrative some three levels deep at times. Is it really so improbable that he would lie about the brother he thinks he killed?