Confession…horror come science-fiction is not really my thing but I was intrigued by the premise of Stuart Wilson’s debut middle-grade book so I left my fears at the door and tentatively hopped on board the SS Unbound and became a newbie at Prometheus High just like Athena.
Athena Strange is not your average child and is most likely found experimenting with wires, batteries and generators. After nearly burning down the house whilst bringing life back to next door’s deceased cat, she is recruited as the newest student at Prometheus High, a mysterious school onboard a rusting ocean liner for children with special scientific talents.
It should be the perfect place for her inquisitive mind but with lessons moving slowly and with boredom kicking in she takes things into her own hands. A secret nighttime project is the fix she needs, however monster making is a tricky business. With dangers mounting it is sink or swim time for Athena…
Having never read or seen Frankenstein much of what I was reading about was entirely new to me. Honestly, I’m much more comfortable at a certain wizard school rather than one that specialises in gore and brings an entirely new meaning to the ‘dark arts.’ However, my first experience at the school of all things frightening was wildly inventive, action-packed and with plenty of humour to keep the horrifying moments from being truly terrifying.
Prometheus High is definitely not for the squeamish, you can forget everyday lessons in mathematics and English, instead, enjoy getting to grips with Galvanism and the three R’s (and I don’t mean Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). Although, come to think of it, the children do have a certain talent for reusing and recycling body parts so maybe they are appropriate after all. Robotics, Reanimation and Replantation are the specialties at Prometheus High as the art of bringing the dead back to life is what excites the students who harbour the ultimate goal of making monsters. All of this is overseen by the Creators - an eclectic bunch of adults who specialise in all things weird and gruesome.
Aboard the rusting ocean liner Unbound, children are actively encouraged to play around with body parts and dead creatures and Wilson has created a deliciously dark and macabre world for events to unfold. The eerily creepy ship with its gloomy corridors, dilapidated rooms and disturbing noises is the perfect place for the plentiful action that will keep readers turning the pages. The mystery of a murdered boatswain, a prowling Unseen Watcher, classmates with hidden truths, secret laboratories, missing corpses, golems, robots, off-limit books, coded messages, deranged creations and secret rendezvous’s in the night all had me gripped and got the pulse racing.
Whilst the school and much of the action may be the stuff of science-fiction, children will easily resonate with the typical school experience of Athena. Even kids getting an education in monster-making have to deal with friendship issues, sniping classmates, angry teachers and boring lessons. Like many children, Athena struggles to fit in with her peers and needs to learn the importance of teamwork and being patient. And with a demented creation on the loose these are lessons that need to be learnt fast if she and her classmates are going to survive semester one.
For those kids who find the whole idea of Frankenstein fun and fascinating rather than frightening and foolish then Wilson’s new series is going to be a massive hit. It is a monstrously good read! Athena and the rest of Prometheus High will be back in book two, The Books of the Dead, which according to the author will be all about mummies, booby-trapped tombs and sky-diving.
With huge thanks to Penguin Random House for the copy I received in exchange for an honest review.
Recommended for 10+.