Monday, August 29, 2011

Book Report Monday: This Dark Endeavor

Title: This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein

Author: Kenneth Oppel

Genre: Young Adult

Synopsis Victor and Konrad are the twin brothers Frankenstein. They are nearly inseparable. Growing up, their lives are filled with imaginary adventures...until the day their adventures turn all too real.

They stumble upon The Dark Library, and secret books of alchemy and ancient remedies are discovered. Father forbids that they ever enter the room again, but this only piques Victor's curiosity more. When Konrad falls gravely ill, Victor is not satisfied with the various doctors his parents have called in to help. He is drawn back to The Dark Library where he uncovers an ancient formula for the Elixir of Life. With their friend Elizabeth, Henry and Victor immediately set out to find assistance from a man who was once known for his alchemical works to help create the formula.

Determination and the unthinkable outcome of losing his brother spur Victor on in the quest for the three ingredients that will save Konrad's life. After scaling the highest trees in the Strumwald, diving into the deepest lake caves, and sacrificing one’s own body part, the three fearless friends risk their lives to save another.
(from Goodreads)

Why did I pick it up?:  I love Frankenstein. It's one of my favorite books and I was eager to see what direction Oppel would take with his re-telling.

My Review: As the title indicates, this is the story of Victor's initial introduction to alchemy and the magic of science. He does not create the monster in this book, but I can see how he could go down that path. I kind of thought of the book as filling in the blanks of Victor Frankenstein's teen years. Oppel shows the reader what may have led to Victor's obsessive nature and need to prove himself.

Oppel captured me with his prose and his characters who were, in my opinion very real. Young Victor Frankenstein is a flawed hero and I sympathized with him even while abhorring his growing bitterness. Konrad is the lovable and charismatic antithesis to his twin. Elizabeth is transformed from a quiet, angelic figure into a strong, passionate girl who is an equal to the twins intellectually. Henry Clerval is the sensitive artist of the foursome and he rounds out the group nicely.

It is a quick read, as the pacing is steady and makes it hard to put down. The setting is the same as the original story and there were several nods to Mary Shelley's tale. The use of lightning in several well-placed metaphors and even an alchemist who lives on Wollenstonekraft Alley, Wollenstonecraft being Mary Shelley's maiden name. This Dark Endeavor is the first in a series and I am eager to find out what happens next, though I think it is safe to assume that Victor will create a monster at some point.

Recommendation: A must-read for Frankenstein fans. To me the book bridges the space between Middle Grade and Young Adult and it will appeal to boys as well as girls.

Next Week: TBD


  1. Ohhh, this sounds really intriguing! I've never heard of this novel so I will definitely have to check it out! Great review.