Saturday, May 4, 2013

Book Review: This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

Release Date: 4/23/11
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Provided By: My lovely local library

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 be 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. Elizabeth, Henry, and Victor immediately set out to find assistance in 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 Konrads 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.

"I was born in 1967 in Port Alberni, a mill town on Vancouver Island, British Columbia but spent the bulk of my childhood in Victoria, B.C. and on the opposite coast, in Halifax, Nova Scotia...At around twelve I decided I wanted to be a writer (this came after deciding I wanted to be a scientist, and then an architect).
I started out writing sci-fi epics (my Star Wars phase) then went on to swords and sorcery tales (my Dungeons and Dragons phase) and then, during the summer holiday when I was fourteen, started on a humorous story about a boy addicted to video games (written, of course, during my video game phase). It turned out to be quite a long story, really a short novel, and I rewrote it the next summer.
We had a family friend who knew Roald Dahl - one of my favourite authors - and this friend offered to show Dahl my story. I was paralysed with excitement. I never heard back from Roald Dahl directly, but he read my story, and liked it enough to pass on to his own literary agent. I got a letter from them, saying they wanted to take me on, and try to sell my story. And they did."
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 I love different takes on characters and stories that we've known and loved for ages. This Dark Endeavour could be a novel that merely rides on the coattails of Mary Shelley's classic tale, Frankenstein, but it is a great story in its own right.
Victor and Konrad Frankenstein are twins with a complicated relationship. They are both brilliant, clever, fun, gregarious and adventurous. Their differences are what separates them, however, and add an air of competition to their usually loving and close relationship.
Elizabeth is a childhood friend that is forever caught between the two and becomes willingly involved in their adventures. Naturally, both brothers find themselves enamored of her and the divide between them escalates.
The love triangle is not the crux of the story, however, the trio discover forbidden documents, brave fatal illnesses, hunt in the farthest reaches of the land for potion ingredients, are betrayed, betray each other, and suffer terrible losses in the course of this story.
This Dark Endeavour takes place several years before the tale of Victor Frankenstein that we already know. I loved peeking into this part of his young adulthood and knowing the tortured man he will ultimately become.
The beginning is enjoyable and all about the setup, but the last half is the part of This Dark Endeavour that will make you a true fan. The pace is breakneck and the twist and turns abound. After the last page was turned, I found myself with my mouth hanging open and my heart in my throat.


  1. I really enjoyed this book, the sequel is even better.

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