Book Review: This Dark Endeavor
By: Kenneth Oppel
Narrated By: Luke Daniels
Published By: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: August 2011
Audio Length: 8 hours, 7 minutes
Audience: Young Adult - Fantasy, Gothic Classic Prequel
On the Story & Writing:
I have always been intrigued by Frankenstein, but I have never read the book. I keep meaning to, but often the Classics I want to read get pushed to the side for more current novels. However, when I saw this novel I knew it might be just the thing to finally get me to read Mary Shelley's Gothic tome. What better way to understand Victor Frankenstein than to discover him as a youthful, tempestuous teen? I certainly will be reading the Classic tale once this entire series has been devoured.
I was slightly worried that this book would take on the same format as a lot of the other YA novels that contain mystical elements, but I was happy to see that Kenneth Oppel did his best to stay true to the original style of the story. His writing is reminiscent of the Gothic masters of the past; he has truly created a refreshing change for the YA market. Not only do we get a male driven story, but its well written and not littered with teen jargon. There is a love triangle, but this one is complex and layered. It stands out against the other love triangles I have seen in YA lately. Oppel transports readers into the past which gives the novel a part gothic and part historical fiction feel. This Dark Endeavor is a chillingly creepy tale with just the right amount of romance, suspense, and adventure. There were a few moments towards the end where I was cringing and I have to admit that a few chills danced up and down my spine. The title is an apt one; this is not a tender coming of age story riddled with romantic metaphors and sweet moments.
The novel focuses on twins, Victor and Konrad Frankenstein, who have grown up in a home of wealth and privilege outside of Geneva with their distant cousin, Elizabeth, and two younger brothers. Their parents are a progressive pair who believe in equality and women's rights; they encourage all their children to stand up for their beliefs and to follow their dreams. Life changes drastically when Konrad falls ill - doctors cannot find a cure. Victor becomes desperate to save his brother and will go to any lengths to see him recover.
Everything about this novel pulled me in. I loved all the characters - in spite of their flaws - and enjoyed spending time with them as they collected various ingredients to practice alchemy. I don't know much about alchemy other than many people tried to turn lead into gold, but the book explains the process in more depth. It is a fascinating aspect of world history and adds just the right amount of mysticism to this tale. I was blown away by how much I loved this book. I am anxiously awaiting the second book, Such Wicked Intent, that comes out in August. If you enjoy Gothic tales and writing that conjures the past, you must read this one.
On a brief side note, I was interested to see that there was a significant character with the last name of Polidori. John William Polidori wrote one of the first known vampire short stories simply titled "The Vampyre". Many state that this short story was what spawned the romantic vampire genre. Polidori traveled with his good friend, Lord Byron, to Lake Geneva, Switzerland in the early 1800's. During their stay, they become good friends with Percy and Mary Shelley. It was during this trip that both "The Vampyre" and "Frankenstein" were born. I loved that Oppel planted this allusion within his character's name.
On the Audio:
Audiobooks don't typically effect me the way books I read on my own do, but this one is certainly an exception to that trend. Luke Daniels is a fabulous narrator who kept me on the edge of my seat as I listened to Victor's adventures. I have had previous experience listening to Daniels' work and I enjoyed it then as well. He is a narrator I would listen to in the future without hesitation. This is one of the best audiobooks I have spent time with in awhile - great story, great narrator, it's a must listen.
One Last Gripe: I was frustrated that Victor was so stubborn where Elizabeth was concerned
My Favorite Thing About This Book: Everything - loved every minute - such a refreshing change in YA and a fascinating story
First Sentence: We found the monster on a rocky ledge high above the lake.
Favorite Character: Elizabeth
Least Favorite Character: I didn't have one - I enjoyed them all
In this prequel to Mary Shelley's gothic classic, Frankenstein, sixteen-year-old Victor Frankenstein begins a dark journey that will change his life forever. Victor's twin, Konrad, has fallen ill, and no doctor can cure him. Unwilling to give up on his brother, Victor enlists his beautiful cousin Elizabeth and his best friend, Henry, on a treacherous search for the ingredients to create the forbidden Elixir of Life. Impossible odds, dangerous alchemy, and a bitter love triangle threaten their quest at every turn.Victor knows he must not fail. But his success depends on how far he is willing to push the boundaries of nature, science, and love ? and how much he is willing to sacrifice.