Friday, 20 January 2012

Review: This Dark Endeavour

Title: This Dark Endeavour: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Publication Date: August 23rd, 2011
Genre: YA, Fantasy

Victor Frankenstein lives a charmed life at Frankenstein Chateau, outside of Geneva. He lives with his kinder and more skilled twin Konrad, and their distant cousin Elizabeth who has been like a sister to them. Everything changes when Victor discovers an unfamiliar secret passage that leads to the Dark Library, which is filled with his ancestor’s studies in alchemy. When Konrad becomes ill, alchemy might be the only way to save his life. Victor, Elizabeth and their friend Henry embark on a dangerous quest to find the ingredients for the elixir of life. As Victor discovers his feelings for Elizabeth, he realizes that she is already in love with Konrad. Despite his complicated feelings towards his brother, Victor will do anything to save him. Is it possible that the elixir of life truly works and to what extremes will Victor have to go to to create it?

This book has been getting a lot of hype lately, due to the captivating premise and the success of Oppel’s other books. This Dark Endeavour is a prequel to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which I haven’t read. At first, I found this book difficult to get into. It was slow moving and I had to force myself to keep reading. However, I had enough faith in Kenneth Oppel to carry on. Things did get better, of course. I loved the dark tone and the gothic atmosphere, which I imagine when I think of Frankenstein. Throughout past reviews, you will often hear me being hard on the romantic relationships in books and wishing they were omitted. In this case, I found the romantic aspects of the plot very interesting, but not for the reasons that you would think. While usually the author intends us to root for the protagonist and hope he gets the girl, it is clear that Victor is the less deserving twin and that Konrad belongs with Elizabeth. In fact, I never felt that Victor’s feelings for Elizabeth were genuine: it seemed like lust to me. I liked having a protagonist who was complicated and not entirely likable. I’m sure some would argue that he’s not likable at all, but in the book’s climax he was very brave. I enjoyed the characters and thought they felt real, although whenever the younger Frankenstein brothers were mentioned it felt like an after thought. As I mentioned before, the plot was slow moving at first but picked up later on. I really liked the ending, which almost made me forget about my dissatisfaction at the start. The plot centres around alchemy and overall it was exciting and intriguing. This book has been dubbed the best of the year, and while I didn’t feel that strongly about it, I enjoyed it and would recommend it. This Dark Endeavour shows the beginning of Victor Frankenstein becoming what he is destined to be: a monster.


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