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This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein Hardcover – August 23, 2011
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“Oppel has reinvented the gothic thriller for modern readers. The narrative crackles with tension, emotions run high, and the atmosphere is perfectly dark and brooding. The Shelleys would be proud. I definitely recommend you check out the book when it's published August 23. I anticipate This Dark Endeavor will get a lot of attention, and rightly so."--Rick Riordan
"Oppel’s novel is a gripping tale of undying devotion, mixing hope with foreboding."—The Horn Book in a STARRED review
“Oppel’s tale is melodramatic, exciting, disquieting…a delicious mix.”—Publisher’s Weekly in a STARRED review
"Brash, jealous, and arrogant, Victor is sweet relief from today’s introspective YA protagonists, and one can easily visualize how this teen becomes the mad genius of Shelley’s Frankenstein."--Booklist
"Oppel grapples with the human duality of animal and soul in ways that recall (but don’t repeat) Shelley’s similar thematic explorations as he revitalizes the classic horror tale for a new generation."--Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, STARRED review
“This Dark Endeavor may renew interest in Frankenstein, but it also stands alone as an original and welcome addition to the world of young-adult fiction.”—Kelley Armstrong, author of the Darkest Power series
"A dark and dramatic back story for Shelley’s tormented creator."--Kirkus Reviews
"Sharp readers will find allusions to Mary Shelley, her literary circle, and classic horror films; for those simply wanting a good story with plenty of action, this book will not disappoint."--School Library Journal
"The action and suspense begin on page one and let up very little in this excellent work of gothic science fiction."--VOYA
“Adventures do not come more thrilling, gorgeously written or absorbing than this.”
—The London Times
About the Author
Kenneth Oppel is the author of numerous books for young readers. His award-winning Silverwing trilogy has sold over a million copies worldwide and been adapted as an animated TV series and stage play. Airborn won a Michael L. Printz Honor Book Award and the Canadian Governor General’s Literary Award for children’s literature; its sequel, Skybreaker, was a New York Times bestseller and was named Children’s Novel of the Year by the London Times. He is also the author of Half Brother, This Dark Endeavor, Such Wicked Intent, and The Boundless. Born on Canada’s Vancouver Island, he has lived in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, Canada; in England and Ireland; and now resides in Toronto with his wife and children. Visit him at KennethOppel.ca.
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This book was easy to get through, entertaining, and had great character development. You could clearly see the differences between Konrad and Victor. You could feel Victor's passion and could understand why he felt the way he felt in many of the events. Furthermore, I don't think this book dwelled any longer on any particular event than it needed to. Could some parts have been described better? Absolutely. But why waste time? The way this was written allowed the readers mind to wonder, and I loved that.
Perhaps my favorite thing about this book is the way that it played liked a movie in my head as I read it. When an author can do this for me, I simply love it. The only thing I'm depressed about is there are only two books in the series, and I'm already 10% through the second.
Bravo, Mr. Oppel. You have won me over!
The Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel takes place in Frankenstein Castle in Geneva Switzerland. The extended family includes the parents, identical twin brothers, their two younger male siblings, a female cousin, and Henry whose mother died in childbirth. Twins have always been a matter of fascinataion and endless lore. Identical twins even more so. Their zygotes may have identical DNA but the differences begin immediately with their birth order, their naming, and their placement right to left. Twins often have their own unique methods of communication but as with all beings as they grow begin to assert their own individuality. If the first-born twin boy is also the family's first-born male heir yet another dynamic comes into play.
For those who know of Frankenstein only in the Hollywood version promulgated by the movies Frankenstein was the name of the scientist, not that of his creation. In this story, Victor, the younger twin sets out to find a cure for his older twin's illness, (leukemia?) After accidentally discovering an alchemist's library hidden in the family castle Victor sets out clandestinely to create that cure. His father, who has preserved this set of books is a magistrate who has banned its use. To complicate the plot throw in a love triangle involving the twins and a girl who at puberty ceases to be regarded as a sister. Finding the arcane ingredients throws in adventure, thrill-seeking, and danger--tree-climbing and spelunking.
Everything is woven together by Oppel's extraordinary imagination into a cohesive whole that creates a prequel to Mary Shelly's Frankenstein and makes this an impossible to put down page-turner. As the story unfolds the action comes thicker and faster and the tension continues to build. This is only book one of a trilogy. I can't imagine where the story will lead us as this young man matures into an adult.
Victor is always just a step behind his twin brother Konrad, even in realizing he has a crush on the distant cousin who was brought to live with their family after her father abandoned her. Except, of course, when it comes to getting in trouble. Victor is a professional at mischief and mayhem, much to his family's dismay. When the kids stumble across a hidden library full of alchemy books, Victor is the first to start snooping around... until their father catches them and forbids them to ever enter the Dark Library again. But when Konrad falls gravely ill and no medicine seems to be making a dent, Victor is willing to try anything to save his brother.
Convinced alchemy is the only way, Victor finds a book that might contain the secret of the Elixir of Life. He tracks down the only alchemist known in the area only to find a man confined to a wheelchair who was forbidden to practice alchemy by Victor's own father. When Victor pleads for his brother's sake, the alchemist agrees to help them at least translate the code for the recipe. But as the code gets cracked and the ingredients are revealed, the alchemist is just as anxious to try the recipe himself. Being confined to the wheelchair, the kids must get the rare ingredients themselves, even if it risks their lives. But with Konrad's life hanging in the balance, no risk is too much for Victor.
Here is the thing about Victor Frankenstein... he is kind of a wise guy. He is an arrogant teen boy who isn't afraid to plod head on into situations despite the possible consequences... actually, without much regard for the possible consequences at all. But he loves his brother. And he is fallible. I liked this fun prequel to the Frankenstein we all read about in high school. I think it was a great way to explain the man he eventually became. It really made me think about Frankenstein differently, which is the reason this would be a fun series to give a young adult who is reading the classic Shelley story. It might also encourage them to write a little fan fiction of their own about their favorite characters from books or movies they have enjoyed! Add to that the beauty in the lesson of different perspectives, and you have quite a fun lesson on your hands!
This book is appropriate for any middle through young adult reader who likes to read about adventure, but it would mostly likely have the most impact on someone who has read Shelley's original. Therefore, an older student would probably get the most, but I wouldn't hold a kid back from this story if they hadn't read the original. In all honesty, other than the name, there isn't much keeping you from understanding this story without the original. It's a fun adventure filled with silly kids, emotions, and a mystery to be solved. You will most likely enjoy it just as much as I have, especially as Victor gets himself in and out of one tough spot to another!