Sunday, August 25, 2013

This Dark Endeavor - What Avon Thinks

Official Summary
Bravery, danger, and intense passion. How does obsession begin?

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 discover secret books of alchemy and ancient remedies. Father forbids them from ever entering the room again, but when Konrad falls gravely ill, Victor is drawn back to the Dark Library where he uncovers an ancient formula for the Elixir of Life. Victor, along with his beautiful cousin Elizabeth and friend Henry, immediately set out to find a man who was once known for his alchemical works to help them create the formula.

Determined to save Konrad, the three friends scale the highest trees in Strumwald, dive into the deepest lakes, and even make an unthinkable sacrifice in their quest for the elixir’s ingredients. And as if their task was not complicated enough, a new realm of danger—that of illicit love—threatens to end the ordeal in tragedy.

Short and Sweet
This Dark Endeavor is a thrilling and gothic prequel to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. With a gorgeous storyline and relatable teen characters, Kenneth Oppel writes a novel that gives tribute to the 1800s classic and simultaneously emulates the unique flair of his earlier books.

So, what's Avon's take on the book?
I was excited to crack open This Dark Endeavor. I'd recently read Airborn, and was excited to return to Mr. Oppel's beautifully crafted settings. This Dark Endeavor certainly does not disappoint. Each of the characters is as well-sculpted as a Michelangelo, and wonderfully relatable as well. Victor Frankenstein, the main character, is a wealthy child growing up in the shadow of his twin brother. Throughout the novel, we see Victor glow green with envy every time his brother proves to be smarter, stronger, and faster than him. However, this element of Victor's personality does not overpower what is underneath. He is curious, naïve, and sometimes a bit stupid, as any sixteen-year-old boy would be. Most of all, he has a deep "passion" that is clearly obvious to the reader.

Konrad soon falls ill, and Victor hunts for the Elixir of Life in the hopes of curing his brother of a rare, deadly disease. He seeks the expertise of Polidori, a poor, greedy alchemist who can help him brew the potion. With the help of his friend Henry and his beautiful cousin Elizabeth, Victor goes on midnight excursions for rare plants, explores underground caverns, and sacrifices himself for the sake of his brother. Throughout it all, he has a strange motivation that keeps him fighting until the end. And as a reader, you start to wonder: does he want the Elixir of Life just so that his brother can survive? Or is there a deeper, more selfish motivation behind it? When Konrad dies, his quest for immortality becomes his life, and the prequel ties in nicely with the classic. He was rash throughout the book, but now, he is on the brink of madness. By the end of the novel, we can see the insane doctor he will one day turn into.

The one thing that I can't fully appreciate about the novel is the love triangle. It seems that the love "triangle" (more like the love 'v') is a common occurrence in YA literature, and authors seem to add it in just for the heck of it. Elizabeth is a well-rounded character. She's independent and reasonable; she bounces off of Victor and balances him out. However, the small sparks of romance between her and Victor seem to be added just for love triangle's sake, or to justify Victor's envy towards his brother (who is initially Elizabeth's lover). Their pre-Frankenstein romance does not develop the characters in any way. By the end of the book, it hardly seems to change their relationship, or tie in to the classic. Nevertheless, Elizabeth carries the plot forward, and it is clear that her existence has a deeper meaning.

Overall, the book is gorgeous. The setting is vivid, and the characters are multi-dimensional. Three cheers for Kenneth Oppel!

So, what did you think of the book? Am I right? Did I get everything completely wrong? Do I deserve to go to jail for this review? Tell me your thoughts!


  1. I agree with every word. A gorgeous review for an even more gorgeous book!