Brandi's Reviews > This Dark Endeavour

This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel
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's review
Feb 16, 2016

liked it
bookshelves: on-a-dark-and-stormy-night, none-for-me-thanks, too-much-espresso
Recommended for: anyone who wants a lead-in to Frankenstein
Read from November 06 to 08, 2011

Although I believe Endeavor has promise (and deserves five stars), I will only give it three.

I began the first chapter with some knowledge of Victor Frankenstein already. I'd read about twenty pages of Mary Shelley's version and knew enough about his childhood to recognize a few names.

Of course, Oppel's work is not a true retelling. For instance, the "real" Frankenstein was the oldest of his siblings, and he did not have a twin. However, he did have some characteristics of the Victor we know, including:
a) feelings for a girl named Elizabeth who lived in his house,
b) a certain friend by the name of Henry Clerval (who, by the way, "loved enterprise, hardship, and even danger, for its own sake"), and
c) a father who was dead set against alchemy.

As much as this tale differs from its counterpart, it has a Gothic chill of its own. I don't know many authors brave enough to walk their main characters through the loss of limbs, an identical twin, and romance in the same one hundred pages.

However, I do admire the author's use of mysterious, brooding language. Not only does it suit Victor Frankenstein's personality, but it mirrors the mood found in Mary Shelley's version. Examples include northern winds that brought with them "a glacial chill" (56), a venture into a Dark Library during "the witching hour" (139), and a map on which "[t]he lines of ink trailed into nothingness like the wanderings of an unhealthy mind" (151).

But the true purpose of this novel lies not in its retelling of a classic Gothic novel, but in its unearthing of human desires and struggles. I read a few other reviews that criticized Victor for his selfishness and childishness. I'll definitely agree that his actions were both selfish and childish, but I don't think it was wrong of Oppel to make him this way. (For one thing, he had to be arrogant enough to grow into an inventor of a monstrous machine.)

Of course, Victor's main problem is his jealousy of his twin brother, Konrad. Konrad is athletic, smart, and social (and he has earned the love of a certain someone), and Victor wishes he could be more like him. And if there's one thing I've learned in life, it's not to envy your siblings - especially your own identical twin.

If anything, I wish the author had included more scenes where Victor and Konrad got along. I especially looked forward to the scene when the two brothers would explore the world together (perhaps across the seas and into the unknown, as they wished), with just the two of them. (It's not enough to be staring daggers at each other behind Elizabeth's back while they're climbing through caves.) But I appreciated their last conversation together, anyway, and I'm glad they departed on brotherly terms.

There was also a tiny detail that annoyed me throughout the book: Elizabeth's outfit choices when she's adventuring. I know she's supposed to be tomboyish, but even so, girls in that time period did not wear breeches. (Please correct me, though, if I'm wrong.) It seems unlikely that even a passionate girl like Elizabeth would have done such a thing at that time.

Overall, this book was hard to enjoy, what with the numerous attacks by wild creatures and all of the blood that was shed. But I am impressed with Oppel's originality. (What's more impressive than a quest for the Elixir of Life, one of the most desired substances in history? To be honest, the lure of it kept me reading when I wasn't sure I could keep going.) I don't think I'll read the next in the series, but it was a thrilling adventure nonetheless.

I've heard that there might be a movie version coming out in the next few years. That would be interesting...
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Teresa Why wouldn't you read the next in the series? I believe a lot of this first book (Konrad's abrupt death in the end) was just to set the stage for the second one.

Brandi I guess that's true. I might check it out if I happen to find it. The first one just didn't appeal to me enough to make me excited for the next book.

Teresa In my opinion, the second book was much better than the first one. See if it's in the library. :)

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