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This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel
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Dec 17, 11

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Read on December 17, 2011

(5 out of 5 Stars) Vivid, Intense, and Engrossing, This Dark Endeavor is the Best Series Launch We’ve Seen in a Long Time.

Kenneth Oppel, best known for his books Silverwing and the Michael L. Printz winning Airborn writes a teen-oriented prequel to Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein. It’s a risky career move for Oppel- for one thing; a Frankenstein prequel aimed at teen audiences isn’t exactly the smartest thing to do. Teens wouldn’t have interest in the book if they aren’t interested in the original (who when picking up the classic book groan something along the lines of “It’s so heavy…”) and will probably be limited to logging online to see if maybe it got remade into a movie starring Denzel Washington. Those who liked the book would be hesitant, to say the least, to so show interest in a spin-off- Frankenstein doesn’t have a back story, as the book is more of a metaphor for a psychological study of a man not fitting into society’s social norms and conventions. Most would assume it would just add insult. The good news, however, is that Oppel takes the monumental challenge into his hands and handles it magnificently. The book is dramatic, lavishly written, and engrossing. Oppel plays with a lot of the original book’s mythology here- Victor Frankenstein is a teenager in the book. He also has a twin brother, Konrad, who everyone, including the girl he’s in love with, prefers. They’re the sons of a wealthy ruler and put on plays in their spare time. After finding a secret passage in their father’s library, they discover that it holds an alchemist’s laboratory that belonged to their grandfather. Their father shuts them down, forbidding them to go in again. But when Konrad falls ill and they fear death, Victor knows that the only way to make him better is through alchemy. With the help of his distant cousin and love interest, Elizabeth, and devoted friend/poet, Henry, they set off on a transportive escapade to find the cure. The plot is intricately detailed- carefuly alchemic study obviously went into this, the fabrications of 19th century England and some of the more precise idiosyncrasies, such as the coelacanth, are well thought out. The book is intellectually exciting and also visceral. As well as this, the human drama and philosophy plays on. Victor wants to help his brother, but should he continue, knowing that Elizabeth will just choose him? Is alchemy really black magic? As he surges deeper into it, will his frighteningly dark passion grow into an uncontrollable fume? And also- that opening chapter is amazing- you'll very well find yourself shocked as the pages fly through a sort of 'picture within a picture' concept, the characters carefully unfolding through the introduction. It's guaranteed to hook you and carry you throughout the remaining chapters. The book generates a near-breakneck pace, multilayered plotting and fleshed-out narrative. His vivid character building adds to the mix. Coupled with its careful melding of genres without adding insult to the original, Endeavor is the best series launch we’ve seen in a long time.


This Dark Endeavor
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Number of Pages: 304
Price: $16.99 Hardcover
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
for Young Reader
Published: August 2011
Recommended Reading
Age: 11+

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