LJ's Reviews > This Dark Endeavor

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel
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's review
Dec 19, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: audio-books

** spoiler alert ** Young Victor Frankenstein has a twin in this version of the Frankenstein saga. Konrad Frankenstein is everything that Victor is not, or so Victor thinks when he compares himself to his twin. While Victor is impulsive and egotistical, Konrad is thoughtful and selfless. Victor has difficulty with his studys while Konrad excels. Konrad even has the romantic love of their cousin Elizabeth, inflames Victor into a passion of jelously. The two siblings are close and yet when Victor finds out that his brother is deathly ill, he imagines how it might be if Konrad never recovers. But that thought is quickly banished and when it seems as though "modern" medicine will not cure him--they've tried everthing, even leaching--Victor enlists Elizabeth's help and the help of their mutural friend Henry to attempt the "dark endeavor" of the title. Victor has decided they will stop at nothing to create the elixor of life and cure Konrad once and for all.
They stumple upon the recipe for the mysterious cure in a hidden library they visited before. When their father finds out they have visited this library, he makes them promise never to go there again, a promise that Victor knows in his heart he will not keep. The books tantalize him and it's the first place he thinks of to look for help when his brother falls ill.

Gathering the ingredients for this elixor proves to be dangerous and difficult. Complicating things further is the fact that the practice of alchemy is illegal. When Konrad appears to recover after a visit with a specialist, he and Elizabeth try to persuade Victor to give up the quest for the elixor, but of course that is near to impossible for Victor, so attracted is he to the dark art of alchemy.

Konrad suffers another attack and is again gravely ill, and Elizabeth decides that it's worth the risk to try to complete the elixor. They administer it to Konrad just in time after a double-cross by Polidori, the alchemist they contracted for the job. It appears to work and Konrad seems back to his old self, but the book ends with his sudden death and Victor's iron resolve that he will make Konrad live again, thus setting up for the sequel in this intended series.

Victor is a complex character and not always good. We get glimpses of his darker thoughts and actions throughout the book. He brother is not nearly so interesting by comparison. The novel would work well for a book discussion with kids just becoming aquainted with the notion of an unreliable narrator. And it was a very well read audio book. The voice was nicely suited to the age of the chacacters. The male voice did a good job with the female characters too. I had started reading it at the same time I started listening to it, and I have to say that I enjoyed the audio book more, which is rare thing.

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