Shara's Reviews > This Dark Endeavor

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel
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's review
Dec 21, 2011

liked it
Read from April 09 to 11, 2012

The premise: ganked from 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.

My Rating: It's a Gamble

Truly, this book was hit or miss. There were some moments where I was utterly enthralled by the action, where I loved all the little nods to the source material of Frankenstein, where I felt Oppel was truly capturing what the boy Victor Frankenstein might've been in order to become the man who created the monster. Those parts were quite fascinating.

On the other hand, those very same parts sometimes felt painfully obvious. It was a weird thing, but I almost wish there had been more subtlety to this book, so that when a connection was made, the genius of it would dawn on my slowly, rather than whacking me upside the head and screaming in my ear, "See what I did there? SEE WHAT I DID THERE?!?!?!" I also found Victor to be a bit too melodramatic at times, though I've got to give credit where credit is due: Victor Frankenstein is a rather despicable and tragic man in Mary Shelley's work, and he's a rather despicable and tragic boy here in Oppel's work. I personally could've done without the love triangle, which was no love triangle at all, really, because if you've read Frankenstein or seen any film adaptation, you know how all of this turns out. I guess that's part of the genius, making you care despite knowing they're all doomed. Like of like setting a love story on the Titanic.

Frustrations aside, I find myself curious about the second book, Such Wicked Intent. I'm curious to see where Oppel goes with his characters, and how he's going to connect it all to Shelley's masterpiece, or if he'll not bother with the connection and re-tell the masterpiece from his own perspective. No matter, the point is that despite this novel not really working for me on the whole, I'm curious, and that's a good thing. Curiosity means that I might one day give in and give the second book a shot.

Keep in mind, though, that while this did not work for me, other reviewers have absolutely loved and adored this book. Let me point you to The Book Smugglers, who rated this as a 9 out of 10, which for them is "damn near perfect." Truly, it's a book that's a gamble, and being a fan of the source material does not guarantee whether or not you'll like the book. The only way to know is to at least sample it, or just give it a shot. It's a fast read, after all. And I think that fans of Rick Yancey's The Monstrumologist may find this book particularly appealing. No doubt, I feel Yancey is the better writer on a host of levels, but the terms of historical horror stories, there's a kinship between these two books which makes me think if you like one, you'll like the other.

Spoilers, yay or nay?: Yay, but seriously, if you're familiar with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the spoilers really aren't going to surprise you or anything. If you're NOT familiar, then I don't recommend the full review.

The full review may be found in my blog, which is linked below. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome.


Happy Reading!
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Reading Progress

100.0% "This is misleading: the Kindle edition of the book has both Oppel's novel and Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN in it, and since I have read Shelley twice, I don't feel the urge to read again right away. However, I finished Oppel, so that's that!" 4 comments
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