Aubrey's Reviews > This Dark Endeavor

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel
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's review
Oct 23, 2012

liked it

The book followed the genre of adventure, though it had elements of the romance genre. The main idea that Kenneth Oppel was trying to get across was Victor Frankenstein before he created the monster, and even before he completed schooling at Ingolstadt University. Though Oppel is a member of society in this new 21st century, it would have been nice if his writing-style had followed more closely to that of the classic, Gothic horror style. I understand that yes, he is writing it through a teenager’s perspective, and that yes, he is a young adult author, but I still wish he had given it that classic feel to it. It all felt rather 21st century.
The novel is narrated in first-person by sixteen year-old Victor Frankenstein. Though the book is a tale of Frankenstein, Oppel changes it, slightly, and gives Victor a twin named Konrad. Konrad and Victor are, of course, best friends and love being together, even though Victor has always thought Konrad has been the best at everything (i.e. academics, fencing…) Victor is the, of course, arrogant, prideful twin, and has a, “Passion in (him) that scares (Elizabeth).” (This Dark Endeavor, pg. 154) Konrad, on the other hand, is the educated, patient twin that everyone knows and loves. This, of course, will eventually set Konrad and Victor on a foil of sorts, what with Konrad receiving Elizabeth’s love, and Victor coveting it for his own.
I enjoyed the book, but thought more thought and research could have been put into the setting. It is, of course, set at Frankenstein manor in Geneva, Switzerland, but Oppel changed the period, slightly. Not in the actual time period itself, he just made the book seem like it was set much, much farther than he had intended. Though the book was set in a late 18th century Switzerland, just as it is in the original Frankenstein, or Modern Prometheus, novel by Mary Shelley, it seemed more like a late 19th century Switzerland. Perhaps it is just me, but that was the feeling that came across.
Even though the setting seemed much later, and perhaps just to me, I could still imagine Switzerland all around me. There was a time Victor, Konrad, and Elizabeth travelled deep into a cave, looking for a coelacanth, something needed for an elixir of life that they are trying to create to cure Konrad and his diseased blood. The way I could imagine the caves was simply magnificent. As Victor recounts, “We passed through the opening, and in that one step, summer evaporated. An ancient cold emanated from the stone… The cave was large, and clearly no stranger to humans. Near the entrance the remnants of campfires were scattered about, and pictures and names were scratched on the stone walls. There was the whiff of urine and animal scat.” (This Dark Endeavor, pg. 164)
The characters were believable and it was interesting to see the tale from Victor’s own mouth. The way he thinks is extraordinary, and almost matches up with the Victor from Shelley’s novel, the only thing separating the two from being exactly the same is the difference in age. During the course of the novel, Victor begins to realize his love for chemistry and biology: “Measuring this much, and no more. Grinding the ingredients to a fine powder. Finding the hottest part of the flame. Watching the powder liquefy and change color. Watching matter transmute.
“The noxious odor sharpened my concentration, and minutes and hours dissolved, so intent was I in my work.” (This Dark Endeavor, pg. 155)
The entire novel follows Victor Frankenstein, Konrad Frankenstein, Elizabeth Lavenza, and Henry Clerval. Konrad falls ill one day, and Victor fears for his brother’s life. When he happens upon a book by Agrippa, he finds a potion for an elixir of life and decides it could be his brother’s last chance, seeing as none of the doctors could cure him. Travelling through forests, caves, and an old alchemist named Polidori’s laboratory, Victor will do whatever it takes to cure his brother.
This book is definitely worth a read, especially if you have already read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

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