This Dark Endeavor
This Dark Endeavor
Kenneth Oppel
ISBN 9781442403154
Simon & Schuster, 2011.
4 ½ stars
Keywords: frankenstein kenneth-oppel mary-shelley mystery romance sibling-rivalry suspense this-dark-endeavor

This Dark Endeavor
by Kenneth Oppel

Kenneth Oppel (the Silverwing Trilogy) imagines the shaping of Victor Frankenstein's psyche in a taut and chilling novel that serves as a brilliant prequel to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. He keeps many of Shelley's major players, and invents an identical twin, Konrad, born two minutes before Victor. The tension between the 15-year-old brothers over their romantic feelings toward their cousin Elizabeth Lavenza brings out the dark side in Victor.

Victor loves his twin, but also needs to feel superior to him, and this duality dogs his every step. One day, while Victor, Konrad and Elizabeth are horsing around, Elizabeth falls against some bookshelves that open a narrow entrance to a secret passage. In the bowels of the Chateau Frankenstein, they discover a library of forbidden texts that offers, among other things, the secret of alchemy and the Elixir of Life. When Konrad falls ill, Victor enlists Elizabeth and their friend Henry to help discover the recipe for the Elixir of Life in order to save him. Their pursuit is the "dark endeavor" of the title. Their mission leads them to the laboratory of a hermit-like alchemist and some spine-tingling adventures to retrieve the ingredients.

The question that plagues Victor is whether he should play God just because he can. Oppel succeeds in creating a complex character living in the 18th century whose inner struggles will resonate profoundly with young men and women of modern times.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

purchase in indiebound purchase in amazon purchase in barnes_noble
Join Newsletter