Saturday, October 22, 2011

This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Local Library 
Read: Oct. 16, 2011 

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 secret books of alchemy and ancient remedies are discovered. Father forbids that they ever enter the room again, but this only piques Victor's curiosity more. When Konrad falls gravely ill, Victor is not satisfied with the various doctors his parents have called in to help. He is drawn back to The Dark Library where he uncovers an ancient formula for the Elixir of Life. With their friend Elizabeth, Henry and Victor immediately set out to find assistance from a man who was once known for his alchemical works to help create the formula. Determination and the unthinkable outcome of losing his brother spur Victor on in the quest for the three ingredients that will save Konrad's life. After scaling the highest trees in the Strumwald, diving into the deepest lake caves, and sacrificing one’s own body part, the three fearless friends risk their lives to save another.

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Before I begin I think I should confess something. I have never attempted to read Frankenstein. I've never even watched the films. Despite my abiding love of classic movie monsters I have never been remotely interested in the Modern Prometheus. As such this review is nearly free of comparison. It is impossible not to know bits and pieces of the story but for sake of argument, lets consider me a Shelley virgin.

Dr. Frankenstein is sort of a psychopath when you think about it. I mean, it takes a certain level of insanity to dig up, assemble and reanimate the dead. Disturbing though is sounds, I love the idea of exploring where this obsession comes from. The inclusion of mysteries chateau, a dark library and secret experimentation in the field of alchemy didn't hurt either. I understand from other reviews that Oppel took certain liberties with regards to the original but as I have no no particular regard for Shelley's work, I found the story enjoyable.

I have to assume there are references my limited knowledge base failed to recognize but I am familiar with Polidori. For those who don't know, John William Polidori was a contemporary of Shelley and author of The Vampyre. Considered the father of the romantic vampire genre his work predated Bram Stoker's masterpiece by nearly eighty years. Obviously outshone by his successor, Polidori doesn't enjoy the same notoriety and I appreciated the nod Oppel afforded him in This Dark Endeavor.

I rarely watch book trailers or author interviews but I made an exception with this book and watched both while polishing my review. First of all, I love that the book trailer features the same building I decided would represent chateau Frankenstein during my reading. I try not to indulge my ego but a small part of me likes that I was on the same page as the creator and marketers of the novel.  On the other hand, I was disappointed by the author interview. I enjoyed what Oppel had to say about the development of his idea but the admission that ARCs were used to sell the rights to the producers of Twilight irked me. I'm of the opinion that authors should care more for their readers and personal integrity than their pocketbooks and find Oppel's actions both distressing and unattractive.

My opinion of the author's actions aside, This Dark Endeavor is gratifyingly gothic tale of mystery and intrigue. Recommended to fans of The Raven Bride by Lenore Hart and Dracula In Love by Karen Essex.

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I dreamed of fame and wealth. But looking upon Elizabeth's face at that moment, I suddenly knew there was something I wanted even more.
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