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Review: This Dark Endeavour (Kenneth Oppel)

Review: This Dark Endeavour Amazon| Goodreads

Summary (From

The purest intentions can stir up the darkest obsessions.

In this prequel to Mary Shelley’s gothic classic, Frankenstein, 16-year-old Victor Frankenstein begins a dark journey that will change his life forever. Victor’s twin, Konrad, has fallen ill, and no doctor is able to cure him. Unwilling to give up on his brother, Victor enlists his beautiful cousin Elizabeth and best friend Henry on a treacherous search for the ingredients to create the forbidden Elixir of Life. Impossible odds, dangerous alchemy and a bitter love triangle threaten their quest at every turn.

Victor knows he must not fail. But his success depends on how far he is willing to push the boundaries of nature, science, and love – and how much he is willing to sacrifice.

Author: Kenneth Oppel
Length: 298 pages
Source: Borrowed from the library

Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★
Readability: ★★★★
Overall: ★★★★

My opinion:

This Dark Endeavour is the first of Kenneth Oppel’s prequel to Frankenstein series.  Victor Frankenstein, a young ambitious man, is driven to alchemy and science when his twin, Konrad, falls critically ill.

There are some clear differences between Kenneth Oppel’s prequel series and the original Frankenstein.  Perhaps the most obvious is the invention of a twin, Konrad.  Whilst this might seem like a severe diversion from the original text, it works remarkably well.  Konrad, the more charming, less ambitious, generally more likeable twin, manages to both complement and contrast with Victor.  Victor loves his twin, obviously, and it is his desperate concern for Konrad that allows alchemy to entice him.  Despite their close bond, the two are very different, and these differences make it easy to see how Victor could grow into the man we ultimately know he will become.

Elizabeth Lavenza also adopts a somewhat different role in This Dark Endeavour compared to Frankenstein. I found her much more likeable in This Dark Endeavour, with an intelligent, feisty nature that never showed in Frankenstein.  As Elizabeth is the object of affection for both Konrad and Victor, This Dark Endeavour does have a love-triangle.  However, while many love triangles feel like nothing more than ticking the boxes for a standard YA, this love triangle is used to drive the plot and characters.  Victor’s jealousy of Konrad is exacerbated by their rivalry for Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s charm and limitless patience make Konrad seem the obvious choice but her feisty nature and somewhat impulsive decisions also sometimes make Victor appear a good match.  Despite my general dislike of love-triangles, this one is well done, and I actually care about the outcome without having decided instantly on my personal preference.

As well as great characters and plot, This Dark Endeavour is beautifully written, with a dark, gothic feel that reflects the inspiration brilliantly.   Kenneth Oppel manages to bring to life characters who were only briefly mentioned in Frankenstein, with references to the original text interwoven masterfully throughout the novel.

Buy it? I’d be happy to buy this one – it’s going on my wishlist!
In a nutshell: A beautifully written, truly original spin on the classic.

Other Reviews of This Dark Endeavour: The Deliberate Reader | Steph’s Stacks | Reading in Winter

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