Friday, October 21, 2016

Book Reviews Re-Visited: This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

Back in 2011 we reviewed the book This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel, with Halloween quickly approaching, now is a good time to revisit this origins story for Dr. Frankenstein. This book review was originally posted on October 25, 2011 and written by Megan.

When twins Victor and Konrad Frankenstein and their beautiful cousin, Elizabeth, stumble upon a secret library full of ancient alchemy texts hidden deep beneath their Lake Geneva chateau, it is only the beginning.  The dusty volumes call to a fiery passion lying deep with Victor.  Though their father, a powerful magister, forbids his sons and niece to have anything more to do with what he declares to be a corruption a knowledge, Victor cannot rid himself of his obsession with the Dark Library and its ancient alchemical secrets.

When Korad falls deathly ill with a mysterious illness no doctor can cure, Victor will do anything to cure his brother - including defy his father's wishes.  Desperate, he convinces Elizabeth and their friend Henry to accompany him to the Dark Library at midnight.  There, they find a recipe for Vita Elixir - the Elixir of Life.   Written in the Alphabet of the Magi, it is untranslatable except by an alchemist.  But with the practise of alchemy forbidden (by Victor's father) in Geneva, it will be some trick in finding one.

After eavesdropping on a conversation between his mother and Maria, one of the servants, Victor discovers that exiled alchemist Julius Polidori may still be in the city.  Desperate for a cure, Victor sets out the next morning with Elizabeth and Henry to seek Polidori.  When they find the man, he agrees to help them with the translation.  Slowly, the rare and dangerous ingredients to the Elixir of Life are revealed, and Victor, with the help of his friends, sets out on a quest for life and power filled with darkness, danger, and death.

For fans of The Monstrumologist, Gothic horror, tales of alchemy, and Kenneth Oppel's Airborn series, this prequel to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a dark, eerie adventure full of very scary things that go bump in the night.  Young Victor Frankenstein is ambiguously creepy - though he narrates the events, you are never quite sure of his motivations.  Jealous of his twin's charismatic ease, intelligence, and especially of his and Elizabeth's passionate affection for one other, it is never clear if Victor desires the Elixir for love of his brother - or for love of fame, power and glory.  Light a few candles on a dark and stormy night and curl up with this hair-raising, spooky read that's perfect for Halloween!


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