Kenneth Oppel takes on the daunting task of writing a prequel to Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein with his YA novel This Dark Endeavor. I read Frankenstein several times in University and found it to be much deeper and interesting than the Hollywoodized and Halloween Frankenstein monsters that have become associated with the name. My fascination with the original and the simple key-hole cover brought this book to the top of my TBR pile.
The adventures and experiments of young Victor Frankenstein often straddle the line between science and fantasy, and he wonders whether alchemy is closer to medicine or religion. His curiosity in science and flare for the dramatic make the teen fall easily into the forbidden alchemy. His drive to save his brother and capture Elizabeth’s attention adds realism to the fanciful story.
Victor’s relationship with his twin is very interesting and genuine. He is baffled by how they can be so alike and yet so different. Their rivalries and close bond feel real throughout the entire novel. One of my favourite scenes is when he sees his twin with Elizabeth and he says it’s like looking at himself being with her, only he can’t feel her and he gets confused.
I thought Elizabeth’s sleepwalking scenes were hot. It reminded me of in Red Glove when Lila was in Cassel’s bed and he knew because of the curse he could ask her for anything but he doesn’t because he’d know it wasn’t really her. It made me forget for a minute that Victor and Elizabeth were raised like siblings, something that ruined the romance elements for me but that couldn’t be helped given the context of the story.
I was pretty terrified of the obstacles the characters face on their quest for special ingredients. The only thing that ruined it for me was the Lynx. The rest of the story was believable if far fetched, with the possibility of scientific explanation- but the Lynx felt too forced and mystical to work within Oppel’s story.
Fantastic story of curiosity, sibling rivalry, young love, and the makings of a man who will someday make a monster.