218. This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel

This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel  (US) - (Canada)
The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, Book 1

Pages: 304
Ages: 12+
Finished: Aug. 10, 2012
First Published: Aug. 23, 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins Canada
Genre: Gothic, YA, paranormal, romance, horror
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "We found the monster on a rocky ledge high above the lake."

Publisher's Summary:  "Victor Frankenstein leads a charmed life. He and his twin brother, Konrad, and their beautiful cousin Elizabeth take lessons at home and spend their spare time fencing and horseback riding. Along with their friend Henry, they have explored all the hidden passageways and secret rooms of the palatial Frankenstein chateau. Except one.

The Dark Library contains ancient tomes written in strange languages, and filled with forbidden knowledge. Their father makes them promise never to visit the library again, but when Konrad becomes deathly ill, Victor knows he must find the book that contains the recipe for the legendary Elixir of Life.

The elixir needs only three ingredients. But 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."

Acquired:  Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.

Reason for Reading: I read all the author's books.

This is Oppel's third series for Young Adults and each one has been so completely different from the other.  The only thing consistent between them is a dark atmosphere or plot.  This time Oppel has entered the Gothic world, set in Eastern Europe near the end of the French Revolution; it is never quite clear whether this is our earth or an alternate reality.  Everything feels true and real for this historical time period; it is only when Victor's potions of alchemy provide fantastical results that we enter into a world of magical realism.

I did find the book a bit slow to get into but once I caught the flow, I was hooked and found the book hard to put down.  There are four main characters and each has their own distinct personality.  Victor is not the most likable of the bunch but the book is told from his point of view and this reader found him the most genuine however unreliable he may be :-) I loved the whole Gothic atmosphere, the dark eerie tunnels, forests and sinister scientists.  The added magic of alchemy brings that touch of the supernatural to the events to provide an all around gripping story with fantastic plot, characters and atmosphere.  The ending wasn't surprising to this reader and yet it was still a shock as it was deftly written, coming out of when least expected and leaves all sorts of plot openings for the next volume which I am eager to read as it will have  been released by the time this review has been posted.


  1. Hi Nicola - I've picked this one up and put it back on bookstore shelves a few times - we also like Oppel here but somehow this one just didn't quite seem as appealing as most. Too dark and weird, even for Oppel, perhaps?

    Maybe I should tackle a library copy. Good to know it picks up a bit farther in - I read the first few pages & wasn't immediately grabbed.

  2. Hi Barb! Well if you've read his other two series, you'll know how dark & heavy Oppel can get at times. This one, so far anyway, is not as dark as say , "Firewing". It is heavy with atmosphere. It certainly is the "weirdest" of the three series, but I'm a big Frankenstein fan. If you've got some "Frankenstein" background it will be more enjoyable and less "weird", I think.

  3. I havnt actually read this book. i have to many on my plate. it on a list of 'will reads'
    Thanks for the review.

  4. My son & I have both read the original Frankenstein, so maybe we should go for this one, too. My favourite Kenneth Oppel so far is Airborn, though I've ebjoyed all of the others I've read by him.


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