This Dark Endeavor
By: Kenneth Oppel
Published: August 23, 2011, Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing; Brilliance Audio
Received: ARC from BEA; Audio from publisher
Challenges: 2011 Historical Fiction Challenge
Summary (from Goodreads): The summary for this book is rather spoilery, so if you'd like to see it, click on over to goodreads and read it for yourself.
Audio Review: From the very first chapter, I was absolutely hooked by Luke Daniels' narration.Though Konrad and Victor are identical twins, Daniels gave each of them a distinct voice that very clearly matched their personalities. Victor was hasty, loud, and often immature. Konrad was deliberate, gentle, but sometimes haughty. I was even impressed with his narration of Elizabeth and Victor's mother. A good narrator should add to the story, and I felt like listening to the audio brought me a little closer to the characters and allowed me to drink in the darkness of it.
My Review: Billed as a prequel to Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein," This Dark Endeavor is a deliciously gothic tale that adds a new dimension to Victor Frankenstein that a new generation of readers will devour.
I'm sure many of you have seen the movie Frankenstein. My father, a genetics professor, shows it to his classes at the beginning of each semester to demonstrate Hollywood's depiction of science. Because scientists are mad, obsessed individuals that replace science with God in their quest to understand the world and life. But, unlike the movie's depiction, "This Dark Endeavor" shows Victor as a frustrated teenager who abandons both religion and science in an effort to heal his brother, Konrad.
One of the many things I liked about this book was the exploration of Victor's family and their progressive views. Set in the heat of the French Revolution, Victor's father believes in treating his servants as equals, and is a well-respected leader in the community. Victor's mother is a feminist that believes that women should be equal to men. The glimpse into Victor's childhood and his rivalry between himself and his (barely) older brother Konrad turns Victor from a crazed scientist into a man searching for an answer and a way to bring back life.
Even though I greatly enjoyed the book, I did not like Victor. He was whiny, impulsive, and aggressive. In many ways he reminded me of Edward from Twilight. He's passionate, but his passion came off to me as just full-forced aggression on anyone who didn't do what he wanted. He harasses and bullies Elizabeth. He forces Henry to do his bidding, and often gets into heated arguments with Konrad and his father. Luckily, there was plenty of great plot to distract me from Victor's sometimes annoying nature.
This is a great read by itself, but I think it would be a great opportunity to introduce younger readers to a piece of classic literature. My advice? Read this book right at the end of summer, just when the evenings begin to get cold. It will add to the whole mood.