This Dark Endeavour: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein
By Kenneth Oppel
Expected publication August 23, 2011 by David Fickling Books
This is one of two new novels that takes the Frankenstein story and adds a layer or reinvents it, a la Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I love stories like that, so I was happy to grab a review copy of this one.
This is the story of Victor Frankenstein's teen experiences and the apprenticeship that starts him down the path to creating his monster. When his twin brother, Konrad, is struck ill by a mysterious fever that no doctor can determine the cause of or find a cure for, Victor enlists his oldest friend, Henry, and his lovely cousin, Elizabeth, on a quest for the ingredients of the Elixir of Life. It's a perilous journey, made even more complicated by a developing love triangle. Can they get the ingredients? Will the Elixir cure Konrad?
I love horror. Movies, books, TV, whatever. Anything scary is perfect for me. However, I hate Frankenstein. The book, the movie - I just find it boring. But I was willing to give this a chance because it offers a new perspective on the story. And I'm glad I did. This book was really great. It's the first time I've read Oppel, who is a well-regarded author. I can see why. His characters possess a great variety of characteristics and they are all executed equally well. I loved the direction Oppel took with the original Frankenstein story - letting us get to know Victor's family and the tragic circumstances that inform his choices later in life. I loved the presence of Konrad - an identical twin, someone for Victor to love yet also fight against. And I loved seeing Henry Clerval as a young man. His character often brings levity to the situations they find themselves in. Perhaps what I loved best about this book was simply the way it was written. It flows beautifully, keeps up a steady pace and the language is lush and evocative. This book reminded me very much of The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs, one of my absolute favorite books of all time. It is dark and disturbing and yet so beautiful that you can't help but love it. The development of Frankenstein seems inevitable once you read his backstory. It's also really nice to see that the story doesn't go exactly as you would expect. About halfway through, the plot takes a twist and I wondered how the story would proceed. Thankfully, a reason is found to continue the story and I think it gets even better from that point on. I don't want to say much about what happens because I don't want to spoil it, but this is a really interesting take on the Frankenstein legend that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.