Thursday, December 1, 2011

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

This is a reimagining of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein which just means the author took the basic ideas of the original story and looked at them in a different way or in this case, fleshed out part of the story.  Oppel looks at Victor Frankenstein as a teenager.  Victor and his twin brother, Konrad, are best friends, but that doesn't mean there isn't a touch or jealousy and competition in their relationship.  This competitiveness only increases for Victor when he thinks of the lovely Elizabeth. 

Life is relatively peaceful until Konrad becomes unexpectedly ill, and all medical efforts fail.  Victor remembers a dark library hidden in the house with alchemy books and papers.  He struggles to create an Elixir of Life to save his brother and to glorify himself.  Victor and Elizabeth must battle vicious creatures and cunning enemies to meet their goal, but Victor finds the danger exhilarating. 

This book was a heart pounding thrill ride that manages to be character driven at the same time.  Oppell looks further into Victor's motivations than the original story does, and he creates a character who is believable and disturbing.

The best compliment I can give This Dark Endeavor is it inspired me to read the original Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.  I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I'd never read it, but I thought I knew the story based on a jumble of movie clips and cultural references.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was wrong and that Shelley's novel provokes questions about loneliness and personal responsibility.  We also have Shelley's book here in the library.  Both are challenging reads, so I would recommend them for 8th graders and 7th graders who are strong readers.

This Dark Endeavor was also named as part of the 2012-2013 Lone Star List!

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