Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Plot Summary:
In this haunting tale is Victor Frankenstein's first lesson in the ways of alchemy and science. What most readers don't know about Victor Frankenstein is that his inspiration for creating his Frankenstein began with an accidental discovery. When Victor, Konrad (his twin brother), Elizabeth, and Henry stumble upon a secret passage in the Frankenstein mansion that lead to an abandoned library, they didn't  realize that this collection of old books is about alchemy, magic, and science that have been outlawed for quite some time. As they explore the contents of the Biblioteka Obscura (Library of the the Obscure) they discover a book entitled Occulta Philopsophia, which contains the famous "Elixir of Life." Unfortunately, this discovery is short lived when Alphonse Frankenstein, Victor and Konrad's father, finds them exploring the innards of this dark place. Although the twins are unsure why their father would keep these items, they learn that their family has actually dabbled in Alcehmy, which had left a dark shadow. Victor has never really taken his studies seriously, but, when his twin falls gravely ill, his obsession to create the "Elixir of Life" is heightened by fear and recklessness. What Victor realizes is that his pursuit for the elixir will cost him a lot more than he thought, which leads to tragedy.
Critical Evaluation:
In This Dark Endeavor, Kenneth Oppel, has provided readers with a background that not only leads into the story of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, but gives us a picture of the innocent young man who became the creator of the monster we all know. Oppel is well known for his Silverwing series, which is amazing, but his venture into the history of dark magic is well executed in this story. In fact, when I stumbled upon this title, I was incredibly excited because I love it when authors step outside of their comfort zone, but are still able to use their talents that set them apart from others; Oppel combines his ability to incorporate the elements of a great adventure that has serious consequences. Clearly, Oppel did his research in regards to Alchemy and Catholicism, which set the ominous tone for the story. Moreover, this story touches on issues that are very prevalent in the mind of a growing teenager: is it better to have faith or to see to believe. A lot of people struggle with this question and the fact that we have a choice in the matter. Although Elizabeth believes in the power of faith, Victor believes in the power of Science, which takes him down a road he never thought possible. Readers will enjoy this glimpse in Victor Frankenstein's adolescence and will want to pick up Frankenstein.

Information about the Author:
According to the author's website, he was born in Port Albani, but lived most of his life in British Columbia. He knew he was going to be an author at the age of twelve years old after realizing he wasn't going to be a scientist or an architect. Like most young boys, he had an obsession with Star Wars and video games, which lead to the foundation of a long story that ended up becoming a short story:
We had a family friend who knew Roald Dahl - one of my favourite authors - and this friend offered to show Dahl my story. I was paralysed with excitement. I never heard back from Roald Dahl directly, but he read my story, and liked it enough to pass on to his own literary agent. I got a letter from them, saying they wanted to take me on, and try to sell my story. And they did.
Kenneth Oppel has written over 15 novels and stories for children and young adults and This Dark Endeavor is his latest adventure.
Teen Adventure, Teen Fantasy

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to This Dark Endeavor:

Awards & Recognition:
  • Publisher's Weekly Starred Review (6/6/2011)
  • Horn Book Magazine Starred Review (7/1/2011)
  • Bulletin of Center for Children's Books (9/1/2011)

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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