This Dark Endeavor (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein #1) – Kenneth Oppel

This Dark Endeavor (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein #1) – Kenneth OppelTitle: This Dark Endeavor (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein #1) by Kenneth Oppel
Publishing Info: August 23, 2011 by Simon & Schuster
Genres: Historical Fiction, Horror, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: October 25, 2013

Victor and Konrad are the twin brothers Frankenstein and inseparable until Konrad falls gravely ill. In the forbidden Dark Library, Victor finds an ancient formula, and seeks an alchemist to recreate the Elixir of Life. With friends Elizabeth and Henry, he scales highest trees in the Strumwald, dives deepest lake caves, and each sacrifices a body part.

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I’m so glad Alyssa got me this book for All Hallow’s Read because I had been curious about it for quite a while! The Apprenticeship of VIctor Frankenstein?! SO excited to see “how it all started”!  Admittedly, it started out a little bit slow, but I think the ending was super strong!

So, THIS DARK ENDEAVOR is the story of a teenaged Victor Frankenstein and his twin brother Konrad. They live in Switzerland and naturally have a few quarrels being brothers and all, of course one of which is over a girl — their cousin Elizabeth. (I know, I know, very distant cousin, but still… why even make it a cousin? It always throws me off and gives me the heebie-jeebies.) The plot ultimately thickens when all of the kids find a secret passage and an entirely secret room extending from the library of the Frankenstein Mansion dubbed “The Dark Library”. There are books of all sorts there, of course, all forbidden, especially the ones about alchemy. When Konrad falls perilously ill, Victor decides that the only way to save him is by making the Elixir of Life.
The plot explanation is important for this review because without it, you may be tempted to think that this is a teenaged Victor Frankenstein already working on his monster. THIS DARK ENDEAVOR is the very, very beginning of VIctor Frankenstein’s story so I think it’s important for readers to know that you do NOT see Frankenstein’s monster in this book nor his work on it — this is more of a prequel to Mary Shelley’s classic FRANKENSTEIN (which I also had to Wikipedia — so shamefully!!! — because I really remember ZERO details from when I read it as a freshman in high school… To be fair, that was over 10 years ago). THIS DARK ENDEAVOR more of a glimpse into Victor and how he ended up spiraling on such a dark path.

This story brings us the tale of alchemy and the Elixir of Life. We see Victor, Elizabeth, and their friend Henry go on many quests in order to obtain the proper ingredients for the elixir as deciphered for them by the outcasted, former Alchemist Polidori. The alchemy side was incredibly interesting to me and I loved the way it played out. Victor really put all of his heart and soul into finding the ingredients for this elixir that could possibly cure his brother when no other cures were working. I really enjoyed how much faith Victor had in the alchemy and how much doubt his own father had. I was really thrown back and forth from belief to disbelief and I couldn’t quite figure out who was right until the very end.

Admittedly… I wasn’t quite into the adventures that went into finding the ingredients for the elixir because I think was anticipating more of a scientific approach than adventure. I was much more hoping for suspense and intellect — how the elixir was made, things that may go wrong there — than a hunt for unusual ingredients. I think it may also have to do with my personal reproach for the fantastical tucked within the realistic. The ingredients were a bit TOO abnormal and I don’t know if such things really do exist, but they seemed entirely invented which just took me out of the “wow, this could actually have happened” mindset. The adventures themselves seemed a bit fantastical as well, going to such great heights and depths that the characters probably never would have survived. Unfortunately, those were moments that just took me out of the story. Also, HI! The Dark Library? Let’s just see SO MUCH MORE of that!

I really did love the ending — some perfectly horrific scenes, dabbling in gore and true horror — and the question of the elixir itself. Could they actually make it? Would the elixir work? Would they even be able to get it back home? Just a fantastic collection of suspenseful moments there. The book finished strong and ultimately allowed me to bump up my overall feel of the book just a bit. I think it probably would have been more enjoyable had I remembered so much more of the original FRANKENSTEIN before reading it. I had more of pop culture memory and not so much of the original gothic horror as well as the characters and situations that appear in both FRANKENSTEIN and THIS DARK ENDEAVOR.

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Victor Frankenstein // Character Obsessions: The Elixir of Life, Elizabeth, beating his twin brother at something… anything.
Victor is the… lesser twin, if you will. Konrad is the golden boy and is good at everything and even gets the girl and poor Victor… You can just see it coming. The rage, the thirst to prove himself, the squelched passion. I loved seeing the darkness rise in him and his curiosity for a combination of science and madness.
Elizabeth Lavenza // Character Obsessions: Church, a blossoming romance, being loyal.
Elizabeth was both strong and weak at the same time. She doesn’t shy away from adventure, risks, or danger, but at the same time, I felt like she spent many times playing it safe and her piety just bothered me haha — but honestly, are we surprised? A pious character is not my thing. I like getting lost in books so unless it’s an invented religion, I’m usually not into a strongly religious character. I did like that she seemed conflicted at times between both Victor and Konrad and I’m actually kind of hoping for more angst from her in book two.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Classics. I know I’m going backwards here, but now I want to re-read FRANKENSTEIN. I think I’d appreciate it so much more as an adult because 14-year-old me gave it two stars haha. I absolutely hated it. I think it was just way over my head at the time and it was a summer reading book. It was summer and I wanted to read something FUN. I think I’m definitely due for a re-read because I bet it’d be entirely more interesting now.
Left Me Wanting More: Science and suspense. There was a lot of action in this book which I really hadn’t expected. I was hoping for more alchemy, more brewing of potions, more science and much more suspense. The suspense moments were often tied to the adventure at hand and eh. I just wished for more horror-suspense, ya know?

Addiction Rating
Read it!

True, I had some complaints, but I also think that’s due to the fact that I don’t remember much of FRANKENSTEIN. Having looked it up again, I was missing a LOT of connections so I think that knowledge of the classic itself would have helped me a lot. There were elements that weren’t quite my style in this book, but it did set up for Victor’s dark path towards creating his monster so I am definitely intrigued to see what the rest of the series holds!!

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15 thoughts on “This Dark Endeavor (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein #1) – Kenneth Oppel

  1. Kristen from My Friends Are Fiction

    Very interesting review! I’ve not heard of this book before I honestly have never read the classic but intend to eventually. I did read Hideous Love–ugh not really my thing. You’ll be reviewing the next book? Curious how it is and I imagine it will get darker.

    1. Brittany Post author

      I had not read that one! I think I had heard bad reviews so I stayed away. I think I need to re-read the classic! I bet I’d have a lot of fun with it now versus freshman year of high school haha! 🙂

  2. Candice

    I’ve never read Frankenstein nor have I ever seen any version of the movie but this sounds absolutely amazing! I will totally have to read this sometime soon! Great review!

    1. Brittany Post author

      I think you’d like it! It was interesting and I always love prequels! And gothic horror! 🙂

  3. Sam

    I read Frankenstein a few years ago and enjoyed it. This one looks interesting! I love retellings, so I’ll definitely have to check this one out. Though, I don’t remember if Frankenstein actually had a twin brother in the original…I remember him having siblings…hmm…I may have to re-read it too! Thanks for the review.

    1. Brittany Post author

      I think he had siblings but not a twin brother if my memory (and Wikipedia) serve me correctly haha! 🙂
      Thanks for commenting! I hope you enjoy it if you pick it up!

  4. Quinn @ Quinn's Book Nook

    I’ve been curious about this series for awhile. I’m not really huge on the story of Frankenstein, and I’ve never read the book. But I just love these covers! That’s a bad reason to want to read a book, isn’t?

    But I’m glad that you did like this, even if some things left you a little meh.

    1. Brittany Post author

      Haha hey, that means the cover is doing its job and drawing you in! I’ve picked up a couple books because of covers 🙂
      I think it’s an interesting prequel! If you do pick it up, I’d love to know what you think!!

  5. Vyki @ On The Shelf

    Glad to know you enjoyed it! I have been wondering about it for a little while now. It has also been a while for me since reading Frankenstein also (14 yrs) so I don’t remember much either, but I do remember I didn’t much care for it as well lol. This book sounds like it would be great though. One of the biggest issues I had with Frankenstein was that I found it really boring and this one doesn’t sound boring at all. Great review!

    1. Brittany Post author

      I thought Frankenstein was boring too! I wonder if that was because I just wasn’t in the right mind set/at the right age for it. Especially reading This Dark Endeavor, I feel like I’d appreciate it so much more now!

  6. Pamela

    Great review. This sounds like a fun book, but I think I need to reread Frankenstein first. I have read the book, but I don’t think I really retained anything from that reading.

    1. Brittany Post author

      I feel like I need to re-read too! I can’t remember hardly anything that happened and I feel like that would add so much more to this book too 🙂

  7. Samantha

    I also read Frankenstein back when I was fourteen and probably would have given it about 2 stars; but this book sounds really cool! Gothic and vague magic and love interest rivalry (even if it is a cousin).

    1. Brittany Post author

      I gave it two stars too… But after reading this prequel I’m actually almost interesting in picking up Frankenstein again to see how the two stories mash up! I love the gothic horror in this book and I feel like I would appreciate the classic much more now than my original read!
      Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  8. Alexa Y.

    This book sounds VERY intriguing! It seems like it’s a good read, especially since it made you want to revisit a classic that inspires it. I’m loving the idea of this adventure to create this elixir that will save his brother — it seems like a typical story, but I’m sensing it’s a little bit different too.

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