One summer when I was a teenager I decided that I needed to read more ‘classics’. You know, those works of fiction that everyone harps on you to read, saying that they’ve stood the test of time and if you don’t read them you’ll be lost in your life forever. Blah, blah, blah. Amirite? Anyhoo, a lot of these classics you’re forced to read in high school… depending on where you go to school of course. My high school focused a lot on Canadian literature, which meant that most of the books I read were by authors I’d never heard of before but now know are some of the most highly regarded authors in Canada’s literary world. (Why some of them are on the list boggles my mind… yes W.O. Mitchell I’m talking to you, but hey, what do I know?)

Now the people reading this who are into classic literature are probably coming up with an extensive list in their head of what books I should have read during this summer. Chances are what I read will not be on that list. Unless they’re a classic novel enthusiast who happens to love monsters that is. No Grapes of Wrath, War and Peace, or Pride and Prejudice for me! (Although another summer saw me read the entire collected works of Jane Austen. A lady that I will love forever for giving us Mr Darcy!) Nope, I read the great monster classics, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Dracula by Bram Stoker. At this point I think I got distracted by other books, and that ended my run of ‘classics’, but these two books have always kept a special place in my heart. πŸ™‚

So I credit this foray into the world of classic monster literature as part of the reason why I got SO INCREDIBLY CRAZY EXCITED when I read that this week’s book was coming out. So if you like monsters, or wonder what teenage boy goes on to create monsters… this is a book for you!

Let’s get to it shall we?

Book cover of 'This Dark Endeavour' by Kenneth Oppel

This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel

Summary:

Victor Frankenstein has things pretty good. He along with his twin, Konrad, cousin Elizabeth and friend Henry have the run of a huge castle (Chateau Frankenstein, don’t you know), indulgent parents and hoards of servants who care for their every need. It’s not shocking that Victor’s a little bit spoiled and full of himself. Wouldn’t you be? Thankfully Victor has Konrad to keep his feet firmly on the ground. Until, suddenly, Konrad becomes deathly ill. Victor is desperate to save his twin and will stop at nothing to ensure that he will not lose the only person he loves as much as himself. But what this quest to save Konrad will ultimately lead Victor to do may change the course of his life forever.

Review:

So Kenneth Oppel is a pretty famous Canadian author. (Interesting tidbit about Mr. Oppel? He wrote his first novel at age 15. Sent it to his fav author, Roald Dahl, who passed it on to his own agent and, presto, it was published in 1985.) I haven’t read any of his other books before… so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Like I said before, I don’t always understand why some authors are held in such high esteem, and this has made me skeptical. But I was very very pleasantly surprised!

The characters in this book were so life-like for me. I really felt that Victor was a real guy, experiencing totally normal emotions given the fact that his twin was deathly ill. I also really liked the love/rivalry that defined so much of his relationship with Konrad. I don’t have a twin, but I can only imagine what it would be like to have someone in your life that was physically identical to you, but different in so many other ways. The best part of Victor for me was how easy Kenneth Oppel made it to understand the things that Victor was willing to do. In the hands of another author I feel that Victor could easily have become a character that you could not relate to, one that was a villian rather than the genuinely conflicted young man that he seemed to be.

The pacing of this story was excellent. You not only got to know what was going on in the character’s heads, were given sufficient backstory to make them and the whole tale feel genuine, but it moved like a runaway freight train! There was just enough down-time in the story to give your poor brain a rest, but never enough to make the it drag or become boring. The historical setting was also very interesting. I don’t know much about alchemy or the history of modern medicine, but I really enjoyed learning bits and pieces about it through the story. Inadvertent learning really is the best, I feel. πŸ˜‰

Now, I know that my natural disposition is to want a sequel or series from any book that I like as much as I liked this one. This situation is no different. However, I could cope should there not be any other books about Victor Frankenstein forthcoming from the brilliant place that is Kenneth Oppel’s brain. This book is such a great standalone novel… it gives you lots of material to work with and although you would very much like to know what happens next, it is rather fun just imagining it for yourself. And I never think that. Ever. I always want my worlds to continue and my relationships to characters to last for more books than any author would ever want to write. So I think that either I’m coming down with something, or Kenneth Oppel has managed to do what I never thought possible. Create a world that I would like to explore in my own imagination without an author spoonfeeding me the story. It’s an odd feeling, but I like it. Kind of like the first bike ride without the training wheels… kind of freeing, but totally scary! πŸ™‚ So I think you should get out there and take off your training wheels… see what you think about this awesomely fabulous addition to the classic monster story genre!

Rating: 4 of 5 star rating

I really liked this book! I was impressed with Kenneth Oppel’s ability to look beyond the classic story and imagine a world in which Victor Frankenstein became the man from Mary Shelley’s classic novel. I think this must have been very exciting to write, but I also imagine that he would have had some trepidation in adding to the story that is so well known and respected in western literature. But let’s see what he has to say about writing this book shall we? (Isn’t YouTube awesome?)

How to get this book:

  1. book
  2. e-audiobook

And now, here’s a clip from one of my favourite interpretations of the Frankenstein Monster tale: Young Frankenstein. Clearly not your traditional take on the story. πŸ˜‰ But honestly people, dancing monsters? What’s not to love?!?!?

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