Review of This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel

Rating 4/511992460

Victor Frankenstein begins a dark journey that will change his life forever. Victor’s twin, Konrad, has fallen ill, and no doctor is able to cure him. Unwilling to give up on his brother, Victor enlists his beautiful cousin Elizabeth and best friend Henry on a treacherous search for the ingredients to create the forbidden Elixir of Life. Impossible odds, dangerous alchemy and a bitter love triangle threaten their quest at every turn.

Victor knows he must not fail. But his success depends on how far he is willing to push the boundaries of nature, science, and love—and how much he is willing to sacrifice.

This Dark Endeavour is the second Kenneth Oppel book I’ve read. Airborne was the first, and it made me eager to read more.

This Dark Endeavour is different from Airborne, but it’s told with the same sharp, fast-paced writing style that make Oppel’s books addictive. Told in first person, by Victor Frankenstein, This Dark Endeavour is a fast-paced adventure with some horror. Some horror—but not enough. This is Frankenstein’s childhood, and there are a lot of cool references to what will come, but Oppel didn’t take full advantage of the horror element.

Maybe that wasn’t what his intent. The horror comes strongest through Victor’s character. And the characters are probably the strongest part of the book. Victor isn’t a typical hero. Sometimes you’re not sure if he’s a bad guy, or what he’ll do next. And the first person narration takes full advantage of that. Unreliable narrators are the best kind of narrators. The other characters are well developed, and established well for the sequel. Oppel hints at Victor’s obsession with pseudo-science, playing on Mary Shelly’s ideas, but also changing them to make things less predictable.

The story is a little thin and felt more middle-grade than young-adult. Not that that’s a bad thing. The quest for ingredients to make a healing elixir makes for a solid plot, but I didn’t think it was original enough to get a full five rating. But what the plot lacks, the pace and action make up—with plenty of both. The quest element ensures there is never a dull moment and the characters move from one gripping set piece to the next. The sharp description helps the pace too, and Oppel knows what needs describing and what can be left to the imagination. The atmosphere is gloomy and forbidding from the start and helps build some great tension.

The ‘twist’ at the end was expected, but it offered an exciting climax that moved to the next twist which I didn’t expect. Things are set up well for the sequel, even if I’m not all that sure where it will go.

The characters are the strongest element of this book, but it also offers plenty of action, tension and pace. The writing is sharp and addictive. The plot could have been stronger, but Victor’s character shifts helped keep things interesting. Maybe Oppel could have focused more on the horror, but this is still a strong gothic fantasy adventure.

Highly recommended.


About Sam Whitehouse

Sam spends most of his time in a different world to other people. If it isn’t one he’s created himself, it’s one he’s reading about. In the rare moments when this isn’t the case, Sam can either be found addicted to a sci-fi or crime show, re-watching Marvel movies, finishing up an assignment for his final year of studying Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University, or trying to get the dozens of ideas for stories in his head under some kind of control. Sam has lived in the same small village in Yorkshire, surrounded by countryside on all sides ever since he could remember. His childhood saw him get into plenty of scrapes climbing trees and crossing rivers and generally believing he was Indiana Jones. Sam gives credit to his Grandad for him wanting to be a writer, and his bedtime stories for keeping Sam’s imagination stoked. But credit must also go to Steven Spielberg, J K Rowling and Stephen King, who have provided plenty of inspiration over the years, too. Sam writes what he reads, and that is pretty much anything—save romance. Fantasy, thrillers, or crime: once an idea takes root, he can’t stop until the world, characters, and plot are on paper. A huge Marvel fan, Sam one day hopes to pen a screenplay for one of their movies, or direct one, or do anything at all related to one. Until then, he’ll stick to his own fantasy worlds and wait for Marvel’s phone call.

Posted on 04/08/2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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