Reviews for This Dark Endeavor : The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein

Booklist Reviews 2011 June #1
That Victor Frankenstein must've been a handful as a teen, eh? The latest entry in the why-hasn't-anyone-thought-of-this-before category is this cunning take on Victor's formative years, which (no surprise) are filled with wild temper, intellectual passion, and an aptitude for renegade science. When 15-year-old Victor's twin brother, Konrad, is struck by a dire illness, Victor, his cousin Elizabeth, and friend Henry take advantage of the Dark Library they recently found hidden behind a bookshelf. Swiftly, they become confederates with Polidori, a shamed alchemist who sets before the trio the challenge of assembling three ingredients, each more harrowing to acquire than the last. Brash, jealous, and arrogant, Victor is sweet relief from today's introspective YA protagonists, and one can easily visualize how this teen becomes the mad genius of Shelley's Frankenstein. Elizabeth feels less like her literary counterpart, and the middle section drags in classic teen sleuthing. Thankfully--and almost out of nowhere--the final 50 pages explode into wild, gory theatrics that prove Oppel isn't afraid to reach into his characters' darkest hearts. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
Konrad and Victor Frankenstein, sixteen-year-old twins, live near Geneva in the late 1700s. When Konrad contracts a mysterious illness, Victor searches for answers through alchemy. Secrecy, deception, and a love triangle complicate the quest. Written from Victor's perspective and filled with his believable internal moral struggles, Oppel's novel is a gripping tale of undying devotion, mixing hope with foreboding. Copyright 2012 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2011 #4
Konrad and Victor Frankenstein, sixteen-year-old identical twin brothers and best friends, live with their family in a chateau just outside of Geneva in the late 1700s. Konrad is sensible and charming, whereas Victor is rash, headstrong, and arrogant. When Konrad contracts a mysterious illness the doctors are unable to cure, Victor, their cousin Elizabeth Lavenza, and their close friend Henry Clerval search for an answer in the Dark Library, a secret room inside the chateau where they discover alchemist Cornelius Agrippa's Elixir of Life recipe. In a race against Konrad's failing health, the three friends repeatedly risk their own lives to track down the elixir's ingredients. Secrecy, a love triangle, and ultimately deception complicate this dangerous quest, but as Oppel makes hauntingly clear, it is Victor's intense desire to save Konrad's life, no matter the cost, that propels the novel's action. As a prequel to Mary Shelley's gothic classic Frankenstein, this is both meticulously researched and highly original, with the invention of Konrad providing a provocative backstory. The story continually hints at how the brothers' personality differences and Konrad's illness will inevitably lead Victor down the dark path that consumes his adult life. Written from Victor's perspective and filled with his believable internal moral struggles, Oppel's novel is a gripping tale of undying devotion, mixing hope with foreboding. cynthia k. ritter Copyright 2011 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 July #2

When his identical twin Konrad falls ill, 15-year-old Victor risks life, body and soul to try and find a cure in this prequel to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein by Printz Honor–winner Oppel (Airborn, 2004).

Though Victor has always felt an unreciprocated sense of sibling rivalry toward his brother, he will do anything to save Konrad. His parents trust in new medical treatments, and his cousin Elizabeth Lavenza prays to God, but Victor starts studying occult books in the secret library of his family's excessively gothic Swiss chateau. Seeking ingredients for the Elixir of Life, Victor, Elizabeth, Konrad and their friend Henry Clerval embark on a quest "all the more glorious for being full of dangers and terror." Victor's umpteen narrow escapes provide a welcome distraction from a somewhat incestuous and laboriously developed love triangle. The author gestures toward big issues—religion, women's rights, class inequality—but focuses primarily on extensive action sequences. Victor too often describes himself in relation to Konrad, but he develops into a complex and troubled character as the inevitable conclusion draws near. A subplot involving a crippled alchemist and his pet lynx steer the story more toward horror and fantasy than Enlightenment-era science fiction.

A dark and dramatic back story for Shelley's tormented creator. (Gothic. 12 & up) 


Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal BookSmack
In four years of college, I was assigned Mary Shelley's Frankenstein three times, and each time I wondered how Victor Frankenstein developed his strange obsession. Oppel attempts to answer that question, building a backstory for one of literature's most complicated protagonists. Victor Frankenstein is the son of a wealthy Geneva landowner. When his twin brother Konrad falls ill, Victor discovers an abandoned alchemist's study in the family manor, learns of the elusive Elixir of Life, and enlists his friends in making it. In Oppel's subtle hands, Victor is a completely sympathetic character and at the same time everything that Mary Shelley set him up to be-reckless, irreligious, and unaware of the future consequences of his pursuit. The ending leaves open the possibility that readers will enjoy the opportunity to follow him still further on his tragic path. - "35 Going on 13" Booksmack! 9/15/11 (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 June #1

In this stylish gothic tale, first in a planned series, teenage Victor Frankenstein makes a desperate attempt to create the forbidden alchemical Elixir of Life, in order to save his beloved twin brother, Konrad, from an untimely death. Aided by his steadfast friend Henry and his adopted sister, Elizabeth, who both twins love to distraction, Victor sets out to acquire the necessary ingredients, scales the tallest tree in the Sturmwald during a lightning storm to acquire a rare and poisonous lichen, later descending into a dangerous Swiss cave in search of the equally rare and even deadlier coelacanth. Victor, already a mad scientist in training, is passionate and easily angered, and Elizabeth makes for a fiery love interest. Written in a readable approximation of early 19th-century style, Oppel's (Half Brother) tale is melodramatic, exciting, disquieting, and intentionally over the top. For the most part, Oppel hews closely to the Frankenstein mythos, and with a delicious mix of science, history, and horror, he peers into the psyche of a young man who is beginning to hunger for greater control over life and death. Ages 12-up. (Aug.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 October

Gr 7-10--When Konrad Frankenstein, the beloved twin brother of headstrong, quick-tempered Victor, falls inexplicably and deathly ill, Victor embarks on a dark quest to find a cure. Enlisting the help of his cousin/adopted sister, Elizabeth, and his best friend, Henry Clerval, he seeks a disreputable alchemist named Polidori who sends them to retrieve the ingredients for a potion that will supposedly restore Konrad's health. However, the potion also has a history of killing those who drink it. Despite the ambiguous nature of the remedy, Victor feverishly follows his course, pulling himself, Henry, and Elizabeth into greater danger with each relentless step. Sharp readers will find allusions to Mary Shelley, her literary circle, and classic horror films; for those simply wanting a good story with plenty of action, this book will not disappoint. Many details remain the same as in the original work; for instance, Victor's arrogant desire to overcome the power of illness and death makes him a slightly unlikable protagonist. But here's a sign of a good storyteller: readers may not like Victor, but they will certainly want to find out what happens to him.--Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO

[Page 144]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

VOYA Reviews 2011 October
A prequel to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, This Dark Endeavor introduces readers to a teenage Victor Frankenstein as he attempts to save his twin brother, Konrad, from an incurable, debilitating illness. Following the unexpected discovery of a hidden, dark library within the familial Chateau Frankenstein, Victor; his alluring cousin, Elizabeth; and their good friend, Henry, set off on a quest to find the ingredients needed to create the Elixir of Life in order to cure Konrad. The action and suspense begin on page one and let up very little in this excellent work of gothic science fiction. Oppel is the Printz Honor-winning author of Airborn (HarperCollins, 2005/VOYA June 2006) and the award-winning Silverwing Trilogy (Alladin, 1999/VOYA April 1998), and his latest novel is on a path toward critical acclaim as well, with its eerie setting and nuanced main characters. According to the author's website, film rights have already been purchased by the producer of the Twilight films, and a script and director have been selected. This Dark Endeavor should receive a lot of attention and hopefully lead many readers to the literary classic by which it was inspired.--Elaine Gass Hirsch 5Q 4P M J S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.