Wednesday, August 29, 2012

This Dark Endeavor Review

Book talk: Victor thought he had discovered all the secret passages in the Frankenstein estate.  But there are always more secrets to be uncovered--although sometimes they are best left in darkness.  When they stumbled across the Dark Library it almost killed them, as it had the last unfortunate person who had been trapped inside.  Yet Victor felt its strange allure as he scanned the forbidden titles, and even as he promised his father he'd never return, he doubted he'd be able to resist them.  Now his twin brother is sick and all the doctors and science that his parents enlist cannot cure him.  But there is a recipe for an elixir in one of the alchemical titles that might.  Gathering the ingredients will be dangerous and there's no guarantee the potion will work, but there's no guarantee that it won't either.   Would you stand by and hope for the best--or would you risk it all on a long shot?  For Victor, the answer is clear--and dark.

Rocks my socks:  The atmosphere is deliciously gothic and the pacing relentless.  The cast worked wonderfully together and had individual voices that were allowed to shine.  Henry had me cracking up with his various phobias and his poetic spirit while I admired Elizabeth's strong will, wit, and courage.  Polidori is an excellent creepy alchemist who both guides them in their ventures in the dark arts and warns them of the consequences of the practice.   I'd be remiss if I didn't mention his pet lynx--I'm always a sucker for intelligent cat characters.  I loved the idea of Victor having a twin that spurred his competitive spirit as he constantly tries to out-do his slightly older brother.  Konrad would be frustrating to have as a twin--intelligent, athletic, kind, level-headed, a favorite of everyone.  Plenty of novels would have him as the main character, or perhaps the strong-willed Elizabeth, or even the frightened Henry.  But not this novel.  Which is what makes it so wonderfully refreshing.  Victor is deeply flawed and not in a romantic way or due to some past hardship--he grew up in the same environment as his twin.  Yes, he is willing to sacrifice for his brother, but it remains unclear to both the reader and Victor himself whether the stronger motivation is his brother's health or his own desire to look like a hero by saving him.  He's obsessive and selfish and a bad influence as he leads his friends into danger on a regular basis.  I'm not sure I'd like to have him as a friend, but I enjoyed reading about him.  Although perhaps what sets him apart from other YA leads isn't so much his unheroic thoughts as much as the fact that Oppel allows him to voice them.  This makes him more realistic and relatable than many noble leads out there.  Perhaps this will allow readers to learn more from Victor's mistakes than they do from the good example of other characters.  At the very least it will be sure to entertain them.

Rocks in my socks: none

Every book its reader:  I'd give this to readers looking for a good gothic tale or just a fast-paced story with supernatural undercurrents.  The story is, as the title suggests, dark and at times violent.  Still I'd say it's fine for 6th grade and up.


There's a great book trailer at the publisher's YouTube page

Kenneth Oppel has a great webpage with several video interviews about the book, pages from Victor's sketchbook, a reading group guide, a blog, and more.

The original trailer for the Boris Karloff version will grab attention at the beginning of a book talk and could start a discussion on what versions of Frankenstein students have seen

Source: Free copy at #ALA12

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel: buy it or check it out today!

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