Monday, August 8, 2011

This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel

Victor Frankenstein wasn’t always a monster creator. At fifteen years old, Victor lives with his family near Geneva in the Frankenstein home. His father, a diplomat, tends business and travels frequently while his mother stays home. Of all of Victor’s siblings though, it’s his twin brother Konrad that Victor is closest to. Another family member, their distant cousin Elizabeth, has also come to live with them and the three make a lively pair.

Although Victor and Konrad are twins, their personalities are vastly different. While Konrad is gentle and slow to anger, Victor is vicarious, always looking for adventure and prone to anger quickly. Elizabeth, with a fiery temper, is not one to back down, but also realizes the importance of kindness.  And as with all twins, there is definitely sibling rivalry. This rivalry becomes apparent when Elizabeth gives more attention to Konrad than Victor.

One boring day, the three and their curiosity lead them to an old cellar door in the castle where they find the Dark Library. In the stacks are books of alchemy and old magic, including the Occulta Philosphia,  and when the boys’ father finds them there, he forbids them to ever come back. But when Konrad falls deathly ill, Victor will stop at nothing to save his brother, including taking this dark book from the Bibliotecka Obscura, to find a solution.

Without the help of the old magic, both Elizabeth and Victor know they’ll lose Konrad. They soon learn about an alchemist, a dangerous castoff, who is willing to help them if they can procure the ingredients for an elixir to help Konrad. But is Polidori, the alchemist, truly trying to help or using them for his own dark gain?

This is an excellent premise to the birth of Victor Frankenstein in the classic tale by Mary Shelley. Part historical fiction, part fantasy, the reader will be drawn into the adventure, and mystery all the having the opportunity to see Victor become the man known in legend and what circumstances brought him to that dark place. Not only does Oppel create an adventure mystery, but he also adds the element of teenage relationships into the mix, giving this book credence for both guys and girls to pick up and read. Oppel leaves the ending open for another dark look into the making of Victor Frankenstein (this is Book One), but for now, this book does an excellent job of that. Recommended. Published by Simon & Schuster, 2011.  Due out 8/11.

No comments: