This Dark Endeavor
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August, 2011
GoodReads Summary: Bravery, danger, and intense passion. How does obsession begin? Victor and Konrad are the twin brothers Frankenstein. They are nearly inseparable. Growing up, their lives are filled with imaginary adventures...until the day their adventures turn all too real. They stumble upon The Dark Library, and secret books of alchemy and ancient remedies are discovered. Father forbids that they ever enter the room again, but this only peaks Victor's curiosity more. When Konrad falls gravely ill, Victor is not be satisfied with the various doctors his parents have called in to help. He is drawn back to The Dark Library where he uncovers an ancient formula for the Elixir of Life. Elizabeth, Henry, and Victor immediately set out to find assistance in a man who was once known for his alchemical works to help create the formula. Determination and the unthinkable outcome of losing his brother spur Victor on in the quest for the three ingredients that will save Konrad's life. After scaling the highest trees in the Strumwald, diving into the deepest lake caves, and sacrificing one’s own body part, the three fearless friends risk their lives to save another.
What I Think: I read the book Frankenstein during my lit degree and found that it is one of the classics I truly enjoyed. If you've read it, you know that the star of the book is not the monster, but Victor Frankenstein. Mary Shelley gives us quite a bit of back story about Victor showing his interest in the sciences as well as the loss that ultimately pushes him to try to recreate life; however, Kenneth Oppel has taken Shelley's story and added more depth to it while still paying homage and being true to the styling and story that Shelley wrote.
From the beginning I was engrossed in Oppel's story of a teenage Victor Frankenstein as well as his twin brother Konrad, their cousin Elizabeth and friend Henry. I really enjoyed that Oppel stuck primarily with characters found in the original novel, but threw in a twin brother to add some conflict within the story. The story arc was perfectly paced and it held my attention the whole time. The main characters were well developed and you instantly liked the four-some.
I will definitely need to look back through this book, though, because Kenneth Oppel not only tells a great adventure story, he writes beautifully as well and I, unfortunately, did not jot down all of the snatches of text that I enjoyed while reading.
This book will be an asset to any classroom that is teaching Frankenstein as it is a great companion to the classic which may reel in more readers than reading the classic alone.
Read Together: Grades 7 to 12
Read Alone: Grades 8 to 12
Read With: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey, Montmorency by Eleanor Updale
Snatch of Text: "When she'd first arrived, she was like a feral cat. She hid. Konrad and I, seven years old, were forever trying to find her. To us it was a wonderful game of hide-and-seek. But it was no amusement to her; she just wanted to be left alone. If we found her, she became very angry. She hissed and snarled and hit. Sometimes she bit." p. 10
"I felt oddly incomplete, moving about the chateau without my twin. Not that we were always side by side, but I felt his absences more intensely now. Once, when we were six, and Mother was unwell during her pregnancy with Ernest, Father made us each stay with different relations for a fortnight.
It was one of the most miserable times of my life.
But this was worse. Why wasn't Konrad getting better?" p. 45
Mentor Text for: Making Connections, Predicting, Suspense
Writing Prompts: After reading This Dark Endeavor, what clues do you see throughout Oppel's novel that foreshadows the man Victor will become in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein?; How are Elizabeth and Victor's relationship similar/different in This Dark Endeavor than their relationship in Frankenstein?
Topics Covered: Alchemy, Love, Twins, Science
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