This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel

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This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Superb prequel of Mary Shelley's classic Frankenstein, this is a fantastic read for everyone, not just fans of Gothic horror. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: October 2012
Publisher: David Fickling
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0857560124

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Longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013

Victor and Konrad Frankenstein are twins, born just two minutes apart. They look alike but their personalities couldn't be more different. Konrad is calm, assured and capable. People like him. Victor is intense and arrogant with a burning ambition. He rubs people up the wrong way more often than not. The twins live with their beautiful, sometimes wayward, cousin Elizabeth and the three are educated alongside great friend and wordsmith Henry. It's a charmed life in the Frankenstein chateau in the Genevese republic.

But then Konrad falls ill with a mysterious fever. The doctors are at a loss. Unless Victor, Elizabeth and Henry can find a way to recreate the forbidden Elixir of Life, it seems as though Konrad will die...

... but can the three overcome impossible odds, dangerous alchemy, unrequited love and a whole host of other obstacles?

Wow! A prequel to Mary Shelley's original, I thought this was a marvellous book. Oppel has captured the feel of the source classic perfectly. The careful and precise vocabulary, the formal speech of his characters, the elegant and sophisticated prose style - these all echo nineteenth century Gothic fiction wonderfully. At the same time, he has pared down the whole thing so that it's also accessible to modern teenagers. It never seems dry. This is a tricky balance and Oppel manages it with flying colours.

The young Victor is as driven, arrogant and resentful of others as he is in the Shelley novel. It's difficult to like him but easy to react to him. He is a vivid firebrand of a boy whose courage and commitment is easy to admire but whose character is difficult to feel sympathy - or empathy - for. Anyone who has read the original will already know how things pan out but Oppel also brings his own truly Gothic feeling of dread and menace to the adventure and I think anyone coming to the Frankenstein legend for the first time won't waste a moment before tracking down the original.

I truly can't recommend This Dark Endeavour highly enough. It's a sophisticated novel with a classic feel, it has real drama and tragedy and and a morally ambiguous but charismatic character. And the writing is top notch. This book doesn't just appeal to fans of Gothic fiction - it's for anyone who likes a classy read. Don't miss it.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern moves from town to town; appearing with no warning, no announcements. Fans of creepiness will love it. Those who like accurate historical fiction in the classical style will love The Highwayman's Curse by Nicola Morgan. And if you want more Frankenstein, then we highly recommend Mister Creecher by Chris Priestley. We also have reviews of Such Wicked Intent (Victor Frankenstein) and Starclimber both by Kenneth Oppel.

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