This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Opel

This Dark Endeavour is an interesting idea that brings to us a young Victor Frankenstein, aged 16 going on 17 living with his family on their estate in Switzerland.  At the start of the story we are introduced to Victor and the other three main characters – Elizabeth, Henry and his identical twin brother Konrad.  So, there’s the twist.  Opel has invented a twin brother for us.

The story is told through Victor and so we get to see that whilst he and Konrad are virtually inseparable and have a very close bond Victor doesn’t always have the ‘nicest’ thoughts towards his brother.  He’s certainly not the favourite of either the family or servants and his feelings of jealousy are on the increase.  Konrad is easy going and charming, easily winning the affection of those around them, including Elizabeth,  Victor has to struggle to achieve the same accomplishments and is deeply competitive and constantly striving to out-achieve his brother.  I enjoyed some of the ideas that the author incorporates about the twins – for example that sometimes Victor watches his brother and because they’re identical it’s as though he’s experiencing watching himself.  Or that he sometimes struggles with why somebody might prefer his brother – because they’re identical aren’t they?

Fairly early in the story Konrad falls ill with a mysterious disease of the blood, one which seems to be incurable.  This is where the main quest, or indeed endeavour, begins.  Victor and Elizabeth stumble accidentally upon a secret passage that leads to a dark laboratory containing old leather bound books, books that have been forbidden for the dark secrets which they contain – one of them contains the recipe for the elixir of life – an elixir that Konrad needs for his brother.

From there onwards, working in secret the three start their adventures.  Adventures that lead them through thick and dark forests at the dead of night, that takes them down twisted alleys in search of an old and mysterious alchemist and that will lead them down into the deepest caverns to find a creature believed to be extinct.

I enjoyed this book, it was very entertaining and had plenty going on.  It’s also told in a fairly accessible and easy to read manner yet still manages to retain a certain gothic feel.  I’m intrigued to read the next book (I believe there are two) to see how Victor’s character continues to develop and to see his darker side take more control.  He’s not a bad character, but he is stubborn – to the extent that he cannot accept failure or defeat.

I think what would definitely be interesting – as this is being told as a prequel really (which I’m  not fond of usually) – would be to read both these and to follow up with reading Shelley’s Frankenstein.  I can’t imagine that they would flow somehow.  The writing style is obviously not the same although it may gave the older YA audience a certain appeal, once they’ve started with this tale, to continue and read the rest of Victor’s story (and that certainly would be a good thing).

So, will I read No.2 – definitely.  I may even follow it up with Shelley’s to see whether the stories all gel.

In terms of criticisms, I don’t necessarily have one with the story itself – just more of a puzzlement about why not just make this a standalone adventure/dark tale not related to Frankenstein.  I think it would work perfectly fine on it’s own merits and to a certain extent can’t help wondering why, as an author, you would attempt to write a beginning, or end, to another author’s story – it seems to me that it will always be held up in comparison with the original author’s work rather than standing by itself.  That being said, I do like the idea of a young frankenstein and seeing the motivations that made him into the man who created the monster and we certainly won’t get that story unless another author writes it.

I think if you’re expecting something similar to Frankenstein this may not be for you – I found this to be much more of an adventure story although I suspect it may take a darker turn in the next book.  It’s easy to read and in fact quite gripping as the tension rises.  It also has quite a nasty ‘baddie’ who gave me the creeps!  I enjoyed reading about the Frankensteins and the background portrayed here plus the author manages to throw in a few ‘shout outs’ to the original story.

All in all an interesting concept, well told.

And, as this brings to us Victor Frankenstein, a mysterious laboratory and a few dark adventures I will include this for my RIP event that I’m taking part in over at Stainless Steel Droppings.

3 Responses to “This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Opel”

  1. TBM

    I was wondering the same thing, why have the connection to Frankenstein. It sounds like a creepy tale all on its own.

    • lynnsbooks

      I think the story could have been a standalone the only thing I can think of is that the author is thinking that people will be curious to read about this earlier story that’s been created around a character that we’re already familiar with.

      Lynn 😀

      • TBM

        That’s how it feels. he’s riding on someone else’s coattails. Seems like he’s talented enough not to have to.

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