Here is my first review of the New Year! Now, this I'm excited to share. I'm jumping up and down excited!! Now, last year I read my first Kenneth Oppel novel, Half Brother and I quite enjoyed it. In fact, I wanted to read some other books by him, so I took them out of my library at the school I work at--I'm the librarian--but naturally, I got distracted and sidetracked and haven't read them yet. One day in the fall I realized Mr. Oppel was writing a series based on Frankenstein and I just knew I had to read it, so I did pick up the first in the series, which I'm sharing with you today.
Summary from Goodreads
Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 22nd 2012
by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
They stumble upon the Dark Library and discover secret books of alchemy and ancient remedies. Father forbids them from ever entering the room again, but when Konrad falls gravely ill, Victor is drawn back to the Dark Library where he uncovers an ancient formula for the Elixir of Life. Victor, along with his beautiful cousin Elizabeth and friend Henry, immediately set out to find a man who was once known for his alchemical works to help them create the formula.
Determined to save Konrad, the three friends scale the highest trees in Strumwald, dive into the deepest lakes, and even make an unthinkable sacrifice in their quest for the elixir’s ingredients. And as if their task was not complicated enough, a new realm of danger—that of illicit love—threatens to end the ordeal in tragedy.
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein has long been one of my favourite novels. There is something about the creation of the creature, the monster that fires my imagination and also, there is something so pitiable about both him and Victor Frankenstein that the story always remains within me. So when I saw that Kenneth Oppel, an award winning Canadian author, had written a YA novel about Frankenstein, I was totally excited.
I was immediately drawn into Victor Frankenstein's world. And, as different as it from Shelley's world, since this Victor is much younger, it still remained very much grounded in the world Shelley created in her Romantic novel. And I was drawn in largely by Victor himself. He was a character that was utterly compelling, very different from the Victor I know but still, largely the same character. And if I pitied him in Frankenstein, then in This Dark Endeavour I feel doubly sorry for him.
Victor is an identical twin, a bit of a departure from Shelley's tale, but he is the younger twin, and the twin that shines the less brightly. Konrad, his twin, is the brighter twin, the more charming one, the one favoured even, and Victor feels slightly less. He loves his twin dearly, he feels as though there is no one he is closer to, but there is no denying that he is jealous of Konrad as well. Konrad has everything, even Elizabeth's love, and Victor has had to fight and work hard to obtain the same level of mastery in the things that come so naturally to Konrad. And he doesn't always obtain the same ability.
When Konrad falls mysteriously ill, and the doctors seems unable to heal him, Victor begins seriously studying alchemy in the hopes that he might find a cure for his brother. He is determined to find the Elixir of Life so that Konrad may never be ill again, determined to cure his brother, determined to claim this miracle as his own brainchild, his own genius. He is an arrogant, impulsive, selfish character a lot of the time, he acts the part of a jealous lover towards both Konrad and Elizabeth once he discovers that they are in love, but he is also insecure, passionate, unflinchingly loyal and ashamed of himself for resenting his brother because he truly loves Konrad. His vanity and anger will drive him to madness. Konrad's death at the end of the novel has securely set his feet along a path that will lead to madness, and I truly pity Victor.
Oppel delivers a novel that is action packed throughout, with characters that are vividly alive and rich. I really want to see how Victor will deal with his feelings for Elizabeth now that Konrad is dead. He desperately wants her, truly loves her, but there is no denying that Victor will become unstable. And Elizabeth for her part, loves Victor as more than a brother I think. Konrad allowed the angel in her to shine, but Victor allows her to unleash her passion and fire. I think Elizabeth will likely want to explore that passion at some point.
I'm extremely impressed with this novel, and can't wait to read the second in the series.
5 glittering stars