I know you’ve heard of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster. You’ve probably also seen a movie about him or read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for school or some light gothic reading. But have you ever wondered what made Victor Frankenstein become the man who created the “Monster”? What drove him to want to create life from nothing?

What Kenneth Oppel has done with This Dark Endeavor is help answer these questions and more, most of which I never knew to ask because it doesn’t always occur to me that everyone has an origin story. And Victor’s origin story is a great one.

In this prequel to Mary Shelley’s gothic classic, Frankenstein, fifteen-year-old Victor Frankenstein begins a dark journey that will change his life forever. Victor’s twin, Konrad, has fallen ill, and no doctor is able to cure him. Unwilling to give up on his brother, Victor enlists his beautiful cousin Elizabeth and his best friend, Henry, on a treacherous search for the ingredients to create the forbidden Elixir of Life. Impossible odds, dangerous alchemy, and a bitter love triangle threaten their quest at every turn.

Victor knows he must not fail. But his success depends on how far he is willing to push the boundaries of nature, science and love – and how much he is willing to sacrifice.

From the first page to the last word, this book grabbed my attention and held it. My heart was racing as Kenneth put several characters’ lives in danger from the get-go and it never stopped until several minutes after I finished.

Victor was an interesting character. He has a bit of an ego that comes off as arrogance when you’re first reading his POV, but after a short time, I was completely charmed by him. I guess you could credit this to my bias toward arrogant men. (You just have to meet my boyfriend to see this. And the fact that I LOVE Eric Northman.) But seriously, Victor’s not all arrogance and ego. He has a vulnerable side which comes out when his brother gets sick. Regardless of what happens between them, they love each other and, in a way, are two halves of a whole, which becomes very apparent with how much Victor is willing to sacrifice to get a “cure” for his brother’s illness.

There’s something captivating about the voice Kenneth has created for Victor. More so than in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Of course by then he’s already a mad genius, not a boy on the verge of committing himself to that life. Plus Frankenstein focuses on the monster quite a bit, too.

But back to Victor’s voice.

I can’t pin it down, but there’s definitely something there that makes you like him and think him egotistical at the same time, but you don’t care. Like Christian Slater’s character in Heathers. (I’m dating myself with that reference, aren’t I?) I love Christian Slater in that movie. Who doesn’t? He’s the cliche bad boy, set on a path of becoming psychotic and destructive, but he’s also darkly charming and passionate about what he believes in. It’s easy to get sucked in to his craziness, which I see happening to everyone who reads This Dark Endeavor. (And yes, I did just compare Christian Slater to Victor Frankenstein. If you think about it for a second, it would be a brilliant casting decision for Christian to play Victor. I mean, if John Cusack can play Edgar Allen Poe, Christian Slater can be Dr. Frankenstein.)

There’s so much more I can say about Victor, but I want to leave some things as a mystery.

This book is gothic and gritty and so very, very good. I’m so glad there will be a follow-up to it because Victor’s transformation is not over and I can’t wait to see what Kenneth Oppel has planned for him next.

This Dark Endeavor will be released on August 23, 2011 from Simon & Schuster. I strongly urge you to buy it or borrow it or request it from your local library when it comes out because you do not want to miss out on this book.

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