This Dark Endeavor
A deft and witty gothic tale, This Dark Endeavor recreates the youth and first experiments of Victor Frankenstein, the famous revivalist of Mary Shelley’s classic novel. Victor, here supplied with a twin brother, Konrad, is passionately attracted to the occult sciences, and exploring his family’s castle stumbles on a room full of very dangerous books. When Konrad falls ill, Victor undertakes to save him by brewing up an elixir of life from an ancient recipe. His cousin Elizabeth and best friend Henry help him, but Victor and Konrad are both in love with Elizabeth, which lends a fine overcast of conflicted emotions to the story.
The writing is delightful, overwrought and eloquent, as fits the theme. Finding the ingredients for the elixir drives the plot, and permits some stunning action sequences—a night climb up a tree while attacked by vultures; subterranean cave swimming; a spectacular escape from an ogre. Frankenstein himself is beautifully drawn, brilliant and devious, consumed with his passions. Oppel scatters the path with inside jokes—the ogre is named Polidori, his home is in Wollstonekraftallee—and the details of alchemy and forbidden science are cleverly presented. Labeled as YA, this is a lovely read for anybody.