Review Blog

Aug 08 2012

This Dark Endeavour : The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel

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David Fickling Books, 2012. ISBN 9781849920896.
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Frankenstein is arguably one of the most iconic and enduring of fictional characters, created by Mary Shelley in the early 19th century. It is reckoned by many to be the first true science fiction story and both retold and parodied in countless formats and generating a slew of subsequent 'horror' stories.
Kenneth Oppel breathes new life into Shelley's creation by offering us insight into Victor Frankenstein's youth. The son of a well regarded and affluent Genovese family and an identical twin, Victor's character is both likeable and somehow repellent. Oppel takes the original Shelley characters and shows us clearly how each has import into the formation of Victor's passion (and eventual despair). Cleverly inserting other names relevant to the original text, Oppel reveals close knowledge of Shelley's work and its genesis. His characters are excellently drawn with substantial depth and become very real to the reader.
Frankenstein's family appears on the surface to be, in a sense, perfect but from the outset the reader begins to see the undercurrents of past dark misdeeds and contemporary conflicting standards. Oppel clearly demonstrates throughout the book the duality of human nature - the constant struggle for some between good and evil. The reader debates continually the philosophy of dark deeds performed with right intention and vice versa.
Every bit as much the Gothic page turner that the original was in the 19th century, this book held a compelling fascination, albeit sinister at times, for this reader. The mix of high drama, mysterious alchemy, a love triangle, villains and heroes keep the action flowing at a great pace. Highly recommended for readers from 12 upwards particularly those with an affinity for the genre.
Sue Warren (Teacher-Librarian, Qld)

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