Book Review: This Dark Endeavor

June 05, 2012

This Dark Endeavor Book Review | allonsykimberly.comLast month I read This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel. It was on my list of recommended books by GoodReads, and the synopsis instantly grabbed my attention.

As the subtitle implies, this is a prequel to Marie Shelley’s Frankenstein. It takes place when Victor is 16 years old [I seem to have a thing for stories narrated by teenage boys] and his twin brother, Konrad, falls seriously ill. Desperate to save his life, and maybe gain glory for himself, Victor sets out on a quest along with his friend Henry and [distant] cousin Elizabeth to learn the secrets of alchemy and create the Elixir of Life. It’s a dark tale full of mystery, adventure, danger, and a little bit of love. All the makings of a good story – at least in my opinion.

At first, I really wasn’t diggin’ the main character, Victor. He was jealous and arrogant and overwhelmingly brooding. This didn’t necessarily change over the course of the book, but I got to know him and his family and environment and that helped me to accept and tolerate his personality more. I did like that he, as well as the other main characters, were so obviously flawed [well, except for Konrad]. A lot of times, especially in YA Fiction, I find that the characters – most often love interests – are nauseatingly perfect. But that’s not the case here.

Overall, the story was well written – for a YA novel. At times it was a little more simple than what I would have liked, but not so much so that it was painful to read or anything. It was very fast paced – I don’t think there was ever really a dull moment – and it was short – just under 300 pages. Oppel does a good job of giving all the characters very distinct and believable personalities, and even with my initial distaste for Victor, I still found myself liking and routing for him by the end of the book.

The plot was interesting and definitely appealed to me – if you hadn’t already figured out, I sort of have a thing for dark fantasy adventure stories – and I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of alchemy. The story itself, however, was kind of predictable. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good story, it was and I enjoyed reading it immensely, but I guess once you’ve read so many of these kinds of tales you start to figure out the plot twists ahead of time.
Then there’s the whole love triangle, which was actually no where near as annoying as it sounds. There weren’t any irritating “who do I choose” moments – maybe there would have been if it was from Elizabeth’s POV, but thankfully it wasn’t. I have no problems with love stories – they just need to be subtle and not distract from the main point of the book. And this one didn’t, so I liked it, even if it was a little bit awkward at times – it’s from the POV of a 16 year old boy after all.

I did enjoy the book, and it was a very good story, but that’s all it really felt like to me – just a story. A fun read, but nothing remarkable. Nevertheless, I would still recommend it to anyone who likes these types of YA fantasy/adventure stories. And I’m still pretty pumped for the sequel, Such Wicked Intent, that’s set to be published in August. Oh, and they’re making a movie version sometime next year – so that’s pretty cool too.

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