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Sunday, January 15, 2012

This Dark Endeavor (The Dark Endeavor Chronicles #1) by Kenneth Oppel

The purest intentions can stir up the darkest obsessions.

In this prequel to Mary Shelley’s gothic classic, Frankenstein, 16-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 give up on his brother, Victor, his beautiful cousin Elizabeth, and best friend Henry begin 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.
First Look: ***** This looked pretty interesting.  The "bitter love triangle" thing made me pause at first, but I decided to give it a try.  I like books about twins anyway.  Don't know why; I just do. 

Setting: *****  I liked the historical aspects of the setting.  I got a good sense of the time period, and the culture associated with it.  I also liked the mansion, and the spooky secret passages.  I like secret passages in books, and I could really picture this one in my head while I was reading.  I could picture all the other settings very well too: Polidori's shop, the forest, the cave, all of it. 

Characters: *****
The characters were very realistic.  They reacted to situations just like real people react.  I had no trouble believing any of their characteristics and actions.  Konrad, Elizabeth, and Henry were very likable.  I liked the sibling-like interactions between them.  I liked Henry, especially.

And then we have Victor, our main character, our protagonist.  He was real enough, yes, but...  Well, I liked him at first.  But then, when he started getting involved with Elizabeth, he just became a total jerk.  I couldn't stand him.  I just wanted him to go jump back into that pit where the fish almost ate him.  He redeemed himself a little at the end, but not completely.  The author did a good job with him, though, because I felt for him even when I thought he was a jerk.  However that works.  Oppel pulled it off somehow. 

***** I very much enjoyed the plot.  I appreciated how it didn't try to be "big", didn't try to be world-shattering.  And yet, it was still compelling.  Victor wanted to save his brother.  The world didn't hang in the balance.  Don't get me wrong; I like that kind of scale.  But sometimes it's nice to have a break from it, too. 

I really wasn't bored during any of it.  It moved along at a good pace, and it kept me wanting to know what was going to happen.  And then, the end came along...  I won't spoil it, but I have to say: "KENNETH OPPEL, HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO US?"  It's an "Oh, good, wait, WHAT JUST HAPPENED?" sort of ending.  I suppose I should've seen it coming, but still.  Nice twist, and nice shocker.  I even had a little bit of Mockingjay Syndrome going on. 

Uniqueness: ***** It's not trying to be something it isn't.  I really like that in a book.  And it's not the standard YA love-triangle-for-the-sake-of-a-love-triangle kind of thing.  This time, it actually contributed to the plot.  (*gasp*  I know, right?)

Writing: ***** To tell you the truth, I don't remember much about the writing in this book.  Which is a good thing, actually.  It wasn't amazingly gorgeous or spectacular, but it told the story well.  There was nothing about it to distract me from the actual plot.  I think there might've been one typo, but I don't quite remember.  Oppel had neat, tight prose,  the kind that gets in, tells the story, and then gets out before you even know it's there. 

Likes: The ending!

The ending!  Yes, I know.  I both like and dislike it. 

Total Score:
I really enjoyed this book.  It's fairly short compared to most books I read, but it was still an engaging read.  The characters were believable and likable (okay, except when you're wanting Victor to go away and never come back).  It's historical, but with just enough science fiction elements to keep sci-fi and fantasy lovers happy.  Recommended!

PS: Have I heard about all the Goodreads drama?  Yes.  Will I dedicate an entire post to it?  No.  Why?  Well, a) it's immature b) it's immature, and c) it's immature.  I only have three things to say about it:
1. These authors have just done a really good job of ensuring many people won't read their books.
2. If I ever behave like that as a published author, I give my characters full permission to shun me until J. K. Rowling starts writing Amish romance stories.
3. Just...really?
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