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This Dark Endeavour: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by K. Oppel

Oppel, Kenneth. This Dark Endeavour: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. Toronto: Harper Collins, 2011. Print.

Victor has always felt less than worthy compared to his twin brother, Konrad, who is the better swordsman, the more gracious gentleman, and the beloved of their cousin Elizabeth, whom they both love dearly. Yet when Konrad falls mysteriously and deathly ill, Victor’s love for his brother encourages him to follow a dangerous quest. Victor is a passionate, if somewhat arrogant, protagonist, who is at times unlikeable, yet strangely alluring.

Victor has recently stumbled upon the hidden Dark Library in the family’s chateau, a library filled with ancient scientific works by such legendary alchemists as Paracelsus and Agrippa. In direct violation of his father’s orders, Victor wishes to create the Elixir of Life that he believes will save his brother. He, Elizabeth, and their family friend, Henry, seek the help of local alchemist and outcast, Julius Polidori, whose apothecary shop is coincidentally located in Wollstonecraft Alley. Polidori promises to translate the ancient texts and instruct Victor on how to collect the three necessary ingredients for the elixir. The recovery of each of the key substances frequently puts the characters in life-threatening situations while testing their bravery and dedication to their quest. This dark tale ends in such a foreboding way, promising future adventures for Victor.

This is an absorbing gothic tale that serves as a prequel to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Aimed at teens, it will hopefully serve as a unique way to get young adults interested in both classic literature and the history of science and magic. This book will likely appeal to those who enjoyed the later darker novels in the Harry Potter series, as it too explores the interconnections between faith, science, and magic. Paracelsus and Agrippa were mentioned in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, in which alchemy was also a prevalent theme. Readers will find the adventure captivating, and may want to watch for the movie version, which is expected to be released in 2013.

Highly Recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Trish Chatterley

Trish is a Public Services Librarian for the John W. Scott Health Sciences Library at the University of Alberta. In her free time she enjoys dancing, gardening, and reading books of all types.