I read Kenneth Oppel’s This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein (HarperCollins) a year ago when it came out and devoured it. Sadly, because this was in my pre-blog days you will not find a review of this fascinating book on the blog. So before I dive into my review of its sequel, I thought I would share three reasons why I loved This Dark Endeavor (besides, the reasons carry over to the sequel anyway).
- You don’t have to have read Mary Shelley’s famous Frankenstein to follow the storyline; This Dark Endeavor stands on its own while doing a great job of building up to the classic. It made me want to run out and find a copy of Frankenstein right away. Anything that encourages the reading of other works of literature gets a thumbs-up from me!
- The tone and language really speaks of a time long ago. It is easy to imagine you are reading the writings of someone from a few hundred years ago. It’s truly one of the things I love most about this series—it makes becoming engrossed in the story so effortless.
- Victor Frankenstein. He is one of the most complex and intriguing characters/narrators I’ve read about. I love getting to be inside his head!
***SPOILER ALERT! Do not read any further if you have not read This Dark Endeavor! Go read This Dark Endeavor right now and then come back and finish the post.***
As for Such Wicked Intent (HarperCollins), I was not disappointed. It had everything I loved about This Dark Endeavor and still more facets of its own. While This Dark Endeavor (TDE) dealt with alchemy and was sometimes a bit supernatural, it took place in our world, on this “plane,” if you will. Essentially, Victor and his friends went on a quest to find the three ingredients for the Elixir of Life. However, Such Wicked Intent (SWI) is largely set in the spirit world. When Victor unearths a set of instructions for visiting the land of the dead, he immediately enlists the help of his friends to go to the spirit world and find a way to bring his brother back from the dead. The spirit world fuels Victor’s thirst for knowledge and power like kerosene on an already hot flame. Soon Victor’s intent in the spirit world is all too unclear: Is he there to save Konrad? Or is he there for his own selfish gain?
What I know of Frankenstein is that it is very much about the conflict between man, science and religion, and in this second novel of Oppel’s that conflict really takes centre stage. Victor is ambitious, stubborn and selfish; combine that with his grief over the loss of his twin (and his denial over that loss) and it is no wonder he seeks to push the laws of science—of life and death. SWE takes the idea of a man trying to play god (or God, if you rather) to a whole other level beyond TDE.
This book is thrilling and (delightfully) disturbing. It isn’t that it’s gory or anything. No, what disturbed me were the questions it raises about humanity, morals and the idea of tampering with nature. The behavior of Victor and co. always left an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Truth be told, I had trouble reading more than one chapter a night because of it. I had to put it down or I wouldn’t have been able to sleep. The suspense is fantastic! The whole time I was reading I was thinking “Just how wrong is this adventure going to go?… Or will it turn out alright?” The uncertainty kept me gripped ‘til the end.
And as always, I thoroughly enjoy getting to be inside the head of Victor Frankenstein, slowly being enlightened about what makes Victor go from a charismatic teenager to a mad scientist. I’ve got to say, he’s getting pretty close to that mad man already. Victor is an interesting blend of hero and villain. He’s a likable enough narrator and he definitely has some morals (however blurry his moral code may be)… but he’s on a slippery slope already starting to descend. Will he fall completely in book three? I hunger to find out.
This post is part of the month long feature Happy Hallow’Read! Don’t forget to check out more Happy Hallow’Read posts and the spectacularly spooky giveaways! (Details here.)