This Dark Endeavour: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. Kenneth Oppel. 2011. Simon & Schuster. 304 pages.
We found the monster on a rocky ledge high above the lake. For three dark days my brother and I had tracked it through the maze of caves to its lair on the mountain's summit.
What if Victor Frankenstein had a twin? A dying twin desperately in need of a cure. What if Victor Frankenstein's passion for "science" was the result of his desire to save his brother--no matter the cost. Is it that simple? What do you think? This is VICTOR Frankenstein after all!
This is a prequel to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Is it perfect? Or should I say a perfect-perfect match to Shelley's original novel? No, I can't say that it is. Perhaps because the original does not take the time to TRULY develop the Frankenstein family. Yes, we get a very, very, very strong idea of who Victor is--or was--but as for his immediate family, do we really get to know them in the original novel? Get to know them in a meaningful way? I don't know that we ever do. Is Elizabeth anything more than a picture or a symbol of a beautiful, innocent woman tragically sacrificed? And his brothers, well, we know their names essentially. Henry Clerval, well, we get a little more--but we get it through the eyes of Victor. And CAN WE REALLY TRUST ANYTHING AT ALL HE SAYS ABOUT ANYONE? (Not that I have opinions.) Anyway, this novel is a chance to meet the characters--or one author's idea of those characters.
Don't expect the details to match Shelley's story. Just don't. But if you can take it for what it is--a good adventure story with plenty of action and suspense--then you may just find yourself enjoying it.
Do I like Oppel's Frankenstein more than Shelley's? I can't say that I did. For even at a young age he seems a bit mad, a bit dark, a bit evil. Not in an oh-so-obvious way perhaps. It's just that his feelings for his brother...and his feelings for Elizabeth...are obviously complex. The way his brother loves, loves, loves Elizabeth, and the way she loves, loves, loves him in return. Well, Victor can't STAND that for a moment.
I am very glad I read this one. I was very curious about it. And I am thrilled to see an adaptation of Frankenstein. I wouldn't say that this one wowed me or that I thought it was the best book ever. But it certainly gave me something to think about. Mainly that Elizabeth was one very strong, very strong-willed, very spunky character. She has faith--it's true--and she's essentially good. But she's a FIGHTER. And she's not afraid to speak her mind. The Elizabeth of this novel cannot easily be reconciled with Shelley's original.
© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews