Monday, August 13, 2012

This Dark Endeavour: The Apprentiship of Victor Frankenstein, by Kenneth Oppel- Review

I have been trying to come up with a suitable excuse (other than I want it) to buy this book since it came out last year.  Honestly, I buy so many books it's a bit embarrassing, and I don't read them all *blushes furiously*.  Also, I'm not made of money, shocking but true, so sometimes I really have to put my foot down and tell myself- not yet!  So as it neared time for part two I started watching for the paperback, because paperback pricing was all the excuse I was going to need at this point, only to find it had a new cover!!! $#^))()$**@@!*!!!  And of course then the hardcover was nary to be found at any of my local jaunts so it was off to Amazon for my fix.  Thanks to a lovely, thoughtful, blogger friend I had an amazon gift certificate for my birthday that I used towards it.

Finally, just a week or two ago, my beautiful copy of This Dark Endeavour landed on my doorstep (with the equally beautiful Shadow and Bone, dude you have to buy two books for free shipping).  I immediately dug in, and was both totally relieved I had waited (the burning desire for part two might kill me in just the couple of weeks I have to wait. I never could have held out for a year), and so sad I hadn't eaten up this delicious tale sooner.

I took a Gothic lit class in my second year of university which I loved for two reasons.
1. It was fascinating and full of great books.
and 2. The guy I had the BIGGEST crush on throughout High school was somehow also in the class. (it was a big university, in the two years there I never had a class with anyone else I knew from highschool or elementary school).
In the end the cute guy was a lame-o and basically was never in class (I think that's when I officially stopped having a crush on him, if he didn't dig Gothic Lit then pfft- I didn't dig him), but the class was still awesome.  And of course, we read Mary Shelly's Frankenstein.

So when I say that This Dark Endeavour was a fantastic, classic gothic book, you know I at least sort of know what I'm talking about.  Oppel took a classic form, and a classic book and wrote a wonderful prequel in the same vein.  He didn't dumb it down or simplify it for a younger audience, instead he wrote an approachable gothic tale in homage to Mary Shelley, which will not only entertain the YA audience but likely encourage them to read Shelley's classic tale.

I especially loved how close Oppel kept the story to Shelley's original, creating a viable companion novel instead of an entirely different take on the story.  Even the language is in keeping with Shelley's original, but with small dashes of humour that lighten things up a bit.

This Dark Endeavour:
I did not hear the footsteps until they were almost at my door.  In dismay I whirled.  There was nothing I could do to conceal my work.  Mixing vessels and bubbling flasks and all kinds of other apparatus covered the table.  And I myself, in my shirt with its sleeves rolled back, my brow sooty-I must have looked half mad.
Konrad walked into view, holding his hand over his nose.
"What on earth is that diabolical smell?"...."Is this all...urine?" Konrad asked, gazing at several buckets on the floor.
"I see.  Yours?"
"Well, not all of it it, obviously," I replied. "Most of it comes from the horses."
"Awfully considerate of them to give it to you."

Original Frankenstein:
Sometimes I could not prevail on myself to enter my laboratory for several days; and at other times I toiled day and night in order to complete my work.  It was indeed, a filthy process in which I was engaged.  During my first experiment, a kind of enthusiastic frenzy had blinded me to the horror of my employment; my mind was intently fixed on the consummation of my labour, and my eyes were shut to the horror of my proceedings.  But now I went to it in cold blood, and my heart often sickened at the work of my hands.

Its impressive to me how Oppel both kept the starkness of Victors narration from the original (which is really the creepiest part about the tale), but managed to put his own spin on it it with small bits of humour and sincere moments of introspection.  He's made Victor more approachable, someone you can sympathize with and, most importantly, someone you want to read more about.  How he'll spin the next two parts of this series, so that they'll meet up with Shelley's original, is a mystery to me and I can't wait to see how he does it.

A beautifully written, captivating read, This Dark Endeavour is an excellent example of how the bar has been raised in YA over the past year.  Do yourself a favour and read it before Such Wicked Intent releases on the 23rd.

This Dark Endeavour, by Kenneth Oppel
Published by David Fickling Books, August 22, 2012
Buy This Dark Endeavour on Amazon