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This Dark Endeavour [Hardcover]

Kenneth Oppel
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Oct 2011 This Dark Endeavour (Book 1)

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 to give up on his brother, Victor enlists his beautiful cousin Elizabeth and best friend Henry on 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.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: David Fickling Books (6 Oct 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857560123
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857560124
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 692,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kenneth Oppel is the author of numerous books for young readers. His award-winning Silverwing trilogy has sold over a million copies worldwide, and been adapted as an animated TV series and stage play. Airborn was winner of a Michael L Printz Honor Book Award, and the Canadian Governor General's Award for Children's Literature; its sequel, Skybreaker, was a New York Times bestseller and was named Children's Novel of the Year by the London Times. His most recent book is Starclimber. Born on Vancouver Island, he has lived in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, England, Ireland, and now lives in Toronto with his wife and children.

Product Description


"Adventures do not come more thrilling, gorgeously-written or absorbing than this." (Amanda Craig The Times)

"I truly can't recommend This Dark Endeavour highly enough. It's a sophisticated novel with a classic feel, it has real drama and tragedy and a morally ambiguous but charismastic character. And the writing is top notch. This book doesn't just appeal to fans of Gothic fiction - it's for anyone who likes a classic read. Don't miss it." (

"[A] captivating gothic novel for 13+ about the future Dr. Frankenstein and his competitive love for his twin brother. Books this good are for life, not just Christmas." (Amanda Craig The Times)

"A brilliantly layered exploration of what made Victor Frankenstein become the man he became.... Victor's struggle to pit fraternal love against his baser emotions, particularly his animal attraction to their cousin Elizabeth, who loves Konrad, gives a compelling psychological edge to this richly imagined Gothic thriller." (Dinah Hall The Sudnday Telegraph)

"This is a wonderfully atmospheric story, the sort to get lost in, for 12s and above." (Philip Womack The Daily Telegraph)

Book Description

The first book in a pair of dark, gothic thrillers that tell the story of young Victor Frankenstein's life - everything that happened before he became the creator of THAT monster.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Frankenstein prequel 11 April 2012
By H. Ashford VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In this fascinating prequel to Frankenstein, the young Victor Frankenstein sets out on a quest to obtain ingredients that will enable him to create an Elixir of Life, in an attempt to fund a cure for the mysterious illness that threatens the life of his twin, Konrad. Victor, his close friend Henry and his lovely cousin Elizabeth set out together on an adventure which leads them to explore arcane knowledge and confront terrifying forces.

I enjoyed this a lot. The story is well told and in a modern and accessible language which should appeal to teenage readers. The characters are convincingly drawn, both the male and the female lead, and it should appeal to readers of both sexes.

The story itself isn't gruesome exactly, but is quite dark and has a fairly grim ending. This, I think, increases the appeal to teenagers - no nice easy solutions here!

Overall, a fascinating YA read, which will appeal to adults too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gothic Jr. 14 Mar 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a teen friendly prequel to the legendary gothic book Frankenstein. The language is much more accessible than Mary Shelley's text, which is ideal considering the audience this is aimed at. It might even be a bit of a jarring experience for younger readers who go directly from this and its follow up to the original tale. The story itself is dark, but not gruesome and is a brave attempt to add a speculative back-story to a well known classic. Historians and literary nit-pickers may not feel this is a fitting companion piece to The Modern Prometheus but general readers will not be so harsh.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Young Frankenstein 4 Nov 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
First in a pair of books that are a prequel to Frankenstein (Wordsworth Classics): Or, the Modern Prometheus.

This one runs for three hundred and seventy seven pages and is divided into seventeen chapters.

And it's the story of things that happened to Victor Frankenstein when he was a teenager.

He narrates it in the first person.

Shortly after having discovered a secret library at the family home, Victor then sees his brother fall sick. With medicine seemingly unable to offer a cure, Victor and his cousin Elizabeth plus their friend Henry search the library for a cure. And seemingly find what they're looking for.

But it's forbidden knowledge. And as they go through several trials and tribulations to get what they need to help his brother, Victor has to face another problem that isn't easy to solve.

Unrequited love.

Managing to be both a period piece and very modern in it's style with it, this is supremely readable from the off. And is one of those books where little happens early on because it's setting the scene, and yet the pages do turn swiftly.

Steadily, it does become a very involving read. It's marketed for young adults. The ideal age would probably be fourteen and up. There's nothing desperately scary in here, but there are a few scenes that are mildly disturbing. And teenagers of the aforementioned age will be able to relate to some of the things that Victor goes through.

The ending does pack a very strong emotional punch, all of which leads to some strong character development.

Whilst it's pretty much self contained there will be another book to follow that takes the story further. On the basis of this, it should be worth a look.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting and engaging 4 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
The first thing that drew me to This Dark Endeavour was the cover. I’m down with seeing pretty girl on YA covers—totally—but sometimes it nice to see boys. And well, the model on the cover is fairly delicious, in all his gothic-y goodness. Which is to be expected, since This Dark Endeavour is essentially the prequel to Mary Shelley’s classic, Frankenstein. Which, I have to admit to not having read. (You’ll find I’ve not really read anything dating back before the late 80s, unless you count assigned texts at school, such as the usual Of Mice and Men etc. [Which, being perfectly honest, is another I have no idea as to when it was published.] Therefore, I’ve not read anything in the same period as Shelley, or anything Gothic whatsoever.)

Regardless, I adored this book.

Given that it’s a prequel to a book written by someone Oppel could not have known, there were certain boundaries imposed as to what he could and could not do—to a point. He imaginatively crafted a believable history and backstory for the eventual Dr Frankenstein, giving him a different sense of live and separation from his older incarnation, but also bringing the whole focus of the story to this new, young Victor in the past. Essentially, Frankenstein and his monster are, for now, forgotten.

Victor and his twin brother Konrad, and their lives at Chateau Frankenstein form the centre point of the story. Add in a beautiful, very distant cousin and their collective best friend Henry, and already the idea of reanimated monsters is far from mind.

When Konrad falls ill and despite the family’s efforts, there seems to be nothing to cure him. Weak and with a fever refusing to break, it does not look good. But mere days before, whilst exploring the chateau’s many rooms, they find a secret.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The dark path of Victor 22 Feb 2014
Victor Frankenstein is one of the most hatable characters in gothic literature, but how did he become that way?

Kenneth Oppel attempts to explore the archetypical mad scientists' teen years in "This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein." It's a colorful, bleakly passionate story full of dark alchemy and seething resentment, written in a style that hearkens back to 19th-century writings. And you're constantly aware that it will get worse.

Victor Frankenstein and his twin brother Konrad are inseparable, along with their beautiful cousin Elizabeth. But one day Konrad becomes horribly ill, and slowly begins to waste away. Desperate to save his brother, Victor takes a forbidden book of alchemy from a hidden library, and sneaks it off to an old alchemist named Polidori, who may be able to help him create the Elixir of Life.

As he and Elizabeth search for ultra-rare ingredients (like coelacanth oil), Victor begins to realize that he's in love with her. But after Konrad makes a miraculous recovery, Victor realizes that Elizabeth loves his brother, not him. As they continue searching for the elixir's ingredients, Victor's love for both of them is slowly twisted with loathing and jealousy. And when Konrad's illness returns, Victor will make a terrible sacrifice... which will not turn out as he expected

To date, "This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein" is the darkest book that Kenneth Oppel has penned. You know exactly how Victor's life will unfold later, and that gives a darker tinge even to the happier scenes -- and as Victor begins setting off on his "dark endeavor," it becomes clear that all his scientific ventures will end in tragedy.

Victor himself is a beautifully nuanced character.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written, truly original spin on the classic.
Review also published on my blog,

This Dark Endeavour is the first of Kenneth Oppel's prequel to Frankenstein series. Read more
Published 5 months ago by StudentSpyglass
4.0 out of 5 stars Adds an extra dimension to the original
A unique and very interesting insight into the mind of Victor Frankenstein. Told in first person from Victor's perspective giving a wonderful spin to the original; one that should... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Book Angel Emma
3.0 out of 5 stars Bit of an insult to the original...
This book started out quite weak and didn't really strengthen as the story went on. By page 16 we'd had Victor fall off a balcony and then Harry, Ron and Hermione discovers a... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Miss Victoria Ramage
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting glimpse into the young Victor
This is a young adult book telling the early story of Victor Frankenstein, but I'm sure it would appeal to older ages too. Read more
Published on 9 April 2012 by Michelle Moore
5.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to Frankenstein for younger readers
This is the story of Victor Frankenstein as a boy, along with his twin brother Konrad. It's this relationship with his brother which provides some of the clues and motives to... Read more
Published on 22 Mar 2012 by Fiona Mccaw
5.0 out of 5 stars Great prequel to the classic story
This and its sequel Such Wicked Intent: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, Book Two promise to be great introductions to some of the themes explored in Frankenstein... Read more
Published on 19 Mar 2012 by Arkgirl
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good for ages 13+
This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel

The book grabs your interest from the onset making it a real page turner. Read more
Published on 16 Mar 2012 by Aremess
4.0 out of 5 stars [3.5 stars]
It took me a while to get into this book. The prose felt oddly formal and a little dry, and overall it took me several weeks to finish reading. Read more
Published on 4 Mar 2012 by Chantal Lyons
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping from the outset
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. It is the first in a duology acting as a prequel to Mary Shelley's `Frankenstein'. Read more
Published on 2 Mar 2012 by SJSmith
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