Summary: In the untold story of Victor Frankenstein’s early years, Victor is constantly competing with his older by two minutes twin, Konrad. Raised by liberal parents, Victor is taught to believe in science above all, but when Konrad falls suddenly falls ill and is close to death, Victor turns to alchemy for a cure. Seeking the help from an alchemist rumoured to have saved others, Victor and his friends gather ingredients for an elixir of life that he hopes will save his brother. Things are complicated by Victor’s inferiority complex and the love triangle that exists between both brothers and Elizabeth, a girl adopted by their parents and raised and educated along side them, but ultimately Victor will do anything to save Konrad from death.
Number of Pages: 298
Age Range: 14-16
Review: Twins. Now there’s a complicated relationship. Going back to the legendary story of Esau and Jacob in the Bible, where Jacob is born second, grasping Esau’s heel to when Jacob tricks his father into giving him the blessing due his first son by pretending to be Esau, there is the potential for a lot of conflict between twins. But imagine how much more intense that twin relationship is when the twins are identical.
I loved Kenneth Oppel’s dynamic between identical twin brothers Konrad and Victor Frankenstein. It’s as though together they make up one person, someone who is the best and the worst of what humanity has to offer. Konrad is good-natured and blessed with physical and intellectual talent. Victor, on the other hand, has a dark side and a deep resentment over the fact that while everything comes so easily to his brother, he has to work his hardest just to keep up.
When Victor finds out Elizabeth loves Konrad as well, it seems to break something in him. He wants what Konrad has, and doesn’t understand how Elizabeth can love one twin over another, especially because he believes Konrad doesn’t appreciate or know about her wild side, and her unconscious self seems to be drawn to Victor.
But Konrad’s illness and brush with death change everything. Despite his complex feelings toward his brother, what’s left under it all is brotherly love. Victor’s jealous and resentful of Konrad because deep down he wants to be more like him. Konrad is, in a way, the best version of himself. Thus, Victor sets out to save his brother through alchemy, as he sees that medical science isn’t going to be able to cure him. It just so happens that this introduction to alchemy combined with Konrad’s ultimate fate set Victor firmly on the path to becoming Doctor Frankenstein. Reading this book is kind of like watching a car accident in slow motion; you know what’s coming, but you can’t do anything to prevent it.
I loved the whole book, and I can’t wait to read Such Wicked Intent, Oppel’s sequel.
“‘I am still hopeful,’ he said calmly, ‘that the French will establish a peaceful republic like ours, which recognizes that all men were created equal.’
‘And all women, too,’ said Mother, then added tartly: ‘Equal to men, that is.’
‘Ah!’ Father said with a good-natured grin. ‘ And that, too, may come in time, my dear.’
‘It would come sooner,’ Mother said, ‘if the education of girls were not designed to turn them into meek, weak-minded creatures who waste their true potential.'” – Conversation between Victor’s Father and Mother from This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel, pages 125-126
“Seeing my brother so ill sparked in me feelings of such intensity that I was nearly overwhelmed. What if he didn’t recover? What if I were to lose him? Looking at him was like looking upon myself, seeing my own body racked with fever and pain.
And, even more strange, I felt anger. How could Konrad have allowed this to happen? How could someone so healthy and so smart and sensible, become so ill?
I was ashamed for having such thoughts.
And I was ashamed at how powerless I was to help him.” – Victor from This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel, page 40
“Once more he began to turn his wheelchair away.
‘It is my brother – ‘ I began, but my voice broke.
Polidori sighed. ‘I am very sorry to hear it,’ he said sadly. ‘It is always the way. I have seen it many, many times. When a loved one falls desperately ill, and all else fails, any risk is worth the taking.'” – Conversation between Victor and Polidori from This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel, page 73
“I did not feel so kindly toward Dr. Murnau anymore. A doctor cured people. If a cure was not certain, was it any cure at all?” Victor from This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel, page 128