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“It’s Pronounced ‘Fronkensteen’”

Ever wonder how Victor Frankenstein became the mad scientist we love to hate? Kenneth Oppel fills in the blanks with This Dark Endeavor.

“It’s Pronounced ‘Fronkensteen’”

BOOK REPORT for This Dark Endeavor (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein Book 1) by Kenneth Oppel

Cover Story: Public Transpo-Acceptable
BFF Charm: Nay! and Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 7 . .. or a 0
Talky Talk: Shelley-Lite
Bonus Factors: Origin Story, Lake Geneva, Big Kitties
Relationship Status: Visiting Your Ex's Family For the First Time. On Thanksgiving.

Cover Story: Public Transpo-Acceptable

You could take this book out on a train and I don't think too many people would laugh at you. It screams contemporary novel (if I had my way, honestly every cover would just be a solid color with the title stamped on it, because it makes bookshelves look prettier), but it doesn't scream "Contemporary Novel About Unicorn Sex" or whatever your latest fear may be.

Plus, I have to say that Victor Frankenstein looks pretty hot on the cover. I mean, hot enough that I'd even think about tapping that, if I hadn't read what happened to his last (future?) girlfriend.

The Deal:

Hey, it's Victor Frankenstein, who you may remember from such works of art as Frankenstein and annoyed high school students' dart boards and also people like me who snap, "The monster's name is not Frankenstein!" at people who haven't read the book.

In this book, Victor is happily hanging out with his family, which includes his cousin/adopted sister Elizabeth, younger brothers William and Ernest, and his twin brother, Konrad.

Say what? Yeah, in this book, Victor has a twin brother called Konrad. And yes, this did cause me to pull out my copy of Frankenstein from my shelves and peruse it, thinking I had forgotten an important piece of the book. I hadn't. Konrad just exists in this book. Let's go with it.

Victor and Konrad and Elizabeth and good ol' Henry Clerval are having a pretty grand time of it, having adventures and putting on plays and whatnot, until Konrad falls deathly ill. Not confident in the doctors' abilities to save him, Victor sets off trying to create The Elixer of Life, a formula which can heal the ill and, if necessary, raise the dead. Now that sounds like the Victor we all know and hate!

Victor, Elizabeth and Henry research the Elixer, and that leads them to a man named Julius Polidori, who once was a respected alchemist but has now been banned (by Victor's own father, natch) from working magic again. Can they find the ingredients for The Elixer of Life? And will they be able to save Konrad in time?

BFF Charm: Nay! and Yay!

Look, I'm not stupid. I'm not giving Victor Frankenstein my BFF charm. Have you met that dude? Nothing but trouble. I mean, look at what happened to poor Justine, and she was just an employee working for his father!

But that said, don't let my lack of BFF charm fool you: Oppel gets well into Frankenstein's head in the best way. When we meet Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein, he's a shivering wreck whose ambition and ego have caused the death of everyone he loves. But how did he get that way? This book explores all of that: the roots of Victor's madness and ambition, and how he can let a noble gesture (like wanting to save his brother's life) be perverted into a quest for domination.

But man, I loved me some Henry Clerval in this book. Little Henry! I love you so much! He sort of reminded me of Dill from To Kill A Mockingbird, what with his poetry and plays and obvious homosexuality that he hasn't quite discovered for himself yet. (Dear Henry: you're welcome!) He takes the ridiculous antics of the Frankensteins in stride and plays bemused observer to the love triangle between Victor, Elizabeth and Konrad. Oh, Henry. I'm so sorry that you end up dead on a beach in Ireland some day.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7 or 0

Well, it depends on how you look at it. If you're a boy like Victor, then the swoonworthy scale is pretty high! After all, trying to tempt your cousin/adopted-sister away from your twin brother is the stuff that V.C. Andrews' wet dreams are made of. And, actually, there is something to be said for Victor loving all the parts of Elizabeth - her prim and proper side and her wild and animalistic side.

That said, if you're the Elizabeth in this scenario, you just want your creepy adopted brother to get off your junk. Leave her alone, Victor, damn! She's not the only girl in Geneva, you creepy stalker.

Talky Talk: Shelley-Lite

Frankenstein is one of those novels that divides people quicker than the words "Obama 2012." A lot of people, however, admit to loving the story but just wish they didn't have to, you know, read the story. (I feel that way about 90% of Dickens' books, which is why I just wait for the BBC to make them into miniseries/rent Scrooged annually.) I mean, hey, "Man Becomes God, God Makes Man, Man Destroys God" is the stuff of legend and also Jeff Goldblum monologues in Jurrassic Park. But Mary Shelley is, bless her cotton socks, a bit dense.

This book has a lot of that Frankenstein action (Greed! Ambition! Ego! And, wait, there's more! Sibling Rivalry! Action! Adventure! Missing limbs!) with, thankfully, prose that isn't so thick you have to wade through it in a pirogue.

Bonus Factor: Origin Story

I do love a good origin story! As long as it isn't X-Men Origins: Wolverine, cause that movie was the worst movie in the entire world. I mean, not the actual worst. The actual worst is The Smokers. But it was pretty bad.

Luckily, this origin story is AWESOME. I really liked how Victor progressed from a typical young boy into a young man driven both by love for his brother and a need to be thought of as brilliant. I could really see the roots of the Victor Frankenstein we all love to hate germinating here.

Bonus Factor: Lake Geneva

Victor and co. spend their days traipsing around Lake Geneva, fishing in its glacier water and chilling out on their large expanses of pasture. In other words, Victor and co. can kiss my sweating, it's-102-here-on-a-good-day-why-won't-summer-end southern ass.

Bonus Factor: Big Kitties

Krake the Lynx is a character of dubious moral standing, but there's no denying that he's a big, pretty kitty. Hi Big Kitty! Aren't you a pretty big kitty? Yes you are! Yes you are!

Casting Call:

I needed someone tall and dark for les freres Frankenstein, who could be both guileless and conniving, and hot enough that you didn't particularly care which brother you ended up with. Ergo,

Ben Barnes as Victor and Konrad Frankenstein

Elizabeth needs to have inner strength but kind of a baby face. Who else but our latest FYA heroine (who'd need to dye her hair)?

Hailee Steinfeld as Elizabeth

This has nothing at all to do with what Henry really looks like, but I kept picturing how great he'd be in the role, so:

Rupert Grint as Henry

Relationship Status: Visiting Your Ex's Family For the First Time. On Thanksgiving.

Look, Frankenstein and I had a contentious relationship in high school. Like, I was SUPER into him at first but then he just got kind of clingy? Like, for six weeks, all I heard was Frankenstein this and Frankenstein that; he was everywhere I looked. And even though I still liked him, my friends were all, "Girl. What do you see in this guy? He's totally boring AND he just drones on and on about things and also I don't think his narrative structure is put together all that well!" And I really wanted to defend Frankenstein from the haters, but at the same time . . . maybe they were right?

Eventually, Frankenstein and I went our separate ways, but it was a friendly breakup, so when he called me up to ask if I'd go to Thanksgiving dinner at his parents' house, what could I do but say yes? And guys? I TOTALLY get why Frankenstein is the way he is now! His family is CRAZY.

Don't get me wrong, his family is nice, but with Pa Frankenstein encouraging science and reason over magic - yet keeping an awful lot of alchemy books in his library - it's no wonder Frankenstein turned out the way he did. And the fact that he had to go through so much to save his lame brother Konrad? No wonder he has a God complex now.

I mean, I'm not stupid; I'm definitely not going to start dating Frankenstein again or anything . . . but I might go to his family's summer barbeque next year. Especially if Victor promises to tell me more about his childhood adventures with Elizabeth and Henry.

FTC Full Disclosure: I recevied my free review copy from Simon & Schuster at BEA. I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (damnit!). This Dark Endeavor will be in stores on August 23!

Erin Callahan's photo About the Author: Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink. When she isn't drowning in a sea of engineers for whom Dilbert is still uproariously funny, she's writing about books, tv, the cult of VC Andrews and more.
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