Thursday, November 1, 2012

Review: This Dark Endeavor

This Dark Endeavour
by Kenneth Oppel (Website | BlogFacebook | Twitter)
Series: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, #1
Published: August 22nd, 2011 by HarperCollins
Pages: 304 (Hardcover)
Genre: Steampunk & Historical
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Victor and Konrad are the twin brothers Frankenstein. They are nearly inseparable. Growing up, their lives are filled with imaginary adventures...until the day their adventures turn all too real. They stumble upon The Dark Library, and secret books of alchemy and ancient remedies are discovered. Father forbids that they ever enter the room again, but this only peaks Victor's curiosity more. When Konrad falls gravely ill, Victor is not be satisfied with the various doctors his parents have called in to help. He is drawn back to The Dark Library where he uncovers an ancient formula for the Elixir of Life. Elizabeth, Henry, and Victor immediately set out to find assistance in a man who was once known for his alchemical works to help create the formula.

Determination and the unthinkable outcome of losing his brother spur Victor on in the quest for the three ingredients that will save Konrads life. After scaling the highest trees in the Strumwald, diving into the deepest lake caves, and sacrificing one’s own body part, the three fearless friends risk their lives to save another.

I hate not finishing a book. I’m one of those people who will stubbornly cling to a novel, reading a few pages every day just hoping to finally fall in love with it. Because, what if, in the next 10 pages something totally epic happens and I missed it?! After my experience with Code Name Verity, I’m scared to death of DNF-ing a novel, which is why I had such a difficult time deciding whether I should keep going with the beautifully written This Dark Endeavor or call it quits.

This Dark Endeavor is about twin brothers, Konrad and Victor. Konrad is everyone’s favorite and he always seems to outshine Victor at everything they do. Needless to say, while Victor’s love for his brother is evident, he struggles with his jealousy. When Konrad gets really sick, Victor, their cousin Elizabeth, and best friend Henry set off to create the elixir of life. That sounds awesome right? Full of brotherly love, drama, and some serious questing action? That’s why I was super excited when I finally checked it out. But alas, I can only begin to tell you how disappointed I am that I didn’t like it. And truth be told, I only got halfway through the audiobook before I decided it was time to part ways.

Normally I like it when the books I read have a lot of description and strong character development because I like the feeling of being grounded in and a part of the characters’ lives. In this area, This Dark Endeavor did not disappoint. I devoured Oppel’s lyrical writing through which he formed a vivid image of Gothic Geneva. I loved being able to clearly and easily imagine Victor and Konrad’s home and the novel’s various settings. Also, from early on I felt like I had a pretty solid understanding of the characters’ motivations, even though I didn’t connect with or honestly like them. This all is well and good, but I just wanted more. I wanted a fast-paced, gripping adventure of love and loss and alchemy and deceit and all that good stuff! And who knows, maybe if I saw This Dark Endeavor through to its end my wants would have been satisfied.

While Oppel’s dark and beautiful writing made up for the lack of action in the beginning, pretty soon my patients ran out, my frustration with Victor and Elizabeth grew, and my boredom from the narration ultimately lead to my decision to stop listening. Overall, I liked the premise and I liked seeing how Victor struggled with his hedonism and his love for Konrad, but it wasn't enough to keep me enthralled.

On the audiobook…
Sometimes a narrator can add life into a novel making it amazing. Other times, a narrator can ruin an otherwise wonderful book. In this case, the narrator killed a good deal of my initial excitement. I didn’t like his voices and he sounded so apathetic. I don’t know if it’s just me, but when the narrator sounds like he’s bored, my motivation to keep listening dwindles. If the audiobook wasn’t the only thing I had to listen to on a four hour drive, I probably would have stopped reading sooner.

Rating: Did not finish.
I'd recommend this to someone who doesn't mind a slow story. Oppel's writing is wonderful, and you get a good feel for the characters, but I really do think you should pass on the audio version.

Have you read This Dark Endeavor? If so, did you like it better than I did? What is your experience with audiobooks? Has one ruined a novel for you like it did for me? 
- Alysson

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