Author: Kenneth Oppel
Series: (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein #1)
Published: August 23rd 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Categories: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Historical Fiction
The reason I was so interested with this book was because the synopsis was uncannily similar to Fullmetal Alchemist (鋼の錬金術師). In it was also a story of two brothers searching for the philosopher’s stone in order to restore their bodies which were involuntarily sacrificed during their failed human transmutation.
This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel is also about alchemy. There are also two brothers (twin this time) and when the older one—Konrad—got sick, the younger one—Victor—decided to search for the elixir of life. Prior to his brother getting sick, they stumbled across a library where books about alchemy were stored. When Victor overheard his parents and the doctor who was treating his brother at that time about Konrad’s sickness and its anomaly, he decided to create the elixir of life for him. They looked for people who could help them create the substance, but that person in the end betrayed them.
Ok, so I was asked, does this book like FMA? Fortunately, not at all. Although as a huge fan of FMA the blurb suggests otherwise (but maybe that was just me). Although, sorry peeps, but I liked the Elric bothers a whole lot better than the Frankenstein’s. Their bond is just so sympathetic and close whereas here I felt a little indifferent between the two. I commend Victor’s motivation on finding the cure for his brother’s sickness, don’t get me wrong. But there were moments that he could be selfish and inconsiderate to his own brother (one and the same brother). I mean, I know he’s not perfect and admittedly I too have moments that I want to whack my siblings hard on the head. I’m also jealous of them from time to time, but I don’t know, it just their bond felt insincere to me. It lacks something that solidifies whatever sacrifices Victor did for his brother. Something that will convince me why he was doing it, and not only just because they’re blood related.
The good thing I saw with this book was the author did pull a lot when it comes to the subject of alchemy. Unlike other books I read before which used alchemy conveniently to beautify the plot (with no real substance and unable to explore the subject). The author really used the subject. I mean, it was really plot related. It wasn’t handily thrown there. I liked how mysterious the alchemy appeared here, with languages involved and how it concocted the recipe for elixir. I did also marvel the history that surrounds alchemy in this world. Alchemy is a taboo subject here. It is forbidden. It made their quest sneaky.
I gave the first half of the book four stars. I was really engaged, hooked with the story. Although Victor was less convincing as a protagonist, he does have some moments that made me like him. I mean, I like flawed characters, but he has traits that irked me in some unknown reasons. But it didn’t hurt that I really liked the alchemy story, that’s huge major points to me. My problem lies with second half of the story which I confess felt a little disconnected to me. Not to mention about what had happened with Konrad (ok, shutting my mouth now).
There’s also a very predictable romance here. I saw the love triangle between Konrad, Victor and Elizabeth (she was a distant cousin) from miles, miles away. I don’t like Elizabeth as a love interest, but she has some qualities that I liked. I liked how sensible, smart, and strong she is. And she has dialogues that really left an imprint in my head. Like this one:
“There is knowing, and there is believing,” said Elizabeth. “They are two different things. Knowing requires facts. Believing requires faith. If there were proof of God’s existence, it wouldn’t be a faith, would it.”
I already have my copy of Such Wicked Intent, if only the book sustained what the first half has, I would immediately read the sequel. But I am currently enjoying Changeless that my interest on reading the sequel settles on my least priority list.