Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel
Tragedy has caused the sixteen-year-old Victor Frankenstein to swear off the destructive practice of alchemy – and to never again covet his brother’s betrothed, Elizabeth. But when Victor and Elizabeth discover a portal into the spirit world, they cannot resist venturing further. Here, power and passion reign, defying all of Victor’s resolution. As he, Elizabeth and their friend, Henry search together for the knowledge to raise the dead, they unknowingly unlock a darkness form which they may never return.
Published in August 2012, ‘Such Wicked Intent’ is a YA book by award winning Canadian author, Kenneth Oppel. His previous works include the Silverwing trilogy, which has sold over a million copies around the world, and Airborn, winner of the 2004 Governor General’s Award for children’s literature, and the Michael L. Printz Honor Book award from the American Library Association.
This is the sequel to the critically acclaimed novel ‘This Dark Endeavour’ and the narrative picks up three weeks after the devastating end to the first book.
When I was asked to review the first book in this series, I was a little concerned as to whether Oppel would be able to write a satisfying prequel to one of the greatest gothic novels ever written, Mary Shelly’s ‘Frankenstein.’ However, I thoroughly enjoyed it and described it as ‘excellent, well written and true to the original. Oppel has captured Victor’s voice in such a way that his journey into the darkness of the original book is both believable and inevitable because of his character and the choices that he makes.’
So, having made such a wonderful start, could Oppel attain the same standard with this book, or even improve upon it?
As with the quest to create the Elixir of Life in the first book, ‘Such Wicked Intent’ is based upon a statement very early on in ‘Frankenstein:’
‘Nor were these my only visions. The raising of ghosts or devils was a promise liberally accorded by my favorite authors, the fulfillment of which I most eagerly sought;’
Without giving away too many plot points, I can categorically say that Kenneth Oppel has written a book that has more magic, more action and is even more creative than the first prequel. However, it is my opinion that in the quest to make the book exciting, he somewhat loses sight of the connection to Shelley’s original. I suppose that it was almost inevitable, when writing a character created by another author, that things would not blend perfectly, but having set such high standards in the first book, I was a little disappointed by this aspect of the story.
The 19th Century version of Victor Frankenstein was bursting at the seams with an avaricious thirst for knowledge, fueled by frustration at his inability to get the teachings of Agrippa, Paracelsus and the like to work.
Unfortunately, after reading ‘Such Wicked Intent, I no longer feel that the sixteen year old Victor is going to become the Victor Frankenstein from Shelley’s original. One of the real strengths of ‘This Dark Endeavour’ was that the characterization was spot on, but in this book, he achieves so many things that I really cannot see him moving to the point where he creates the monster – even if Oppel does shoehorn in a reference to the power of lightning at the end.
However, that said, if we ignore the fact that this is a prequel to ‘Frankenstein’ and judge it solely on its own merits, it is actually a really good book.
Victor is a solid central character, eminently dislikeable of course, but that is part of the charm – wanting to see what happens to him. However, what sets Kenneth Oppel apart in this genre is his ability to write scenes that the reader can become totally immersed in. I loved the alternate Chateau Frankenstein and the mysteries that it contains. The butterflies and the strange noises from below the keep add to the tension and there are enough twists and turns to keep the reader engaged the whole way through.
Oppel provides an interesting and thought provoking take on the spirit world, it does require a huge suspension of disbelief in certain areas – far more so than the original, but he carries it off well enough to satisfy most readers.
I would recommend this book to fans of the gothic genre, it is a very enjoyable tale, even if it does fall slightly below the very high standard of the first book.
This Such Wicked Intent book review was written by Stuart E Wise
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