CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 1. . . .September 7, 2012
Such Wicked Intent: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, Book Two.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins Canada, 2012.
310 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.
Review by Rob Bittner.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
We leave my bedchamber, and as we walk down the hallways, I notice that Elizabeth lets Henry walk between us, as if she's trying to keep me at a distance. Is she afraid we might touch and become overwhelmed once more? But any pleasure this thought gives me is tempered with jealous anger. I don't want her to be able to control her attraction to me here. I smile to myself. We will see how long she can resist me.
All around us the house seems to pulse, remembering itself. As we make our way down the hallways, we check for Konrad and finally find him in the library. Analiese is with him, and they sit side by side at a table, their heads practically touching as they look over a book. Her fingers stroke absently at here earlobe. I sneak a glance at Elizabeth and see an expression I've never seen on her face—undisguised jealousy.
And then Konrad squints and turns toward us, a hand shielding his eyes.
In this fantastic second installment of the Victor Frankenstein series, the reader finds Victor still torn apart by the loss of his brother, Konrad. He has vowed to leave the practice of Alchemy in his past and burned to the ground the Dark Library where his obsession was first kindled. The temptation is great, however, and eventually Victor is drawn once again to his desire to bring Konrad back from the dead. When Victor and Elizabeth set off exploring Chateau Frankenstein, they discover a secret attic filled with the mysterious belongings of Victor's ancestor, Wilhelm: a workbook, a flask of dark green liquid, a talisman, and a very strange clock. Upon further inspection, they discover that taking a drop of the liquid, they are able to enter the spirit world, a world in which the Dark Library has not been destroyed, and in which Victor can find the answers he is looking for to finally reunite Konrad with the world. In doing so, however, Victor unknowingly releases a force of evil into the real world, putting everyone he knows and loves in danger.
Oppel's beautiful prose and imaginative plot bring this second novel in the Victor Frankenstein series to life in a way that keeps the reader from ever wanting the book to end. While this particular novel is slightly more removed from reality as we know it, compared with This Dark Endeavour, Such Wicked Intent is a welcome addition to the Frankenstein myth. Young readers will find the mysteries utterly enthralling, and older readers will be engrossed in the imaginative world that Oppel has constructed for his protagonists. One can't help but feel as if the world of the novel is indeed a reality.
The addition of a spirit world is one that might be too removed from reality for some readers who are unable to suspend their disbelief. The character development, however, will keep readers grounded, either hoping that Victor will succeed, or that he will give up his quest and fall in love, finally admitting that his unnatural obsession with his brother's death will only end in more heartbreak and destruction. Within the spirit world, danger lurks at every turn, though Victor is loathe to admit it, and eventually an evil spirit becomes unavoidably attached to Victor who unintentionally introduces these demons to the real world. In addition, Victor and Elizabeth find an eerie spell in the Dark Library of the spirit world that all but guarantees the return of Konrad from the dead. Victor's confusion and wonderment at this discovery are rendered unforgettably by Oppel's talented hand.
As with the first book, Oppel has created memorable and complex characters, even those who are not actually alive, such as Victor's ancestor, Wilhelm. Victor's quest to raise Konrad from the dead leads to a delicious mix of passion and power, death and darkness, evil and deceit. What has started with the best of intentions becomes literally wrapped up in wicked intentions—both known and unknown—as Victor struggles to understand what is right and what is wrong in the two worlds his is now tied to. Such Wicked Intent is a rich and dazzling continuation of Victor Frankenstein's deeply troubled journey through life, one which Kenneth Oppel has so wonderfully brought to life for readers, young and old.
Rob Bittner is a graduate of the MA in Children's Literature program at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. He is currently a doctoral student in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies at Simon Fraser University.
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