✎Title: Such Wicked Intent
(The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein #2)
✎Author: Kenneth Oppel
✎Publisher: David Fickling Books
✎Publication date: August 2nd 2012
Following how good This Dark Endeavour was, I literally jumped into Such Wicked Intent headlong. I devoured it in three nights, scarcely coming up for air. And right up until the end, except for a few concepts that I just didn’t roll with, it was an exciting and strong sequel to the first. Another delightfully gothic-inspired novel, Oppel picks up the story only a short time after the sudden death of Victor Frankenstein’s twin brother, Konrad. Victor is still grieving, but he’s also frustrated and maddened by his failure to successfully concoct the Elixir of Life. Whether his attempt at alchemy worked, he’ll never know—that answer died with Konrad.
Maybe that in itself is his answer? Victor is beginning to think so and thus the book opens with Victor overseeing the destruction of the material hidden away in the library in which he found so many secrets and delights. But that was then, and this is now. Sworn away from alchemy and the small sciences, Victor focusses himself on Elizabeth, his beautiful cousin. But of course, Elizabeth chose his brother and to try to woo her now would be wrong, wouldn’t it?
She certainly seems to think so and as if to make her point, she announces that she’s going to leave for a nunnery. Victor and even their friend Henry find the idea absurd, but Elizabeth seems set. But then Victor grows determined to find a way of bringing his brother back from the dead and suddenly he’s more concerned with finding a way how, with exploring more of the hidden crevices of the chateau, than to think about his cousin. When he happens across a strange object that leads to the construction of a device through which he’s certain his twin has spoken to him, Victor redoubles his efforts. After all, Konrad’s message is clear: raise me.
Victor sets out to do just that, with the reluctant help of Elizabeth, despite her religious protestations. Henry, too, is once again at Victor’s side as he embarks on yet another endeavour with dark dealings and heretical acts. But Victor is godless and cares little for Elizabeth’s suggestions of blasphemy. All he wants to do is see his twin again.
And when he discovers strange clues hidden in the painting of his ancestor, Wilhelm Frankenstein, he might just get that chance. One thing leads to another and soon, in possession of a strange liquid and an even stranger, macabre little pocket watch made from the skeleton of a tiny bird, Victor crosses a line that perhaps nobody ever should. Taking his cousin and friend with him, Victor delves into the dark history of the chateau. With the sudden discovery of a walled-off well that was previously hidden, leading to old carvings and something darker still, something seems to be stirring. There is something that watches, patient, beneath the very earth of Chateau Frankenstein and despite appearances, despite the sudden power and potential Victor uncovers, whatever has been sealed beneath the ground might have been best left well alone. Harmless as it may seem, Victor will soon discover the depth of this slumbering creature’s wicked intent.
Overall I enjoyed this, but there were elements that I either flat-out disliked, or found wanting. I was not prepared for the sudden appearance of a book-baby (not a baby made of books; a baby in a book, namely this one). I do not like babies or children in my fiction. Nope. Never. Nyet. I won’t reveal the whys or hows, but a book baby takes up considerable real estate in this book and I did not like it. At all. It’s one of the reasons the book received a three-star rating.
Don’t throw babies at me! Yuck and ew. YA + babies? No-way-no-how.
Furthermore, the book dragged in places and the end was the weakest part of all. I did like how the very final paragraphs sow the seeds of Victor’s fascination with electricity and the power it contains, but the chapters preceding were awkward and seemed to only demonstrate that Oppel’s strength does not lie within action or activity, rather in suspense. The finale was messy, cluttered and almost impossible to track or imagine. If you’re going to have monsters, make sure you know what they look like; make sure to tell, to show the reader what they look like. Otherwise we end up with a jumble of something that we can’t quite follow. It made the climax of the book fall flat on its face. I was very disappointed.
But putting the book-baby and the terrible end aside, the way in which Such Wicked Intent was handled was excellent. The change of character throughout was explained at the end by acceptable plot, and despite the characters, at times, seeming like whinier versions of themselves, it did fall neatly in place at the close.
However, I would have liked Elizabeth to remain the strong girl she was, instead of suddenly changing as much she did. She became irritating and awkward and didn’t seem to mesh well, even with the liberties taken with her personality and the Plot Reason behind it. I just… she was annoying, where she wasn’t before. And I mean whiny, irritating, kind of annoying. Not good. She seemed to have lost all her common sense.
Generally this was a decent enough book, with a decent enough plot and although the end did let it down, it was enjoyable, atmospheric and compelling enough that I wanted to read on despite the annoyances. Though I really, really hated the book-baby.