Monday, June 25, 2012


Such Wicked Intent (Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, #2) - Kenneth Oppel
Genre: YA historical fantasy/gothic horror
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Source: ALA Midwinter
Recommended for: High school & up

Release date: August 21, 2012

When does obsession become madness? Tragedy has forced sixteen-year-old Victor Frankenstein to swear off alchemy forever. He burns the Dark Library. He vows he will never dabble in the dark sciences again ? just as he vows he will no longer covet Elizabeth, his brother's betrothed. If only these things were not so tempting. When he and Elizabeth discover a portal into the spirit world, they cannot resist. Together with Victor's twin, Konrad, and their friend Henry, the four venture into a place of infinite possibilities where power and passion reign. But as they search for the knowledge to raise the dead, they unknowingly unlock a darkness from which they may never return.

This review was designed to be spoiler-free; however, spoilers from the first book might be revealed...
Such Wicked Intent was one of the ARCs I was fortunate to get at ALA Midwinter, and after being completely captivated by This Dark Endeavor, I had to know what was going to happen next.

This second installment in the Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein picks up almost immediately where Endeavor left off. If you've read that novel, you know what I'm talking about. And while Oppel's writing style was just as strong, I'm not sure the story captivated me as much. The main area of study in This Dark Endeavor was alchemy (I don't think that's a spoiler), and Victor tried to use alchemical means to save his brother's life. Now the area of study has shifted to what I can only think to call paranormal mysticism - spirit boards and attempts to reach "the great beyond" or whatever. And whenever one encounters spirits, one also encounters commentary about life after death and so forth. That's one of the things I don't like to see even in a fictional novel, because even in a fictional story, I can't help but think that any type of spirit world (and all its rules and workings) is just bass-ackwards. As a result, I was never as engrossed in the story as I was with This Dark Endeavor, mainly because in SWI I spent a great deal of my reading experience being confused, highly skeptical, or just downright uncomfortable.
The characters weren't as likeable as I remembered, either. I mentioned Victor's megalomaniac personality and his intense need for approval dueling with his sensitive, well intentioned and sometimes compassionate nature. Those were the qualities that endeared me to him. But here, Victor was mainly just a bully and a narcissist who sauntered through the novel getting his way by forcing his will on everyone else. Likewise, Elizabeth wasn't near as likeable as in the first installment. Between perfect Konrad and brooding Victor, Elizabeth was presented as the voice of reason - she was spiritual to their scientific, level-headed to their impulsive. But in this installment, Elizabeth took on an obsessive and borderline crazy personality. I'm serious - even Bellatrix Lestrange would think Elizabeth was one weird chick.
But even for all its shortcomings (and I'm being honest - that's what they were), Such Wicked Intent's saving grace was in its commentary. I've said before in reviews that what gets me going is not so much the content in a book, but the message behind the content, or the approving or disapproving way in which it's portrayed. What made SWI so brilliant was the feeling of watching an impending trainwreck in slow-motion. Any reader who knows more than a little about Frankenstein ultimately knows what grand finale we're moving towards. And as bummed out as I was that Victor lost a lot of his likeability with me, I loved seeing the intensity give way to madness. I may not necessarily like Victor any more, but I still understand him.


The previous book in the series, This Dark Endeavor, will be one of the Texas Lone Star books for the 2012-2013 year. Good choice, TX librarians! 
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