Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Such Wicked Intent, by Kenneth Oppel- Review

From Goodreads:
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.

I can't begin to tell you  how excited I was for this book.  This Dark Endeavour had left things wrapped up, and yet with the greatest of cliffhangers, in many ways.  I had only a few weeks to wait, and yet it was torture!  Thank god one of my fellow, unbelievably lovely, Ontario book bloggers took mercy on me and gave me her ARC a week before the release date.  It was all I could do not to read it at traffic lights on the way home, I dug in the  minute I walked through the door.

To my unending delight Such Wicked Intent not only lived up to This Dark Endeavour but surpassed it in so many ways.  It took me on a journey I didn't expect, a feat that never ceases to amaze about these books, since they're the prequels to such a well known story.  Gave me the darkest of chills, and left me loving these tragically flawed characters who are only getting darker with each story.

The many ways Oppel has not only stayed true to the classic Mary Shelley tale, but also made it far more accessible and engrossing are astounding.  He's continued to use a similarly Gothic and lilting prose but instead of Shelley's long and dry monologues of Frankenstein remembering events he's made the story first person point of view, but in the moment.  This change of narration makes everything more passionate and fiery- keeping the heat of the moment for events which are fraught with arguments, desire, guilt and terror.
I rubbed at my temples, impatient. "I tell you, I want to see my twin again!"
"But how?" Henry demanded.
I sighed. "I've no idea, not yet. Here's all I know: that the world is uncontrollable. Chaos reigns. That anything and everything might be possible. I won't subscribe to any rational system again. Nothing will bind me."
"That is the way to madness," said Elizabeth.
Victor and Elizabeth's slow slide down the slippery slope of darkness is compelling.  Victor is rash and arrogant, but Oppel makes sure he has enough regrets, and enough redeeming moments to suggest he's only human instead of wicked and evil.  Elizabeth is similarly driven by love, and although she has some truly terrifying moments you're left with an overwhelming sense of sadness for her. Henry is slowly becoming the glowing light of goodness in the group, and his development into a bit of a hero is enjoyable, also I suspect, going to be of great importance to the last part of the series.
Henry exhaled nervously, and I caught a welcome glimpse of my old friend.  "I tell you honestly, I don't know what to think."
"Nor I," I murmured.
"You haven't made it easy for us, Victor," he said.  "You're behaviour--"
I wanted to save him the chore of chastising me, and save myself the pain of hearing it. " I know.  My behaviour's been odd."
"I think sometimes you're half-mad."
Only half?"
He chuckled weakly, and it seemed impossible to imagine a time when one could live with a full and careless heart.
Again Oppel has created a chilling atmosphere, subtle but creepy. What impressed me the most about the horror of the story was how it was gradually layered, until it was a positively stifling sense of horror.  And it's all done ins such a innocuous way, you never really see it coming.  Yet there are still small moments of great irony and humour.
"Has it occurred to you," I say as we clamber onto the wooden arms and proceed to haul ourselves up, "that our house is a bit gloomy?"
A glorious second part, and an incredibly strong book in it's own right, Such Wicked Intent should be on your list of fall must-haves. 

Such Wicked Intent, by Kenneth Oppel
Published by Simon and Schuster, Aug 21st, 2012
Buy Such Wicked Intent on Amazon
My copy kindly given to me by a fellow blogger