A Necromantic Frankenstein
A review of Kenneth Oppel’s Such Wicked Intent: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein Book 2 (Harper Collins, 2012)
By Derek Newman-Stille
Kenneth Oppel’s Such Wicked Intent takes the Frankenstein story into a darker space where alchemy and trips to the underworld shape Victor Frankenstein’s quest for knowledge. Oppel imagines Victor Frankenstein not just as a scientist, but as a man who craves any kind of knowledge and power.
In Oppel’s first Apprenticeship of Frankenstein book, This Dark Endeavour, Victor begins meddling with alchemical knowledge as a way to construct a cure for his twin brother, Konrad’s illness but eventually discovers that alchemy is substanceless and ultimately ineffective. Now that Konrad is dead, Victor again goes searching through ancient tomes, believing that he has the knowledge and power to change his brother’s death. He is fuelled by grief, but also by his own belief that he has the ability to do what cannot be done.
It wasn’t until reading Such Wicked Intent that I notice how much of Victor’s choices have been influenced by privilege. He had been taught all of his life that he could accomplish anything and was wealthy and privileged enough that everything seemed within his grasp, and he then extends this over people around him who he is possessive of (not just Elizabeth who he is jealous of anyone being romantically interested in, but also his closeness to his brother and to his best friend Henry). His possessiveness motivates him to scheme to bring everyone under his power, to have everyone owe him or need him.
Victor also believes he is entitled to all types of power, which allows him to risk himself and others in order to obtain it. Relationships are secondary to his quest for power and knowledge is only a way of wielding power and finding new ways of attaining power. Victor views any obstacles to his power as problems to be swept away.
In Such Wicked Intent, Victor delves into the occult, learning how to travel into the underworld in order to attain more knowledge and power, though convincing people (including himself) that he only want to venture there to find a way to bring back his brother Konrad.
Victor becomes addicted to the power of the underworld and Oppel explores an addiction narrative in Such Wicked Intent, exploring Victor’s desire for knowledge and power as an actual addiction, complete with withdrawal symptoms.
This is a haunting story, not just about the way that ambition can haunt someone and drive them to obsession, but a literal haunting, an exploration of the darker aspects of human life and afterlife.
To discover more about Kenneth Oppel, visit http://www.kennethoppel.ca
To find out more about Such Wicked Intent, visit http://www.harpercollins.ca/9781554683420/such-wicked-intent