Kenneth Oppel’s Such Wicked Intent is the second novel in the prequels to Frankenstein, the Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. In a similar vein to Priestley’s Creecher, this prequel explores the making of the central character, though with far less a twist than the Priestley novel.
Following the destruction of the Dark Library after Konrad’s death, Victor becomes increasingly obsessed with bringing him back to life. His ancestor, Wilhelm, appears to have found a way of crossing into the afterlife. As he, Elizabeth and Henry cross over into it, they find it mirrors the real one but contains a copy of the library.
In an early exchange, Victor and Elizabeth are talking about their desires to complete the journey. She says,
“You doubt my passion for my faith.”
“No, no. You’re very passionate. That, I think, might be the problem”(page 7)
In a moment both lucid and clouded, Victor identifies the core theme to this story and yet cannot see it himself. Elizabeth’s own passion for Konrad and Victor’s for power and knowledge drive them to the point of obsession. Oppel sets up the hubris which will lead to Frankenstein’s downfall, developing the desperation which drives him.
Oppel’s Frankenstein abandons magic and superstition for science with asides and premonitions. In doing so he moves away from some stock horror motifs of forbidden knowledge. We do perhaps get an insight into the central trio of Shelley’s later novel but it still relies on these motifs. It does mix in some mythology with the defeat of the monster and their willingness to try and move on from Konrad’s death. It does not have quite the spark to take the leap of faith and to play with these ideas to take a sideways look at the story as horror.