By Kenneth Oppel
Published by David Fickling Books
ISBN 978 0 857 56016 2
In 1818, an 18-year-old English girl called Mary Shelley wrote a novel titled Frankenstein about a scientist who creates a living man from bits of dead bodies. It became one of the most famous pieces of fiction ever written, influencing countless modern writers of horror stories, manga and graphic novels.
Fast-forward a couple of hundred years or so. In 2011, Canadian author Kenneth Oppel gave readers This Dark Endeavour, the first of a pair of gothic prequels that told the story of Victor Frankenstein's late teenage years, before he created the most famous literary monster of all time.
Now, after a wait that had fans anxiously biting their nails for the second half of the story, along comes Such Wicked Intent to complete a masterly pair of novels.
Victor, the bright and precocious son of an old aristocratic European family, is devastated at the death of his teenage twin brother, Konrad.
All Victor's dangerous experiments with black magic to bring Konrad back to life have failed, and his father has ordered the ancient magic texts that his son had secretly consulted to be burned.
The books Victor found in the Dark Library of Castle Frankenstein are reduced to ash in a mighty bonfire. But in the ashes he discovers a book made of metal that has not been consumed in the flames. The story of Victor Frankenstein's efforts to bring his brother back to life is not over yet.
The mysterious metal book is an ancient volume chronicling ways for the living to visit the realm of the newly-dead. Victor determines to follow its instruction and journey into the spirit world to find his deceased twin. He finds that passing into the spirit world is all too easy, and locates Konrad existing in a kind of limbo in an alternate version of the vast castle where they grew up.
Elizabeth, Konrad's grief-stricken girlfriend, and Henry, the twins' loyal friend, are soon dragged into Victor's new scheme to bring Konrad back to life - he just needs is a body for the unquiet spirit to occupy.
This book is just as exciting and thrilling as the first. The plot draws the reader into the Victor's desperation from the beginning and Oppel skilfully builds up the suspense and the novel's quiet horror with ease and confidence. At the centre of the story is the author's quite exceptional characterisation of the young man who will become Shelley's tormented scientist.
Oppel has reinvented the gothic thriller for modern, discerning young adult readers.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com