Plot: Victor Frankenstein failed to save his twin brother Konrad with the elixir of life and lost two fingers in the process. But he isn’t ready to give up yet. He has stumbled upon another of his ancestor Wilhelm’s secrets: a way to communicate with the dead. He hatches a plan to construct his brother a new body but he soon realizes that the thing he is bringing back is far more sinister than he ever imagined.
Nothing says Halloween reading like Frankenstein!
This is the second book in The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. I don’t yet know if there will be a third book but I’ve loved the first two and I’d be first in line for a third. It is the kind of horror that I love: eerie with a lot of atmosphere and little gore. Add to that some ancient evil, ghosts and some terrible foreboding and you have a chilling Halloween read. It helps that Oppel is a terrific writer and he really brings the Frankenstein castle, with all its dark secrets, to life.
Victor is an interesting hero and narrator because, frankly, he isn’t a very good person. He is arrogant, ambitious, envious and selfish. He only occasionally acknowledges these things about himself but they are obvious to the reader nonetheless. But it is his relationships with others that are most troubling. His desire to save his brother is selfless on the surface but beneath it is the desire to show up his perfect brother, to have him in his debt. He enjoys being superior to people and this is probably why he is increasingly displeased by his friend Henry’s new strength and courage. When Henry shows interest in Elizabeth, it brings out the worst in Victor’s personality. Meanwhile, his feelings for Elizabeth are more possessive and obsessive than loving; his thoughts of her sent a shiver down my spine more than once. And everything he does is tainted by his quest for power and knowledge. He has one moment of true selfless goodness at the end of the book but even that doesn’t end well. Victor is a character who is hard to like but who is endlessly fascinating.
The character I like best is Elizabeth. She is fiercely intelligent and though she shares some of Victor’s dark impulses and reckless behaviour, she truly wants to be good. I fear that one day one of Victor’s plots is going to end very badly for her.
The creepiest part though? The fact that after all that has happened in This Dark Endeavour and Such Wicked Intent, Victor has not truly learned from his mistakes. He is already prepared to embark on new dark experiments. But then, if he wasn’t, he’d never grow up to create his monster, would he?