Such Wicked Intent (Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, Book 2)

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9781442403192: Such Wicked Intent (Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, Book 2)

Devotion turns deadly in this second Gothic thriller from Printz Honor–winner Kenneth Oppel that is “every bit as thrilling and engaging” (VOYA) as This Dark Endeavor.

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.

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About the Author:

Kenneth Oppel is the author of numerous books for young readers. His award-winning Silverwing trilogy has sold over a million copies worldwide and been adapted as an animated TV series and stage play. Airborn won a Michael L. Printz Honor Book Award and the Canadian Governor General’s Literary Award for children’s literature; its sequel, Skybreaker, was a New York Times bestseller and was named Children’s Novel of the Year by the London Times. He is also the author of Half Brother, This Dark Endeavor, Such Wicked Intent, and The Boundless. Born on Canada’s Vancouver Island, he has lived in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, Canada; in England and Ireland; and now resides in Toronto with his wife and children. Visit him at KennethOppel.ca.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER 1

CONSUMED

THE BOOKS FLEW OPEN LIKE STARTLED BIRDS TRYING TO escape the flames. One after the other I savagely hurled them into the hottest part of the bonfire, watching them ignite almost before they landed.

We’d hauled everything out of the Dark Library, every alchemical tome, every grimoire, every glass vial and earthenware mortar. Father had ordered that it all be destroyed, and he’d enlisted the help of only our most trusted servants. But even with their assistance it had taken us many hours to carry it all out into the courtyard.

It was well past midnight now. There were no more books left to add to the conflagration, but my body still craved things to tear and throw. I prowled the margins of the fire with a shovel, flinging half-burned debris back into the center of the inferno. I was hungry for destruction. I looked at my father, the servants, their faces pale and terrible in the dancing light and shadow.

Pain throbbed from the stumps of my two missing fingers. The heat seared my face and brought water to my eyes. There was nothing remarkable about this bonfire, no spectral lights, no demonic whiff of brimstone. It was just cracked glass and burning paper and ink and reeking leather. The smoke lifted into the dark autumn sky, carrying with it all the lies and false promises I’d foolishly believed would save my brother.

* * *

The next morning I woke to the sound of the birds’ dawn chorus and had my brief blissful moment—always the smallest of moments—before I remembered.

He is gone, truly gone.

There was only a hint of light behind my curtains, but I knew sleep had abandoned me, so I sat up, my body stiff from the previous night. The smell of smoke was still trapped in my hair. I put my bare feet against the cool floor and stared blankly down at my toes. The dull pulses of pain in my right hand were the only reminders that time even continued to pass.

In the three weeks since my twin’s death, I’d felt neither fully asleep nor awake. Things happened around me without happening to me. Konrad had shared my experiences for so long that without him as my confidant, nothing seemed properly real. My sorrow had folded itself over and over like a vast sheet of paper, becoming thicker and thicker, harder and harder, until it filled my entire body. I’d avoided everyone and sought out places where I could be alone.

We were a house of ravens, dressed in our mourning black.

I clenched my eyes shut for a moment, then stood and hurriedly dressed. I wanted to be outside. The house was still asleep as I made my way down the grand staircase and opened the door to the courtyard. The sky was just starting to brighten above the mountains, the air crystalline and still. The bonfire had all but burned out, leaving a low, ragged pile of faintly smoking ash and fractured earthenware.

“Can’t sleep either?” said a voice, and in surprise I looked over to see Elizabeth.

I shook my head.

“Every morning I wake so early,” she said, “and there’s always just a second when—”

“Me too,” I said.

She gave a quick nod. In the severe lines of her black dress, she appeared thinner and paler, but no less beautiful. As a small child she’d come to live with us, an orphaned and very distant relation. Quickly she’d become part of our family, and a cherished friend to my brother and me—but this past summer my thoughts for her had often been more than friendly. I forced myself to look away. Her heart had always belonged to Konrad.

“So it’s done,” she said, staring at the smoldering remains of the Dark Library. “I saw you all, last night. Did it make you feel better?”

“Briefly. No, not even that. It was something to do. You didn’t feel like burning some books?”

She sighed. “I couldn’t. I felt too heartsick, just thinking of all the hope we’d put into them.”

It seemed an age, but was scarcely three months ago, that Konrad, Elizabeth, and I had discovered the secret passage to the Dark Library. It was a hidden storehouse of arcane volumes collected by our ancestor Wilhelm Frankenstein. Father had forbidden us from returning and said the books were filled with dangerous nonsense, but when Konrad became desperately ill and no doctor could heal him, I’d taken it upon myself to find a cure. One of the texts in the library held the recipe for the legendary Elixir of Life. With our dearest friend Henry Clerval, and under the guidance of an alchemist called Julius Polidori, we’d sought out the elixir’s three ingredients, each more dangerous to obtain than the previous. I glanced at my right hand, my two missing fingers. But even after all we’d risked, it hadn’t helped.

Staring over the pathetic remains of the bonfire, for the first time I felt a pang of regret. So many yearning theories and recipes.

“I can’t help thinking,” I murmured, “that perhaps if I’d been faster, or smarter, or found some other, wiser tome…”

“Victor—,” she said gently.

“And then other times I wonder…” I couldn’t finish my sentence.

For a moment she was silent. Then she stepped closer and took my hands. Her skin was soft and cool. “You didn’t kill him. Look at me. We don’t know what killed Konrad. Whether it was the elixir we gave him, or just his disease, or something else entirely. You’re not responsible.”

“There’s no color or taste to things,” I said, “no hope of things ever being what they were.”

With determination she inhaled. “He’s dead, and no amount of wishful thinking will bring him back. It’s a struggle, but I’ve resigned myself to that. And you must too.”

“You think his soul is elsewhere, though,” I said, knowing that she often traveled to the church to light her candles and pray. “I’ve no such consolation.”

She stepped closer and hugged me. Gratefully, my arms encircled her. I could feel her heart beating against my ribs.

“Nothing will be the same again, you’re right,” she said. “We’re in the depths of grief. But we’re also built for happiness. That I truly believe. We’ll find it again. We must help each other find it.”

She lifted her head to look at me. The sun had just cleared the mountain peaks, and in its pure light I saw the three whisker-thin scratches that Polidori’s diabolical lynx had left across her cheek. The urge to kiss her dizzied me—and for the briefest moment I wondered if she might want to be kissed.

I looked at the ground. My voice was hoarse when I asked, “And how will you find it, do you think, this happiness?”

“When things are more settled here,” she said, “maybe when spring comes, I plan to join a convent.”

In utter disbelief my eyes snapped back to hers. “A convent?”

“Yes.”

It had been so long since I’d laughed that the sound that burst out of me probably sounded like the cawing of a deranged crow. But I was quite unable to stop.

Elizabeth released me as I staggered back, and crossed her arms, eyebrows compressed.

“And why is this so amusing?” she demanded.

I struggled for speech, swiping tears from my eyes. “Convent… you?” And then I could only shake my head.

“Keep your voice down,” she growled. “I haven’t told anyone else my plans yet.”

“I can’t… imagine… why,” I gasped.

“I’ll have you know, I’ve given it a great deal of thought,” she said stormily. “And I’m determined to accept all that’s happened, and place my life in God’s hands.”

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry,” I said, finally regaining some control of myself. I let out a big breath. It had felt good to laugh. I looked Elizabeth in the eye. “It’s just that… I can’t quite see you as a nun.”

“You doubt my passion for my faith?”

“No, no. You’re very passionate. That, I think, might be the problem.”

She began to say something, then cut herself short and narrowed her eyes at me. “You’re such an ass, Victor,” she said. And with that, she stalked off.

I watched her disappear inside the house and, with a sigh, took one last look at the sooty remains of the Dark Library. Amidst the gray debris something bright red suddenly flashed in the sun. I squinted. It was just a bit of glass, surely. But when I stepped closer, I saw that it was the spine of a red book—completely unburned.

With great determination I forced myself to turn back to the house. But halfway there my step faltered.

No paper could have withstood the searing heat of those flames. How could a book not burn?

I swallowed against the heavy thump of my heart. Some birds trilled as they flew overhead. The courtyard was still empty, but it wouldn’t be long before the servants came to start removing the debris.

I seized a shovel, stepped into the ash, and carefully slipped the blade under the red object. I lifted it out and deposited it on the cobblestone. Kneeling, I saw its cover, wonderfully decorated with scrollwork but bearing no title or name. A book that would not burn.

Walk away.

But I couldn’t restrain myself. I reached out, and the moment I touched the cover, pain seared my fingertips. I recoiled with a gasp. What kind of devilish thing was this? Then, feeling ridiculous, I realized that this book was made of metal and was still hot from the blaze.

Sucking my fingertips, I bent my head lower. The illusion was exceedingly clever. Lines had been carefully scored into the metal sides to look like actual page ends. And, squinting, I could now see that there was a single straight seam that ran all the way around the book, with two tiny hinges embedded ingeniously within the spine. It was in fact a slim metal container, meant to look, and open, exactly like a book.

Just another strange book from a room of strange books.

I stood, prodded it dismissively with the toe of my shoe. Why would someone bother constructing a book of metal—unless its contents were so important that they needed to withstand an inferno?

Do not do this.

Quickly I took a nearby bucket of water and sluiced some over the metal book. It hissed briefly. Then I took out my handkerchief, wrapped the slim book up, and slipped it inside my pocket.

* * *

In the privacy of my bedchamber I opened the metal book. It contained shallow compartments on both the left and right sides.

On the right were packed several bundles of cloth. Hurriedly I unwrapped the first and beheld what looked like some kind of pendant—a narrow loop of slim but sturdy metal with a star-shaped ornament at one end.

In the other bundles were several smaller metal pieces, obviously specially forged, for they were complicated. One was a kind of ball-in-socket pivot, the other like the bits of a miniature horse’s harness. They were stiff with rust, but as I moved them, they became suppler. Oil was all they needed—to do what, I had no idea.

In the left compartment was a thin sheaf of pages that had clearly been torn from the binding of an ancient book. The first sheet was printed with forceful Gothic type. At the top of the first page was written:

Instructions for the Spirit Board

What in the world was a spirit board? I flipped through the pages and saw careful blueprints for the construction of some kind of apparatus that required the oddly shaped pieces I’d seen. At the machine’s center was a pendulum, and its bob was the star-shaped ornament. Impatiently I flipped ahead until I found more writing under the heading “Conversing with the Dead.”

A lump formed in my throat. How many times had I wished it were possible, if only for a few moments? And suddenly, hungrily, I was reading. But I made it through only a few lines before looking away, self-disgust welling within me.

Why had I even taken this book from the bonfire? It was just more medieval nonsense, and unlike the alchemical lore I’d put such faith in, this didn’t even pretend to have a veneer of fact or science.

With great determination I folded the crinkled sheaf of pages and stuck them back into their compartment. Then I hurriedly began wrapping up the metal pieces. The star-shaped pendulum was last, and in my angry haste I stabbed myself on one of its sharp points. A drop of blood welled from my finger onto the ornament, and in that instant the thing was as something alive in my hand. It gave only the slightest tremor, but I dropped it in alarm.

It lay in its metal box, an inert object once more.

But an object that contained some strange, compressed power within it.

* * *

“Now do that bit up here,” I said to my nine-year-old brother, Ernest, and watched him carefully as he tapped the hammer against the nail. “That’s it. Good!”

I’d had all the materials brought up to the west sitting room and, after Sunday lunch, had set about building a wooden pendulum, in accordance with the instructions in my metal book. Of course, no one needed to know where these instructions had come from, or their true purpose. It was just a fun and educational activity, and one my mother watched over approvingly as she wrote her letters.

“It’s good to see you so engaged in something, Victor,” she said, coming over now to place an affectionate hand on my head. Her eyes, I noticed, were moist.

Since Konrad’s death, I hated everything. I could not concentrate to read. I could not sit still long enough to listen to music. Neither horseback riding nor sailing offered me any pleasure. The world was going on elsewhere, and I had no part in it. I was locked deep inside myself.

But now… after opening that metal book, there was something I wanted.

Down the corridor I could hear the tramp of the servants whom Father had instructed to seal up the Dark Library forever. They would fill in the well at the bottom of the shaft to make sure no rats would get inside and bring plague. And then the masons would brick up the entrance to the Dark Library and, after the spiral stairs were destroyed, plaster over the secret entrance from our own library. Even after everything that had happened, I did not like to think of it—something being lost forever, like the lid closing over Konrad’s sarcophagus.

The pendulum tripod was all but finished. It stood some three feet off the ground on its wooden legs. I was quite pleased with myself, for the measurements had had to be precise, and as I looked at it now from every angle, it seemed perfectly level. From the tripod’s apex was fixed the strange metal pivot that allowed the pendulum to move in any direction. I still had to attach the final piece of the pivot, a kind of second joint, but I could tell Ernest was getting impatient.

“Let’s make it go,” he said eagerly, and with a pang I noticed that this was one of the first times since the funeral when I’d seen him look happy. Konrad had always been his favorite. Ashamed, I realized how in my own grief I’d neglected everyone else’s. I would have to be a better brother to Ernest.

“All right,” I said. “But remember it’s not quite done yet. Right now it’s just a normal pendulum.”

Quickly I tied a measure of string to the main pivot and at the end attached the star-shaped pendant from the metal book. The star had one point that was longer than all the others, pointing straight down at the f...

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Book Description Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, United States, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 208 x 140 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Devotion turns deadly in this second Gothic thriller from Printz Honor-winner Kenneth Oppel that is every bit as thrilling and engaging (VOYA) as This Dark Endeavor. 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. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9781442403192

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Book Description Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, United States, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 208 x 140 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Devotion turns deadly in this second Gothic thriller from Printz Honor-winner Kenneth Oppel that is every bit as thrilling and engaging (VOYA) as This Dark Endeavor. 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. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9781442403192

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