Reading Group Guide
A Reading Group Guide to Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel About the Book Devotion turns deadly in this second gothic thriller from Kenneth Oppel. When does obsession become madness? Tragedy forces sixteen-year-old Victor Frankenstein to swear off alchemy forever. He burns the Dark Library. He vows he will never again dabble in the dark sciences—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. Prereading Activities 1. Some terms cited in the story will likely be unfamiliar to most readers. Ask readers to use reference books or electronic research sources to find out as much information as they can about the following: apex, colossus, conflagration, diabolical, draconian, exhilaration, elixir, frenetic, indignation, infernal, laudanum, maelstrom, malevolence, mutability, penumbra, periphery, phantasm, pungent, ruefully, talisman, tarpaulin, tempestuous, tendril, unquenchable, and vehemently. 2. Most readers will likely not have read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein but will be familiar with some aspect of the story through films based upon the novel or popular culture references. Ask readers what they know about the Frankenstein story. Following that discussion, explain to readers the outline of Shelley’s Frankenstein and how she came to write the novel. 3. Use an atlas to show readers the location of Switzerland and Geneva. Discussion Questions 1. Why has Victor’s father ordered the Dark Library to be destroyed? 2. How does Victor respond to Elizabeth’s news that she plans to enter a convent? 3. What are the contents of the metal book? 4. Why is Victor ashamed of how he has treated Ernst? 5. Why does Victor fear that his father blames him for Konrad’s death? 6. What is the purpose of the spirit board? Why is Elizabeth troubled over Victor using it? 7. What three words are repeated through the spirit board? Who is sending those words? 8. Elizabeth says to Victor: “You’d make your own deal with the devil if you could play God.” Do you agree or disagree? If you agree, what are some examples of Victor’s desire to play God? 9. What does Victor say to make Henry angry? 10. What do Victor, Elizabeth, and Henry see in the portrait of Wilhelm Frankenstein that they had not noticed before? What is the significance of seeing these details now? 11. What do they discover in the chapel ceiling? 12. What does Victor experience when using the spirit clock? 13. Why does Victor want Henry or Elizabeth to go with him to “the other side”? 14. What is discovered in the caverns beneath the château? 15. What makes Victor realize Elizabeth was right when she told him he is blind to everything but his own suffering? 16. Who else is present with Konrad on “the other side”? Why was Konrad instructed to never open the doors or windows? 17. What does Analiese claim happened to her when she died? 18. How does Victor plan to bring Konrad back from the realm of the dead? 19. Why is Elizabeth at war with herself over Konrad? 20. What is the significance of the butterflies? What do you think they represent? 21. What is different about the caverns in the spirit world from the real world? 22. What is the significance of Victor thinking of the painting in the Bellervie church, of Jesus standing over Lazarus? 23. Why do you think Victor is the only one who can “feel no fear, no presence of evil”? 24. What does Victor see when he touches the writing on the cave wall? What is the meaning of his vision? 25. What differences do you notice in the way Victor and Elizabeth each talk about the growing Konrad? 26. Why does Victor become enraged at Henry when they fence? What does it reveal about Victor’s character? 27. Why does Victor want to send Konrad away immediately? What is Elizabeth’s response? 28. In what ways does the Konrad creature transform? What is strange about its eating habits? What does Victor find most unnerving about it? 29. What else is discovered beneath the château? What does Alphonse speculate they might be? 30. What evidence prompts the professor to say: “I believe whoever was buried beneath this mound was considered a god”? 31. What do Victor, Konrad, and Elizabeth discover as they descend into the caves? What do they believe is the source of the torturous moan? 32. What attacks Analiese? Why is Elizabeth suspicious of her? 33. What do you think Elizabeth means when she says to Victor: “I believe there is something on this earth you desire more than anything, and it isn’t me”? 34. What happens to Victor while he is searching for the elixir recipe? What does he realize about the butterfly spirits? 35. When Victor tells Elizabeth that the body they have grown for Konrad to inhabit is not properly human, what is her response? What does he tell her about the butterflies and the thing in the pit? 36. What does Professor Neumeyer show Victor in the pit? What is it about the last piece the professor shows him that reminds Victor of the creature? 37. What does Victor mean when he says: “It’s not just Konrad’s body we grew. It’s someone else’s, too!”? 38. How does Victor feel about the Konrad creature drowning? Do you agree with Elizabeth that Victor is a coward for not trying to save it? Why or why not? 39. Why have Victor and Elizabeth’s light and heat diminished? 40. What does Elizabeth do in her possessed state? 41. What offer does Victor make to Konrad? Do you think Victor did the right thing? Would you have made the same offer? 42. How does Elizabeth realize Victor is not himself? 43. What is the history between Wilhelm and the pit demon? 44. How is the pit demon destroyed? 45. How is the line of verse “To strive, to see, to find, and not to yield” reflective of Victor’s ambitions? Postreading Activities 1. Lines of verse that Henry says he composed are actually from poems by Byron and Tennyson. Introduce students to the poems “She Walks in Beauty” by Byron and “Ulysses” by Tennyson. 2. A spirit board (also known as a Ouija board) is used to communicate with Konrad. Have readers work in pairs or small groups to research more information about spirit boards and other methods people have used to try to communicate with the dead. 3. Henry tells Victor that his vision in the cave sounds similar to the Egyptian cult of Osiris. Have readers use print and electronic resources to research the cult of Osiris. 4. Have readers write an opening chapter for a sequel to Such Wicked Intent. 5. Ask readers to create a storyboard of a favorite chapter or scene from the novel. 6. Have your readers read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and discuss what parallels there are between the novel and Such Wicked Intent. About the Author Kenneth Oppel is the author of numerous books for young readers. His award-winning Silverwing Trilogy has sold more than a million copies worldwide and has been adapted into an animated TV series and a stage play. Airborn was a Michael L. Printz Honor Book and won 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 lives in Toronto with his wife and children. You may visit him at http://www.kennethoppel.com. This guide was written by Edward T. Sullivan, a librarian and writer. This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.