The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

Just in time for the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Keirsten White is releasing The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein. 

Dark Descent  is a retelling of the original novel, this time from the perspective of Elizabeth Lavenza, the woman doomed to die by the hand of the monster on her wedding night.

This is the first novel I have read by White and I’m now interested in picking up the rest of her work. I’m definitely checking out in her genderbent Vlad the Impaler trilogy that was recently finished this summer.

But on to the review.

Elizabeth is rescued by the Frankenstein family and brought into their home to be a companion for their son Victor. Victor is a genius but he’s uncontrollable and volatile. The Frankensteins hope that Elizabeth will be able to civilize him. Which she does. To Elizabeth, Victor promises her a safe future. As long as she is “his” she will be safe and cared for. To certify her safety Elizabeth spends all her time and effort turning herself into Victor’s idealized version.

Elizabeth is a great character. She’s complicated and comes across very human. She’s spent her entire life playing into the roles that everyone expects of her to the point where she no longer remembers where the act ends and her true self begins. Elizabeth puts the needs of everyone else around her first, not because she’s self-less but because being indispensable is the best way to protect herself. She’s very much trapped by the time periods societal and gender roles. Though she’s clever and able to act quickly under pressure she never questions the rules that hold her and plays within them to get things done.

I loved her relationship with Victor. It’s a relationship based off of need and it’s the center of her world. Yet, Elizabeth has convince herself that it is more than that. Kiersten White never hides that Victor is not a good person. The reader is aware that we see Victor through Elizabeth’s eyes and she might not be the most reliable source. Her constant praise of Victor serves as the unraveling of her perspective. If Victor’s villainy is so obvious to us, what else could Elizabeth also be hiding?

There’s no point in going into the plot of this novel. If you’re familiar with Mary Shelley’s original then you’ll recognize the majority of the story beats. White has added a few of her own, along with some original characters. She takes a few liberties with some of the details, but that’s to be expected. This is a re-imagining after all.

What really stood out to me in this novel was the atmosphere. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein is gloomy. It has all the wrappings of a gothic story and it made me realize that I need more gothic fiction in my life. The world of Elizabeth Frankenstein is a desolate, cold one. White makes you cling to any sparse moments of sunshine and joy but even those have a grey washed out feel to them. You’re always aware that these lighter moments could be ripped away from you at any second.

The Frankenstein Mansion probably looks like this. It’s probably haunted… but the rents cheap. I’m down.

As of right now this novel is a stand alone and I think I’m okay with that. That being said, I would love to see White explore this world more. I really enjoyed this novel and since I finished it I’ve felt the urge to go on a horror kick. So I’ll report back on that.

If you’re looking for something a little darker than your usual YA, I reccomend you pick up The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein. If you’re a fan of gothic fiction and old school horror this book will be right up your alley.

Random/Unrelated Thoughts

  • The cover for this book is absolutely stunning. I love the simplicity of it
  • 2018 seems to be the year I keep accidentally stumbling upon necromancers (I know this is more science based but I’m still going to count it)

  • The first two thirds of this book are great but the last third is excellent.
  • The character Mary was a cute nod to Mary Shelley.
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein has all the makings of a Gothic story. Dripping in atmosphere this novel questions why we act the way we do and what is truly monstrous.
  • Amazing atmosphere
  • Complex characters
  • Elizabeth is a great main character
  • Does some creative things with the story but stays true to the tone of the original
  • Could have been longer, feels rushed at points
Plot - 8
Characters - 9
Setting - 8
Writing Style - 8
Enjoyability - 8
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Alexandra is always looking for the next book she can devour. She has a love hate relationship with teen fiction specifically when it comes to fantasy, post apocalyptic and failed shakespeare adaptations.

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