I was lucky enough to pick up an ARC of The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White at San Diego Comic-con, and I am so excited to share my thoughts on this beautiful and terrifying book.
Click here for the Synopsis!
Elizabeth Lavenza hasn’t had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her “caregiver,” and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets . . . until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything–except a friend. Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable–and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable. But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth’s survival depends on managing Victor’s dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost . . . as the world she knows is consumed by darkness.
Before starting Dark Descent I decided to read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I would recommend taking the time to read or reread the original story personally. The variations in both Victor and Elizabeth are so striking, especially when reading the books back to back. I do think you can enjoy this reimagining without reading the source material, but I’m glad I did.
As the book begins, Victor’s character is quickly revealed as a much more dark and diabolical figure. Elizabeth Lavenza and Justine Moritz take center stage as the primary characters. This shifts the focus from the genius and tribulations of men to the resourcefulness of and prejudices against women. This focal point, combined with the moral quandaries expected of Frankenstein makes the book both chilling and empowering.
It actually gave me nightmares!
We learn a lot about Elizabeth and Victor as children. Elizabeth has a fascination with nature and loves to be outdoors. Her appreciation for nature is a sharp counterpoint to Victor’s need to tear it apart to understand it. This is a theme that carries throughout the book as the desire for knowledge takes the two children in vastly different ethical directions. The real terror in this book comes not from moral greyness, but from straight amorality. It actually gave me nightmares! There’s also an emphasis on the unreliable narrator idea that spans across stories and made me question how I interpret the original Frankenstein.
I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars, and I hope I can convince you to add it to your TBR. Though Dark Descent thrives on horror, it also delivers a healthy dose of empowerment. I found myself in Elizabeth in some powerful ways, and I will come back to this book whenever I feel the need to smash the patriarchy.