Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Book: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White
Release Date: September 25th 2018
Tags: Historical / Sci-Fi / Young Adult / Retelling / Classic Retelling / Frankenstein / Frankenstein Retelling / Horror / Strong Females
Trigger Warnings: Animal Cruelty / Murder / Body Parts / Mutilation / Physical Abuse / Emotional Abuse
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.
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein is an interesting retelling of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Where instead of following Victor Frankenstein himself, we follow the story through the eyes of Elizabeth, the girl who grew up alongside of him. I was slightly hesitant when I first heard about this book. Frankenstein was not a classic I read with a lot of enjoyment though I understand that Mary Shelley has meant a lot to science-fiction and female writing in general. Even so I have always found the idea of Frankenstein intriguing. I was wrong to hesitate. Kiersten White delivered with this retelling.
As this is a Frankenstein retelling the main idea of the plot is of course not that surprising. But Kiersten White manages to make the writing very atmospheric and close to the original source material without it being a direct copy. The historical bits are mostly accurate for the time, though perhaps Elizabeth does get a bit much leeway in places when she goes out on her own.
It asks the question the original Frankenstein did in a way. Who is really the monster? The monster that was created or the man who created him. And it asks that in more ways than one. Having said that, I did feel like I was missing something from the story over all. We start when Frankenstein is already 2 years away and Elizabeth goes to collect him. We get flashbacks into their first meeting and time together, and while these are strong, I felt maybe it would have been better had we started from their childhood rather than looking back. Even so this way of writing the story is close to the way Mary Shelley wrote her story so I understand why it was done this way.
I loved that this was told from a female perspective with strong women. Elizabeth has learned how to adapt from a very young age. She had to. Perhaps at the start she feels a bit selfish to the reader, trying to manipulate things. But in this time period there is little that a woman of her status can truly control unless she manipulates a little. She needed to survive and so she did. Mary was an interesting addition. Smart, assertive. I also had a soft spot for Elizabeth’s friend who was quite a bit softer than the other two women but who clearly had endured a lot and was still standing.
All in all The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein is a great, atmospheric retelling. A great read for coming October. Be warned however for trigger warnings. Descriptive animal cruelty, murder, body parts, mutilation, on and off the page physical and emotional abuse.