Kiersten White breathes new life into the original Frankestein story with her mysterious and seductive retelling, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankestein. Perfect for the spooky season, Elizabeth’s story will be sure to send shivers down your spine even if you’re reading while snuggled in tight.
Elizabeth Lavenza, a loyal friend and scheming ally, grew up with her fair share of baggage. From being orphaned at a young age to spending her youth abused in a shelter, she learned early on to keep up the facade that others want to see and to keep her self invaluable so she won’t be abandoned again. One day her wishes come true when she gets adopted by the Frankenstein family to become a companion to their son, Victor, and the two develop a unique bond that only they share. Victor’s moody temper tantrums are soothed by Elizabeth’s placating voice, and her fear of abandonment is alleviated by Victor’s reliance on her. But, when Victor leaves their idyllic island for the city to pursue an education and starts to act strange, Elizabeth starts to find pieces of Victor’s story are not adding up and is ready to get to the truth, even if it means facing her most terrifying nightmares.
To change it up, I’m not going to analyze the main-main characters first–I’ll start from the secondary characters and work my way in. To start, the Frankenstein matriarch and patriarch have the classic YA symptom of being absent for a majority of the time which makes mom and pops pretty forgettable. I think they played their roles of demonstrating Elizabeth’s necessity to calm and placate Victor, but other than that, there is not much to comment. Moving on to the target audience aged characters, Justine, the girl who Elizabeth saved and brought back to the Frankenstein manor to work as a nanny, is a sweetheart. Justine is the epitome of a gentle soul and her sisterhood with Elizabeth is completely endearing. Henry, a shy boy, now man who grew up with Elizabeth and the Frankensteins is very much a song and poems type of guy and serves as a contrast to the dark and stormy typhoon that is Victor. Speaking of, Victor is charismatic when he wishes, a brilliant inventor and scientist, and a master manipulator, and the latter may be why he got along so well with Elizabeth, who is quite skillful herself. She actually has a believable character arc from a frightened girl to a woman who is willing to fight for the people she loves. Just based on the synopsis I expected more romance to be in this book, but that was surprisingly not the case. It was more focused on conquering your own demons rather than two teens lusting after each other which I thoroughly enjoyed, but a heads up for people who are reading for romance–you won’t find much here.
There wasn’t much world building since the story is just set in the past and there wasn’t a need for it since the book is very character-centric. However one thing I struggled with was the pacing. There was a smattering of POVs in the past which I personally don’t like especially if I’ve just been introduced to the characters. Why would I want to know their past if I don’t even care about their future? The first fifty percent of the book also dragged and since everyone kind of knows the Frankenstein story by now I just wanted something exciting to happen. Then for the last half, the pacing dramatically shifted and I was just clutching on tight to enjoy the ride! I loved loved the resolution, and the only thing I can think of to compare it to is the new Halloween movie that came out this year (great film, by the way).
Kiersten White did the original Frankenstein story justice with her strong protagonist learning to understand her own emotions and motivations while creating tension and great action scenes. Pick this one up if you feel like a chilling tale on a dark and gloomy night!
RATING: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White was published on September 25th, 2018.
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.