THE DARK DESCENT OF ELIZABETH FRANKENSTEIN, by Kiersten White, Delacorte Press, Sept. 25, 2018, Hardcover, $18.99 (young adult)
Confession: I’ve never read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. So I wasn’t sure what to expect from Kiersten White’s The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein. I was pleasantly and creepily surprised.
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. —Synopsis provided by Delacorte Press
Based on what I do know about Frankenstein, Kiersten’s book mirrors the basic story of Victor’s creation of a “being” through an unorthodox scientific experiment. Where Kiersten diverges is by telling the story through Elizabeth’s eyes. And boy is her story eye opening.
I’m a fan of Kiersten’s Conquerors Saga, which reimagines the story of Vlad the Impaler. With those books in mind, I went into The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein expecting a dark and nuanced read.
Dark and nuanced was exactly what I got. Elizabeth is a complicated character who has spent her entire life pleasing others to survive. Her past experiences clash with her dreams, and her motivations become muddled. She’s quietly fierce and flawed nearly as much as Victor.
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein makes me want to read Mary Shelley’s book, and then return to Kiersten’s again.