The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

Book - 2018 | First edition.
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The events of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein unfold from the perspective of Elizabeth Lavenza, who is adopted as a child by the Frankensteins as a companion for their volatile son Victor.
Publisher: New York : Delacorte Press, [2018]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780525577942
Characteristics: 292 pages ; 24 cm


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FPL_RachelR Aug 15, 2020

Wow, this is incredibly written, and very dark! Loyal Elizabeth is truly blind to Victor’s true self until it is almost too late! I gasped; I cringed; I was riveted.

I am a huge fan of the Conqueror's Saga. I find Kiersten White's writing to be absolutely wonderful, her characters dynamic and interesting, and her plots just twisty enough to keep me gasping at the unexpected turns and fully invested. I had read a few reviews of The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein before picking it up that had me super excited to read it, but boy, I did not realize how much I would absolutely LOVE this book.

This is absolutely one of my top reads of 2018, for so many reasons. It's exactly my kind of book: the strongest of strong characters, a plot that is so reminiscent of its source material yet wholly new and exciting on its own, a monster who makes my heart ache, and girls making a voice for themselves during a time when they were forcibly silenced.

In short? Perfection.

In detail, though, there is not a lot here that I can critique. Kiersten's writing is, once again, evocative and atmospheric while remaining accessible, yet at the same time it somehow feels like it could have been written in the 1800's of the novel. The world of the Frankensteins is dark and wonderfully gothic, and the residents of that world are so complex and interesting. Elizabeth is bold and manipulative and needy and so dependent on Victor that she does anything to maintain the illusion of safety she wraps around herself like a shawl. Victor is dark and troubled and brilliant and moody. Judge Frankenstein, the younger boys, Justine, Mary, Henry - all of them combined just created this brilliant tapestry of motivations and complications that culminated in a terrifying yet wholly satisfying conclusion.

And Adam. Precious, precious Adam. My god am I glad that this was the direction Kiersten decided to take with him. I will protect him at all costs from this moment onward.

Even if you haven't read any of Kiersten's other books (I have steered away from her Paranormalcy series after reading the first book myself), I highly, highly recommend this one. If you're a fan of the classics, or of horror, or of feminism and giving a voice to those notoriously silenced throughout history in any way possible, give this one a shot. It's absolutely worth it.

Jul 06, 2019

More than a feminist retelling of a classic story, this novel offers a closer examination of the motivations, influences, consequences of our ambitions. Elizabeth gains a voice and power in this story, and acts as the true driving force in a plot we thought we knew so well. Many of the other side characters from the original novel are given new life and perspective, and you might even notice a “cameo character” inspired by Mary Shelley. I especially appreciated the author’s notes at the end discussing the origin of the Frankenstein story and the doubts Mary Shelley had about her own abilities and power; it is not to be skipped. Even though I knew the major plot points of the original story that were kept by this version, I still found myself on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen next. This book is a fascinating tale for teens and adults.

May 09, 2019

I am always interested in books that tell traditional stories from the point of view of the women. In this case, the narrator is Elizabeth Lavenza, the adoptive sister and then wife of Victor Frankenstein. The story has a fast pace and brings you from Switzerland to German to other places in Europe. Elizabeth is in a way chasing and protecting Victor, because that is the only way she can survive, orphan and poor as she is. We read about her loving relationship with Justine and about her misjudgment of Victor himself. The end is - in my opinion - satisfying, but I will not say more because I don't want to spoil the story. Written in first person narration, the book throws light on a character all too often forgotten or considered unimportant. Mary Shelley does not apparently devote much attention to her, but that might be her way of criticizing the Victorian upbringing of women. Mary was a true disciple of her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, and believed that - in order to be real companions to men - women had to be educated like them. Elizabeth is allowed a limited education and in the end she is unable not only to save Victor, but to save herself. Had she been allowed to be independent and able to understand Victor and his scientific dreams, things might have gone differently. In this book, they actually do.

PimaLib_ChristineR Jan 25, 2019

Unlike some of White's other series, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein does not recast Frankenstein with a female lead, but instead, Victor Frankenstein is given a companion in Elizabeth Frankenstein.

Elizabeth is saved from a life of poverty and abuse by the Frankenstein family who have been looking for a companion for young Victor. Victor is everything we would imagine. The kind of kid who enjoys hurting animals, and though it's not discussed, I'm guessing lighting a fire every now and then. While White does a terrific job building his character, it is really Elizabeth who is central here.

Elizabeth lives with the fear of being thrown back into poverty at any moment. She does what Victor wants and caters to what makes him happy to secure her place. She loves Victor, but she makes it clear that her love for him is because he has saved her from her childhood life. As she reaches maturity she feels the noose tightening: she has received an education and been raised as well as any wealthy child, but without a marriage prospect, she has no way to survive on her own.

How far is she willing to go to protect Victor? White paints a picture of a girl who is ruled by pragmatism. Her only weak spot is Justine, a girl that she brings in to nanny the younger Frankenstein children, to save her from the same type of life Elizabeth knew. Even there, Elizabeth sees the benefit to herself, saying "my relief at my unexpected foresight in getting Justine hired was immense. I had relatively little to do with Ernest, now attending school in town and young William. Sweet though they were, children remained to me a foreign language that I could speak and understand but never felt comfortable with." Her coldness goes beyond children though. She knows some of what Victor does, but allows herself to be complicit to secure her future.

But no matter her own coldness, Victor wins the creepy award, telling her, "'You began existing the day we met. You are my Elizabeth, and that is all that matters.'"

White keeps the gore and creepiness factors cranked to eleven while maintaining that formal type of prose that fits the time of of the story perfectly.

White is my favorite discovery of 2019 so far. I'm definitely going to see her at the Tucson Festival of Books this year.

SaraLovesBooks Jan 18, 2019

The first third of this book was great. The second third of the book was good. But the final third? Amazing!

This book was a fantastic re-telling of the classic tale of "Frankenstein," from Victor's doomed bride, Elizabeth's, point-of-view. In the original tale, Elizabeth is presented as sweet, beautiful, and angelic. Here, she appears to be sweet, beautiful, and angelic, but all of that is a front. Instead, we have a woman who remembers an abusive, poverty-stricken, danger-ridden childhood, and is willing to do anything she has to in order to survive. As a result, the character is manipulative and focused on one thing: survival. Elizabeth is not a comfortable character, but she is a relatable character, with understandable flaws. I loved her voice throughout the book. Her problems with the time she lived in were true to her own time. She worked with what she had, knowing the dangers of the world around her, choosing safety above all else.

I loved how Kiersten White took on the character of Victor Frankenstein. She expanded on the theme of "who is the monster and who is the man?" from Mary Shelley's original tale, but added a somehow even more menacing tone. Mary Shelley's take on the character was from his point-of-view, whereas this one was how others could have seen his behaviour, and seen the character.

This book continues the tradition of Gothic Horror. It builds a heavy atmosphere as a slow burn to the end. If you don't like slow starts, don't read this book.

This book is also a character study of Elizabeth Lavenza, which keeps it from being an action-packed novel. It's about her inner life, with a lot of flashbacks. I'm partial to character study novels, so I enjoyed it, but that's not to everyone's tastes.

The very best thing about this novel, though, was Kiersten White's absolutely gorgeous prose. She knows how to turn a phrase. I love the actual language she used to tell the story. Other reviewers have used a lot of her beautiful quotes from the story to illustrate this point.

One flaw in an otherwise excellent novel knocked one star off for me. Elizabeth started to veer a little too close to being an innocent miss for my liking. It only lasted a short time, but it still took me out of the novel because I asked myself, "Why is she behaving like that? Where did the real Elizabeth go?" But I felt like she got back on track fairly quickly.

The book did have a predictability factor going into it, but since it is a re-telling of the events of the original "Frankenstein" from another character's point-of-view, White was limited in how far off rails she could go. However, when she did choose to go off the rails, she went off in a vengeance that still felt true to the oringal. And that is also why the final third is amazing. She stayed true to the novel and to the characters, while changing things enough to keep it interesting.

This novel was a "could not put down" book for me. I highly recommend it.

Jan 12, 2019

I read this book before I read the original Frankenstein. I don't recommend doing that. although it kept some elements of the original, it was very different. In the book, Victor is more or less a psychopath. in the original, he is just kinda creepy, weird and is very unstable. when reading this book, I could see why people would love it. its got drama, a strong female character, action, tragedy. Everything. the only thing I didn't like was how the book ended. I would have preferred it if Elizabeth stayed dead. I know it sounds cold, but if Elizabeth was dead, it would tie up a lot of loose ends. such as, if Elizabeth survived whats to say that Victor didn't. Overall it was a good book. Read if you like creepy books with strong female characters.

Dec 13, 2018

I loved this! It was dark and moving and I really liked the characters and the original take on Frankenstein.

Dec 05, 2018

Did you think the females of the original Frankenstein story got a shoddy deal? Then you'll like this retelling of the classic by Mary Shelley, told from the perspective of Elizabeth Lavenza, Victor Frankenstein's love interest. Females fight back in this gothic, classic retelling. --Megan

Dec 04, 2018

When you read a book that is an awesome feminist reimagining of one of your favourite stories in the whole world and even though there are so many reasons for you to love it you just...don't....

Things I enjoyed:
- Elizabeth is a very well-written character. She is complex, interesting, morally grey, and overall just well fleshed-out
- Justine and Mary are also delightful, interesting, and complex characters.
- The writing
- So much feminism
- Elizabeth's quiet appearance in familiar plot points from the original story
- The commentary on toxic, possessive relationships

What I Didn't Enjoy
- The commentary on this toxic, possessive relationship (I'll explain)
- Too many liberties taken with the original source material (normally I don't struggle with this and LOVE seeing different versions and adaptations of stories I know, but maybe this one is just so dear to me that I struggled with the changes)
- Victor

I know there are more pros than cons listed, but the cons turned me off a surprising amount. Obviously I don't mind that some liberties needed to be taken with the original story - there wouldn't be a story worth reading here otherwise. I thought it would mostly be a retelling from Elizabeth's perspective - and it is, in a way, but the relationship between her and Victor is almost absurdly different because of some huge changes made to Victor's character.

I don't want to go into detail about it because of spoilers, but rather than exploring a bad relationship that is full of neglect (which there is significantly more evidence for in the original story), this version shows a relationship that is full of toxic possessiveness. It just didn't sit well with me. Not that I mind reading a commentary on the toxicity of relationships like this, but because it was so far from my understanding of the little we DO learn of their relationship in the original Frankenstein. It just threw me off. And because it is such a huge focus in this story, I found it all the less appealing.

The ending is completely different as well. Not bad, but different.

I wanted so badly to love it, and went into it having every reason to, but I just didn't. It is a good book, and I can totally see why so many people love it, I only think I would have enjoyed it more had it not been these characters, and this story in particular that it was based on.

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OPL_KrisC Oct 18, 2018

OPL_KrisC thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over


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