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A Book Review of “The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein” by Kiersten White

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Rose is an enthusiastic writer and reader who publishes articles every Thursday. She enjoys all book genres, especially drama and fantasy.

What’s the Big Deal?

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein. Even the title is chilling. Praised by authors the likes of Stephanie Garber, Victoria Schwab, Mackenzi Lee, and Meghan Shepherd, this new and fascinating book began to grace the shelves of bookstores and the deepest depths of readers’ minds in 2015. Based off of a classic written 200 years before, The Dark Descent reimagines the world of Frankenstein and his monster from the perspective of Elizabeth, his friend and eventual wife. Called “Visceral, sinister, and inescapably compelling,” Kiersten White’s dark tale shines with chilling tenacity and the old-fashioned eloquent language that gives the book its roots.

“The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein” by Kiersten White

“The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein” by Kiersten White

Plot Summary

Elizabeth Lavenza is a girl who knows what she wants. Even from a very young age, living in a hovel with an abusive foster mother and her children, Elizabeth knew that there was something else out there waiting for her. When she is sold to the Frankensteins at five years old as a means of teaching and helping their eldest child, Victor, the conniving youth realizes she’s found it—and she’s never, ever going to give it up. With Victor at her side, Elizabeth feels safer and more protected than ever before. Sure, Victor’s a bit queer; he’s violent and maybe a little too curious about the workings of the human body; but if he weren’t any of these things, Elizabeth would still be stuck with her awful past life, having nothing to fix, so she looks upon these insecurities as benefits.

But good things never do last, do they? When Victor goes off to college, two years pass at the Frankenstein manor with few letters from him. Thus Elizabeth and her best friend, Justine, venture off to a strange city in the hopes of bringing him back. What they find in his decrepit living space, though, aside from a sick and delirious Victor, is utterly horrifying. Calling it science would be generous. Elizabeth concludes that Victor has gone mad, and after sending him to be treated for (only) his fever, burns the whole building and watches as the evidence goes up in smoke. Ever vigilant and experienced with secrecy, Elizabeth swears that no one will ever discover what she had a few days before.

This is not the end of her plight, however. As time passes, Elizabeth comes face to face with the abomination that Victor created while at university. She also nearly witnesses the murder of Victor’s younger brother, William, whom she assumes was killed by the monster—and if that isn’t bad enough, her beloved Justine is framed for the murder when she was the boy’s nanny and the one who loved him most. A trial is had and a wedding, too; many more murders take place and are discovered; Elizabeth is even framed for Victor’s horrifying work and committed to an asylum when she finally tries to fight back. In a twisted, thrilling final sequence of events, the story closes—and the fates of Victor and Elizabeth are sealed.

Quick Facts

  • Author: Kiersten White
  • Pages: 320
  • Genre: Horror fiction, psychological horror
  • Ratings: 4.3/5 Barnes & Noble, 5/5 Goodreads
  • Release date: December 14, 2015
  • Publisher: Random House

To Read or Not to Read?

I recommend this book if:

  • Genres like horror, thriller, science fiction and mystery interest you
  • You’ve read and enjoyed books like the Stalking Jack the Ripper series by Kerri Maniscalco or the Monsters of Verity series by Victoria Schwab
  • You’re intrigued by Europe or the past—the book takes place mostly in Geneva, Scotland, in the 1800’s, but also in Ingolstadt, Germany and Russia
  • Rewrites or reimaginings of novels are endearing to you
  • You like florid language; the book is awash in intricate vocabulary and complex sentence structure

Some nights, when even my child’s heart knew that what I had been asked to endure was too much, I would stand on the edge of the lake, lift my face to the stars, and scream. Nothing ever called back. Even among the creeping things of the lake’s night, I was alone. Until Victor.

— Kiersten White, “The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein”

Reviews

“Familiar tales can sometimes be reworked into something new and compelling, and this creepy retelling of a horror classic has intelligence and inventiveness to spare. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein does justice to its source, but with a modern, feminist sensibility. Author Kiersten White devises some shocking twists, keeping the suspense high on two different timelines.” —Common Sense Media

An all-around win for readers who enjoy (not too scary) horror, thrilling tales, and contemplating the deeper meaning of life.” —Kirkus Reviews

Official Book Trailer:

The Takeaway

There were some points as I was reading The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein where I had to put the book down and simply take in what had just happened. The novel is frightening and intense; I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone weak-stomached, but all the same it’s a wild ride for anybody looking to shake up the monotony of everyday life.

If you’re interested, you can buy the book here.

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