The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein
by Kiersten White
Publication Date: September 25, 2018
Summary from NetGalley:
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.
ARC provided by Random House Children’s via NetGalley for an honest review.
This year is the two hundredth anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. This is the first retelling I’ve read this year, and it is an excellent one. This one is even maybe a shade darker and disturbing than the original. Many of the events from the original are here in this one, with a some slight differences and the ending is much different as well.
For those of you who have never read the original, it is nothing like most of the movies. It is pretty light on how he actually creates the creature, and more about the aftermath and his guilt about what he has done. Perhaps because we are being told the story through Victor’s eyes he is a much more sympathetic character, than the Victor in this story. This Victor is very much a darker, and a sociopathic serial killer than the original. He was driven to conquer death and didn’t care much about who he kills in the process. Even some of the childhood scenes are quite disturbing. His parents in this book are quite different as well, his father is far more distant and controlling than the original. I can’t really say that I liked this version of Victor, but he was certainly easier to understand and to see why he did what he did.
Elizabeth in the original story is very much in the background. She is just a part of his life and his love. This new and improved Elizabeth is wonderful. She is strong, although she does tend to enable Victor and his darker side. She also at times allows him to manipulate her and get what he wants. But she is protective of him as well. I have no doubt that Elizabeth loves Victor, but it isn’t what I would call a healthy relationship. I really liked her with some of the other characters in the story, Henry and Josephine for example, and also Victor’s younger brothers. She could be really sweet and charming with them. In the original novel, Elizabeth is killed by the monster, but is different in this story as well. She survives both the monster and Victor’s obsessions.
The creature in this version is also very different than the original. That creature had a gentle side, and really just wanted to be accepted by society. Once he realizes that that won’t happen he becomes obsessed with revenge. This new version retains the gentleness and the feeling of aloneness that I liked in the original. We also don’t learn a whole lot about the creature in this one. He is almost in the background of this story, with Victor emerging as the true monster.
A very enjoyable yet dark retelling of a classic. This was very well done and it would be interesting to teach the two books together. You could have a great time comparing them, especially Victor. This is a book that I would highly recommend to Frankenstein fans.