2 min read

Book Review: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

I had not prayed as a child, and I certainly did not now. Surely God, so stingy with his miracles, would not answer an unoffered prayer. I did not repent my distance from God. If I wanted help, I would find it for myself. – Kiersten White

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I really enjoy spin offs and adaptations of classic books. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries as well as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies are my two highlights. They are fun and make you think about the original text in a different way. If we are going to keep these pieces alive, I think we should air them out and see what we can do with them. Classics are only stuffy because we’re unfamiliar with the mechanics of the language. Also we don’t need to tout them as the be all and end all of literary greatness, but my feelings on canon deserve a different post.

Before we get too far into this, this book contains TW. Blood. Death and the Death of a Child Abusive Relationships. It’s a horror novel, so tread lightly if you must.

Joining the legions of spin offs and adaptations, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein is a phenomenal read. I read it on a rainy and stormy spring afternoon. It is approachable with a depth its length will not portray. There are some really phenomenally spun lines laced throughout this little package of terror. Kiersten White does a brilliant job of taking who once was a victim and making her into the heroine history deserves.

The story follows the life companion of Victor Frankenstein: Elizabeth Lavenza. Plucked from a terrible orphanage, the Frankenstein family uses her as the buffer to Victor’s odd behavior. It is Elizabeth’s place to quell the troubled boy. She keeps him safe as she can, despite his morbid curiosities and violent putting everyone in danger. For a while, things are as normal as they can be when someone lives with someone like Victor. Then the young man goes to school, only to dive into a world of science and pseudo science. Away from the reasoning Elizabeth, Victor creates the monstrosity we know him for. Only Elizabeth can keep him safe, because Victor is the only thing that can keep her secure. Little does Elizabeth know how fragile her safety is within the Frankenstein home.

If I was a director, this would be a solid PG-13 thriller movie. It could push the boundaries, but Kiersten White has it solidly stamped in “let’s make this approachable for the young adults, shall we? It may be gross, but they can handle it”. This is an accessible book with airs of the classic mastery that Shelley gave us. I love the depth the author has also given every moment and character. We are presented with a familiar set of names and faces, that have been given the depth of a 21st century makeover.

We know that Frankenstein was written on a fateful dare that created an entire genre. Shelley tells a story of man playing God, White tells the story of being the one played with. Women have been treated almost as The Monster has been. Our natural state, one that we never asked for, has been an excuse to punish us, and to harm us for entertainment. I applaud this novel in bringing out these elements while also staying true to much of the original story. This is a cleverly written, chilling novel I should have read at a spookier time. As I am weak, I am glad I did not.

Happy readings!