April 6, 2020

Book Review - The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

 

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

by Kiersten White

Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Horror, Retelling
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Length: 304 pages
Published: September 25, 2018
Purchase Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

My Goodreads Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Official Book Summary:

"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."

Quote:

“I sought to puncture Heaven and instead discovered Hell.”

Excerpt (from Part One, Chapter One):

"Lightning clawed across the sky, tracing veins through the clouds and marking the pulse of the universe itself.

I sighed happily as rain slashed the carriage windows and thunder rumbled so loudly we could not even hear the wheels bump when the dirt lane met the cobblestones at the edge of Ingolstadt.

Justine trembled beside me like a newborn rabbit, burying her face in my shoulder. Another bolt lit our carriage with bright white clarity before rendering us temporarily deaf with a clap of thunder so loud the windows threatened to loosen.

'How can you laugh?' Justine asked. I had not realized I was laughing until that moment."

My Book Review:

This was the first time I'd read a Kiersten White book and I was blown away. As a huge fan of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, my expectations were high. She met them all.

White’s narrative is simply beautiful. Her writing is eloquent, the story is very well crafted, and it's evident she's done her research. White’s knowledge of Shelley’s life no doubt influenced the choices she made in retelling this story from Elizabeth Lavenza’s point-of-view. The result is a compelling narrative that will easily engage both young adult and adult audiences.

The emphasis on a woman's perspective within this tale of horror is a real tribute to Mary Shelley. The novel explores Elizabeth's complicated position and in so many ways thematically reflects Shelley's own coming-of-age. I absolutely loved what White did with Elizabeth Lavenza and Mary Shelley as characters (yes, Mary appears in the novel as well) and how well she wrote Victor Frankenstein as a Byronic hero who gets his just desserts.

The book's setting is spectacularly Gothic. White perfectly captures the dark, haunting mood of classic horror novels and includes stomach-churningly specific, grotesque details (picture body parts rotting in old trunks). At times, these descriptions might make audiences squeamish, but the story is so compelling they'll have to keep reading.

After completing this novel, I am definitely a new fan of Kiersten White's writing. If all of her young adult novels are this fantastic, I cannot wait to read more.

 

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