Review: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

Title: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

Author: Kiersten White

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Pages: 287

Format: Hardcover

When Madame Frankenstein takes Elizabeth Lavenza away from the poverty and abuse she’s lived in, she tells Elizabeth that she must be a special friend to Victor Frankenstein, a brilliant but solitary boy. Elizabeth, knowing her salvation lies in fulfilling the request, does just that: she becomes Victor’s closest friend and a gentling influence to his sudden and violent outbursts. The two children become inseparable, with Victor becoming more and more obsessive about her. Elizabeth lives her life as an actress, learning to use her beauty and charm to manipulate those around her. When Victor leaves for school and then disappears, her place in the household grows precarious. She knows the only way to keep her place is to bring Victor back. But when she finds him, she discovers unimaginable horrors that she knows she has to cover up, lest she lose Victor forever.

I really liked this book a lot, and I liked it because it was so completely horrifying. It wasn’t even the whole Frankenstein plot that made it horrifying, but Victor and his possessive and controlling nature. He was terrifying even before Elizabeth reveals some things that were kept hidden early in the book. It was also horrifying because of how helpless Elizabeth was. As a young child, she was abused by her caretaker and then taken in by the Frakensteins, who tell her she has to calm their violent son. She twists her whole personality and life around Victor. She goes out of her way to protect him from the consequences of his actions. She never seems to worry about it being right or wrong in the grand scheme of thing; her whole worry is on her safety and security. She’s one mistake away from being flung into the streets and she knows it. She has to tread carefully.

I wish I had reread Frankenstein before I had read this. It was perfectly understandable without reading it, which is a definite plus, but I wasn’t familiar with the characters and couldn’t remember what was going to happen. In some ways, it was fine, because it was shocking when things happened, but I think having that sense of impending doom from knowing what was going to happen would have enhanced the experience, too. Maybe, some day, I’ll reread the original and then this to see how it goes.

This book was very well done. The characters, especially Elizabeth, were amazing. I love her strength and resilience. I love how she would catch herself reacting in a way that wasn’t working to get what she wanted and would course correct. I liked her relationships with the other characters, especially Justine and Mary. I also like the twisted, sick relationship she had with Victor. It was not healthy and it was wonderful to read, if that makes sense. It added to the ambiance and sense of wrongness.