The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein - Kiersten White

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.

As I finish the last sentence and the loose pages of the bound manuscript start falling out on my desk, I can't help but double check that there isn't a massive thunder storm happening outside. Kiersten White's book is dark (yes, ironic, considering her last name) and the atmosphere is oppressive, often consisting of storms, rain, and muted colors (or at least, the last part is how I saw it.) The manor on Lake Como could be constantly shrouded in fog with an eerily oppressive cloud cover most of the year. This isn't what Lake Como is actually like, according to the internet, but in my mind, White's writing is so deliciously atmospheric as to evoke such intense imagery.

Elizabeth Lavenza wants to escape her angry and abusive caregiver, and soon finds herself in the care of the Frankensteins, brought home by them in the hope of finding a lifelong friend for their son Victor. Even though Victor is a very difficult individual for most people to get to know, Elizabeth not only befriends him, but begins to fall for him as well. As they grow up together, they end up bringing Justine into the fold after rescuing her from her abusive mother, and later Henry, whose parents and the Frankensteins become friends. But when Lady Frankenstein passes away and Henry and Victor go missing, Elizabeth can't help but go in search of her best friend. But finding him could lead to a future much more dangerous and terrifying than she could ever imagine.

White's writing is reminiscent of Shelley herself, her character- and world-building detailed and nuanced. Elizabeth and Justine have a complicated relationship (not as complicated as Elizabeth and Victor, or even Elizabeth and Judge Frankenstein, mind you) but one that is dealt with delicately and respectfully, honoring the source material but reimagining so many of the dynamics, including the monster himself. I found myself deeply immersed in the action, the backstories, and the central mystery, while also feeling as though I was standing inside the constructed world of the novel. You simply must read this book, especially since it's the 200th Anniversary of Frankenstein in 2018!!

Highly Recommended

(NOTE: This review is from a bound manuscript - Out Fall 2018)

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