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The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

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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.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published September 25, 2018

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About the author

Kiersten White

59 books12.8k followers
Kiersten White is the #1 New York Times bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of many books, including the And I Darken series, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, Star Wars: Padawan, the Sinister Summer series, and HIDE. She lives with her family near the ocean in San Diego, where they obsessively care for their deeply ambivalent tortoise. Visit Kiersten online at KierstenWhite.com and follow @KierstenWhite on Twitter.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,337 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
September 25, 2018
Sometimes we were strangers even to ourselves.

For the first two thirds, I thought this book was pretty good. Frankenstein is one of my favourite books, and I like it when authors give a voice - and different perspective - to a side character. But it is in the final third when this book goes from pretty good to excellent.

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein is, essentially, a retelling of Frankenstein from the perspective of Elizabeth - an orphan taken in by the Frankenstein family and later the fiancée of Victor. I think this book will work much better for those familiar with the original as it gives a lot of nods to the story. It's hard to appreciate some of the clever twists the author takes without knowing what it's based on.

In this book, Elizabeth becomes an ever more complex character. She's smart and manipulative. And if she lingers in Victor's shadow, then that's because she knows that's where she needs to be to get what she wants.

Through her eyes, the tortured genius of Victor becomes a sometimes frightening thing, and yet nothing is as terrifying as being a woman in 18th Century Europe. The stifling constraints placed on women and their ambitions are palpable as the story unfolds. It was so easy for a woman to be dismissed as whiny or silly, or worse-- mad.

When Victor goes missing in Ingolstadt and writes no letters, Elizabeth begins to track him down. Her investigation leads her down dark paths to charnel houses and secret laboratories. What has Victor been up to? Knowing the truth didn't take anything away from reading. In fact, it made those mysterious dark shadows all the creepier.

This story largely fills in gaps in the original tale, while shedding a completely new light on it. It's smart how Kiersten White has managed to keep a lot the same, while also creating a bigger and very different-looking picture.

The original Frankenstein calls into question what it really means to be a monster and, indeed, who the real monsters are. I think White might have answered that question.

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Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,096 reviews17.7k followers
May 26, 2019
You are mine, Elizabeth Lavenza, and nothing will take you from me. Not even death.

I do not think I expected one of the best books I read this year to be a retelling of Frankenstein where it’s not just about the nature of monstrousness, but about the power of women working together and escaping an abusive relationship, with intoxicating writing and a morally grey lady as the protagonist. And yet… here we are.

I don’t think you can talk about this book without talking about the characters, because they really do star. Their group is so fantastic and I absolutely loved the importance of the various character relationships within the book; rather than being driven by romance, Elizabeth is primarily driven by her relationship with Justine and, to some extent later, Henry and Mary.
✔Elizabeth – one of the most interesting and developed narrators I have had the pleasure of reading about this year. she is so deeply morally ambiguous yet so sympathetic to the audience and also, the narrative agency. HER MIND.
✔Mary – definitely a lesbian. I have no evidence for this she’s just gay. book nerd badass.
✔Justine – the more naive, or stereotypically ladylike, lady character in this novel, and yet is treated just as well by the story as Elizabeth and Mary. deserved better.
✔Henry – a good man, a pure man, the only man we’ve ever trusted. I support him.
✔Victor – no. a bad man and we hate him

I absolutely loved the way Kiersten White wrote the abusive relationship at the heart of this - we see the fucked-up nature of that relationship long before Elizabeth does, but it never feels as if Elizabeth “should’ve known better.” In every moment, she has full audience sympathy - in every moment, even if I hated her actions, I understood her. The narrative puts you so far into her mind that it is impossible to look away and it is glorious.

I think the focus on agency within a narrative should be clear, but I really do want to say - this is why retellings are my favorite . Taking a book that is about the essential nature of humanity from the perspective of a man and flipping its themes solidly is something I will always be in full support of - the meta-textuality of the narrative is absolutely brilliant. And it’s not just about one woman - it’s about the relationships between women and the strength found in them. Mary, Justine, and Elizabeth form such fantastic relationships, and each feels so fully-formed in a way they may not have in the original narrative.

I could criticize this - the first half is far too slow, in my opinion, and I still can’t decide whether to love or hate the ending but I’m not sure it’s what I would have wanted - but I can already feel an urge to reread and annotate and write even more about the themes in this book. For me, that is a declaration of love. I think this book [and my new love for Victorian horror] convinced me to read Frankenstein for a project this fall, so maybe I’ll use it as an excuse to reread. Who knows. All I know is that I loved this and I hope you all love it too.

TW: abuse, self harm, body horror.
💜 buddyread with my literal favorite person, Melanie

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September 28, 2018
“Elizabeth,” he said, his tone firm and chiding. He lifted my chin and fixed my eyes with his. “You are mine. You have been since the first day we met. You will be mine forever. My absence should not have caused you to doubt the firmness and steadfastness of my attachment to you. It will never fade.”
This turned out to be a pretty twisted love story.

I read Frankenstein in more details than anyone should ever read a book when I was in 10th grade. I was in Academic Decathlon, and that year, for the literature portion, we had to read Frankenstein. I was determined to master the book, and I wrote a summary for it that was practically as long as the book itself. And therein lies my only complaint about this book. It's just too damned long.

Which is not to say it's not good. It is excellent. It is the story of Elizabeth Lavenza, the foster child of the Frankensteins. Far more details are present in this book than in the original, the story is fleshed out so much more. But the fact that it works as a retelling because it is believable.

Elizabeth was an orphaned child, condemned to a miserable life. The young Victor was an uncontrollable, strange little boy whose parents despaired of him. Elizabeth got a new life when she was sold to the Frankensteins as a playmate for Victor, who became attached to her from the very first meeting.

Elizabeth is strong, cunning. She might have been young, but from the age of five, she has learned survival. Survival meant Victor, and making herself indispensable to him. She molds herself to fit her new life, and to what Victor needs.
I had become this girl in order to survive, but the longer I lived in her body, the easier it was to simply be her.
She never forgets what she doesn't have - which is everything. The only thing that keeps her in the wealthy Frankenstein household and off the streets - or another orphanage - is her ability to control the volatile Victor.
I used smiles like currency. They were the only currency I ever had. My dresses, my shoes, my ribbons—they all belonged to the Frankensteins.
The situations in the book are beautifully explained - many times I found myself exclaiming "well, this isn't true, because in the book..." only to have everything seamlessly explained and incorporated chapters later.

It really is such a good book, but again. It is just too. Damned. Long.
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews116k followers
August 30, 2019
Closer to 4.5 stars due to pacing issues, but I enjoyed the book enough to round it up to 5 stars. This is a creepy gothic story that reframes the narrative from a woman’s perspective and a toxic relationship that she must navigate. What’s fascinating here is the dynamic of a female character who purposely pigeonholes herself to be a supporting character role that only exists to serve a man’s narrative as an act of survival and self-preservation. I love how this added so much depth to her character and illustrated the restrictions of a woman in 18th century Europe. I found the dynamic between Elizabeth and Victor to be very true to abusive relationships and how a woman often must make herself smaller than a man in order to appease him.

The prevalent complaint among most book reviews is the slow pacing of the story, because nothing happens for pretty much the first half of the book. However, I didn’t find this to be an issue because I viewed this more as a character study and enjoyed the moments that flashed between present and past in order to build up these characters. This is character-driven, not plot-driven, and as someone who loved seeing these characters and relationships being slowly crafted and foreshadowing to doom, I enjoyed these slower moments and nuances. My pacing critique is more so towards the end. The last 100 pages are exciting, action-packed, and fly by so quickly that I wish we had more time to relish in the new developments that happen. It felt imbalanced compared to the beginning 2/3 where we really got to savor the characters. I wish we had spent more time with the pivotal turn of Elizabeth’s character and the found family trope.
Profile Image for Kayla Dawn.
291 reviews902 followers
July 15, 2019
I'm so disappointed oh my

I really enjoyed the first 150 pages or so (even though most people who disliked this seem to think it was the boring part of the book lol) but it just went downhill after this..

Everything happened so fast and was unnecessarily rushed. Why not write a longer book? It only had around 280 pages anyway.
It read as if White just wanted to finish as quickly as possible.
Because of that the story got more and more unbelievable and felt artificially constructed, forced even.

I kind of liked the direction White went with Elizabeth in the beginning of the book. She was selfish and absolutely unlikeable but in a well written way!
But that was also ruined after the sudden change in the story. I get that her character was supposed to grow but again it felt forced and unnatural. It happened too fast for it be believable.

Victor also was interesting at the start. And again he was ruined by another try of forcing some kind of "growth" on him (not really a positive one, but I can't think of another word lol). I mean, it was obvious in what direction his character would go but it just wasn't done in a good and realistic way.
I don't want to sound repetitive but again it was too sudden and not portrayed realistically.

Oh, and in regards of any "plot twists".... none of them were unpredictable at all. And I'm seriously not good at guessing them. So that was underwhelming lol.

Overall I liked the idea and I really enjoyed about half of the book but everything after that completely ruined it for me 🤷🏻‍♀️

*spoiler ahead*

I would have liked this more if the epilogue didn't happen though. It actually would've been a satisfying ending if they both died that way. But oh well, here we have another author that is too scared to kill of their characters.

And what the fuck was the deal with "Adam"? Are you actually trying to convince me that they can live "happily ever after" with him?? Sorry but no lmao
Profile Image for Jesse (JesseTheReader).
468 reviews176k followers
November 16, 2019
i'm so sad that this didn't do much for me! mind you, there were a few moments that were written in such an intensely captivating way that i couldn't stop myself from reading on. it's just that a lot of times i felt like the story was being dragged out and that's where i feel conflicted. i still loved the writing style & can't wait to see what kiersten white has up her sleeve next!
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,173 reviews98.8k followers
October 15, 2018

ARC provided by Random House in exchange for an honest review.

“Some nights, when even my child’s heart knew that what I had been asked to endure was too much, I would stand on the edge of the lake, lift my face to the stars, and scream. Nothing ever called back. Even among the creeping things of the lake’s night, I was alone. Until Victor.”

Kiersten White wrote this book to honor the fact that 2018 is the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley! It has been ten years since I picked up Frankenstein, and even though I didn’t completely love this with my whole heart, Emily May’s review not only made me want to pick it up again this fall, but it also made me realize that I probably missed a ton of beautiful homages within these pages!

So, my review is coming to you from someone that’s no longer familiar with the source material. My rating is pretty much strictly based off the story that Kiersten White crafted. And even though I loved how beautifully feminist this was, and I was completely enthralled with the writing, tone, and setting, I just didn’t love the actual story.

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein stars young Elizabeth who finally feels safe living in the Frankenstein home. And she will do anything to ensure he place in the family, so she can continue to have that safety. And she does this by getting close to the oldest son of the manor, Victor Frankenstein himself. Victor is prone to outbursts of anger, and Elizabeth is the only one that can keep him calm. But Victor has been away for a while, and Elizabeth is scared to lose her place in the family. Therefore, her and the governess, who is also her good friend, go on a hunt to find Victor and bring him back home!

“I have waded through hell to deliver you heaven.”

And that governess? Justine Moritz is honestly the star of this book. I love her with the sum of my being. Kiersten White did such a wonderful job really fleshing out her character and making me feel even more for her. I truly think Mary Shelley would be so damn proud. My other favorite is the bookseller that is cutely and conveniently named Mary! These two girls were easily my favorite and probably the reason this book is getting three stars instead of two. And if I were Elizabeth I would have been doing everything in my power to date either or both of them.

“I do not fear to die. I do not want to live in a world where devils can take such perfect, beautiful innocence without punishment.”

But them going to retrieve Victor is truly only the first part of this story. There are two others that hold within them the events that take place when they return back home. Also, this story is told with constant flashbacks to events from the past, so you are kind of able to see why everyone acts the way they do.

Sadly, I just feel like the biggest problem with this novel was the predictability. Again, it has been a hot second since I’ve read Frankenstein, but I don’t even remember everything being as obvious as it was in this. And again, I know this is an homage to the book, but I feel like the book still has to sort of hold up on its own for today’s audience, regardless of their familiarity to the original source material.

“I dreaded another flash of lightning for what it might reveal of the person in the trees watching me. He stood at least seven feet tall, a hulking and unnatural creature. Fear drained my fury…”

And that truly is the biggest problem with the book, for me. I really enjoyed the rest, and I feel like the setting of this book was completely mastered. And the writing? It’s wonderful. This is a relatively short book, but I was able to pull over twenty quotes that I could have used for that review. That’s seriously impressive. Kiersten White’s beautiful prose really shines through, and I think she really is a master crafter of words.

And as I touched upon before, the feminism in this book is so very beautiful and so very unapologetic. In general, I think the inclusion of just creating Elizabeth, and making her the star of this tale, was genius. But, I mean, women still aren’t truly considered equal to men in 2018, but in the 1800s? Lord, help me. Elizabeth goes from one abusive home to another, but they are just very different kinds of abuse. This story constantly shows how women are only truly safe with protection from a man. Yet, even then, a woman can be institutionalized and put away in an asylum if they do anything to cross the man that is supposed to protect them.

I feel like this story really shines a spotlight on toxic love, and how it can be the most destructive thing on Earth. The cycles of abuse that Victor shows, is something that I wish I could highlight for all young kids to see. Sometimes it's very hard for the person being abused to see, acknowledge, and realize that they are being abused. This story really showcases that and gaslighting and how hard it is to break the cycle and those abusive relationships, in the 1800s and in the 2000s.

“You are mine, Elizabeth Lavenza, and nothing will take you from me. Not even death.”

Trigger and content warnings for child abuse and abuse in general, medical experimentation, murder, death, heavy dictions of surgical practices especially different cutting and sewing procedures, animal abuse, animal cruelty, animal death, and talk of suicide.

Overall, I was a little let down by this, because I truly did expect to love this. Yet, I think there is something here for every human to appreciate reading this retelling. Also, I think big fans of Frankenstein will probably really appreciate this rendition even more. Lastly, I just want to remind you all how much of a badass Mary Shelley, the queen of horror and science fiction, really was. What a damn blessing to literature, 200 years later, and for all the rest of time.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Elise (My French Spider Queen)! ❤
Profile Image for Rebecca.
266 reviews278 followers
May 12, 2023
"I would lie silent and still, like a corpse, as he studied me. His careful, delicate hands explored all the bones and tendons, the muscles and tracings of veins that make up a person. "But where is Elizabeth?" he would ask, his ear against my heart. "Which part makes you?" I had no answer, and neither did he."

As a child Elizabeth Lavenza was offered the chance to live with the Frankenstein family and she knew it was her best chance to escape poverty. All she had to do was befriend their son Victor, a strange boy with a vicious temper. As long as she could keep Victor happy and under control, she would be able to live in luxury. Once they grow up, Victor leaves to study and his letters become infrequent and eventually stop. Knowing her comfortable life relies on Victor, Elizabeth decides to seek him out. She quickly learns that he may be the cause of horrors she never could've imagined.

l adore retellings, especially feminist retellings of older texts, so I was very excited to read this book. Frankenstein told from the point of view of Elizabeth Lavenza! I was drawn in from the beginning and absolutely fascinated by Elizabeth and Victor's relationship. The author took a male centric story and gave us the refined female characters it so desperately needed. Elizabeth is a delightfully selfish and scheming character yet so full of love and compassion for her friends. She's a great example of a strong female character who doesn't wield swords. Her strength comes from her inner fortitude. I loved this.

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein is beautifully written and gorgeously dark and horrific. A tragic love story.

I highly recommend this one if you like retellings and gothic horror.
Profile Image for Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥.
547 reviews34.7k followers
December 3, 2019
”While I saw the destruction of the tree as nature’s beauty, Victor saw power – power to light up the night and banish darkness, power to end a centuries-old life in a single strike – that he cannot control or access. And nothing bothers Victor more than something he cannot control.”

This book was recommended to me by Mara at the beginning of October and I’m so glad I followed her recommendation! If not I would have missed out on one of the best retellings I ever read and that’s a fact. XD “The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein” had me glued to my seat right from the moment I began to read it and even though the ending was rather abrupt I still think that it was great. Especially because it was mostly my own fault that it was so sudden. *lol*

”Words and stories were tools to elicit the desired reactions in others, and I was an expert craftswoman.”

Need an explanation for that sentiment? Well, apparently the kindle version also includes the original “Frankenstein” from Mary Shelley. XD And since I was completely unaware of this addition I found myself at 51% reading the ending of the book and couldn’t help but wonder how that happened. XD So for me the ending came a little bit sudden but if you know that the original is included in the annex of this book you should be fine. ;-)

”I would lie silent and still, like a corpse, as he studied me. His careful, delicate hands explored all the bones and tendons, the muscles and tracings of veins that make up a person. “But where is Elizabeth?” he would ask, his ear against my heart. “Which part makes you?”
I had no answer, and neither did he.

I think what I loved the most about this book were the two very intriguing main characters. I mean we have Elizabeth Lavenza and Victor Frankenstein. One a girl that learned to read others because her life depended on it and doesn’t hesitate to use her knowledge in order to manipulate the people around her and the other one a highly intelligent boy who was taught how to hide his psychopathic nature from the world around him. Seriously, if there ever was a character that was good at covering his true feelings then it’s Victor. At the beginning of the book I actually thought that Elizabeth was the real manipulator but the more I read the more I realized that she might have met her perfect match in Victor. ;-P It’s easy to see that those two love each other deeply but boy do they have a destructive relationship! Hell, in fact it’s so destructive that Lady Gaga might have even had it in mind when she wrote her song “Bad Romance”. *lol* Everyone who knows me, knows that I’m a sucker for such things though so it’s no wonder I enjoyed their interactions immensely.

”Someday death will claim you. And I will not allow it.” His eyes narrowed, and his voice trembled with fury and determination. “You are mine, Elizabeth Lavenza, and nothing will take you from me. Not even death.”

”I wanted to pinch him, to pull on his hair until he cried out in pain. I also wanted to press my mouth against his and devour him. Consume him. Instead, I smoothed his hair back from his forehead, playing with the silky curls.”

See what I mean?! They are certainly more than just a little intense! XD I suppose in their own way they are both committed to each other and this leads to both of them only seeing the best in their counterpart. Well, at least until their relationship turns into flat out obsession from Victor’s side. Then again he was possessive right from the beginning; he was just way too good at covering up the truth. ;-) He’s constantly walking a thin line between genius and madness and the longer we read, the more we see that line blur.

He turned, searching my face for either my response or a clue to how his own should be shaped. “Is that wrong?” I had guided him so much in how to react to things, how to shape his expressions, how to be sympathetic. But I had nothing to offer him now.

I swear Kiersten White created such a multi-layered and complex character that you can’t help but like Victor. I was disgusted by what he did and we all know that it’s wrong trying to play god, yet at the same time I couldn’t help but be intrigued by his genius and intelligent mind. Mary and I definitely had that in common. *lol* The character arc of Elizabeth was well done too and I really enjoyed her journey! By the end of the book she found herself and broke out of her cramped confines and this was really nice to see! =)


”I had accused Victor of creating a monster, but I had done the same.”

Kiersten White knows how to write complex, multi-layered and morally grey characters! If all of her books have that in common I’m so ready to read more! XD “The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein” was a great book and the plot as well as the writing style kept me reading. The ending might have been rather abrupt but I believe that this was due to my ignorance so I can’t really blame the author for it. *lol* All told this was an amazing retelling and I’ll definitely keep my eyes peeled for Kiersten White’s other books! =)


So this is going to be my first official Halloween read this month and it’s only just the 18th!
YAY! Am I fast, or not? *lol*
(You really don’t have to answer that one… >_<)

Anyway! This book was recommended to me by this amazing young lady and I hope it’s going to be a great spooky read. =)

I read the original “Frankenstein” from Mary Shelley and I quite enjoyed it, so I’m pretty certain that this will be great too. I live and thrive on dark books, they shouldn’t be all too scary though. XD
Wish me luck! ;-)
Profile Image for ✨    jami   ✨.
681 reviews3,951 followers
March 14, 2019
actual rating: 2.5 stars

I just want to make a disclaimer before I start this review. I'm extremely picky about retellings and probably need to stop reading them because of it. So there's that.

“You are mine, Elizabeth Lavenza, and nothing will take you from me. Not even death.”

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein is a retelling of Frankenstein, written to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein. I read Frankenstein earlier this year, and liked it. I'm also a huge fan of White's And I Darken series so I thought, even despite my aversion to retellings, I would like this.

This essentially follows Elizabeth Lavenza from Frankenstein, and puts her at the centre of the story. We open with Elizabeth going to find Victor, in that time while he is away at university and hasn't written home in months. From there, the events of Frankenstein begin to occur, and mingle in with Elizabeth's story. First and foremost, this is a story about womens agency, toxic love, and banding together in solidarity against a society that casts you as an outsider.

I am just going to say: I think there is many things many people will enjoy in this. I just didn't love the direction or choices White took to retell this story and so I automatically wasn't the hugest fan? but if you like those choices you will probably like this.

From the beginning I found this quite slow. The first almost 150 pages move pretty slowly, especially since I've read Frankenstein and it's pretty much the exact same events. So it felt really predictable, and was kind of boring for me. The second half of this book was MUCH more interesting, and I read it really quickly. It is also at this point the events start to move away from those of the original story.

But like I said, I didn't love some of the choices Kiersten White made with this. I feel like some of the changes kind of took away from the original themes or intent of the original? And while I don't think that is a bad thing to do in a retelling, I just thought this was so bland and predictable compared to the original even though it should have been more interesting. The monster and Victor felt so one dimensional and I just wasn't loving it? But again, I recognise this is personal preference.

As for characters, I would say I liked the characters but didn't love them. Even though I enjoyed reading about them, I didn't really feel emotionally attached to any of them. Elizabeth definitely had an interesting character arc and I enjoyed how White made Elizabeth into a much more dynamic and interesting character than the original. But that said, I feel like she did such a predictable thing with her character, and her characterisation was written in such a way I knew what would happen and what her arc would be from the start.

Justine and Mary were also nice, but I didn't love them. I did love the whole friendship of the three and their interactions though. I wish Mary had been in it more, I really loved her but she doesn't appear for the entire middle of the book. I also felt, again, some of the potential of Justine's character was wasted with what happens to her.

One thing I did love though - White's dedication to modernising the story and incorporating strong female characters as the central focal point. All the women in the original who we don't get to see much of get their proper attention here which was a highlight. I especially liked Justine and Elizabeths friendship - and how Elizabeth avenges Justine and the general outrage over their treatment which is never in the original we finally get to see.

I also think the discussions around toxic love and abuse were well done too. And this is very much about reclaiming agency, which I enjoyed a lot.

Like, overall I really get (and appreciate) what White was trying to do here. I think she just didn't nail it all for me, or present her themes in a way that wasn't extremely obtuse. I get what she was doing - but I wish the themes had been explored in a more nuanced and subtle way? Instead of the characters saying them in dialogue half the time? (DOES THIS EVEN MAKE SENSE?!?) Urgh.

“I am not saying you should not feel remorse or sadness. But if nothing else, your past should teach you the value of life. The wild and precious joy of it. Do not let Victor steal that, too. He has already taken enough.”

Overall, a lot of the elements of this story didn't necessarily gel with me though I recognise there is still a lot of things people could like here. Although I do think the first half of the story is legitimately slow - I think that is my only complaint that is not just personal preference. If you want a story that really plays with Frankenstein, and puts Elizabeth at the forefront - you should try this. If you like what Kiersten White does with this retelling more than I did, you will probably like it. For me though, the plot wasn't all there, and the characters, while well written, never really grabbed me in a big way.

thankyou to Penguin for sending me an arc of this book in exchange for my review

Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 6 books13.7k followers
April 25, 2021
"I thought to puncture heaven and instead I discovered hell."

Everything about this book screams READ ME. And yes, it does so in caps lock.

It is so promisingly creepy and twisted, exactly what a perfect book sounds like to me. I am a big fan of Penny Dreadful (it's on Netflix and you need to watch it right now) and this book had some major PD vibes. It started out strong but the thrill of it all lost itself toward the ending. I immediately fell in love with Elizabeth, the main character. She was immoral, goal-oriented and did everything in her power to get what she wanted. Characters do not have to be likeable to be interesting. I sometimes think, the less likeable, the more interesting they are. The setup for the plot was perfectly constructed and promised - as the title suggested - to get darker and more desperate the further it went. But what I loved about the beginning - the gothic atmosphere, the mystery, the carefully constructed characters and plot - got lost somewhere along the way. Not only did I find many things to be predictable, I also lost interest in the main character. I think Elizabeth lost some of her fierceness and uniqueness along the way. She turned from a character that I admired to a character that was interchangeable with many other YA main characters out there. It felt like the opposite of character development. The same can be applied to the plot. It felt like chunks of pages had been ripped out to ensure that the book maintained an appropriate length. But I would rather have had 200 pages more, in which the pace of the plot was maintained and the characters had room to grow than a lot of action crammed into a few chapters. This is where the book lost its credibility or the illusion thereof, considering it is a fictional work.

Overall, I was fascinated by the story and its characters. It was beautifully set up and captivated me at once. Sadly, I got lost around the 2/3 mark.

Thank you to PRH International and to NetGalley for providing me with a review copy!

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Profile Image for Felicia.
254 reviews943 followers
November 10, 2019
"Someday death will claim you. And I will not allow it. His eyes narrowed, and his voice trembled with fury and determination. You are mine, Elizabeth Lavenza, and nothing will take you from me. Not even death."

I love retellings that offer a completely different perspective and Elizabeth Frankenstein was the POV I didn't know I needed.

"All our rituals as humans seemed to revolve around birth and death—marriage being the exception, though my wedding had been a ritual intimately connected to death, given my choice of partner."

Elizabeth is no wilting flower in this story. She manipulates everyone in her life in an effort to secure a future of luxury and power. To her horror she discovers that her carefully plotted influence over Victor Frankenstein has resulted in a horror that she herself no longer holds leverage over.

"Perhaps that was why Victor was so desperate to imitate life with his own twisted version. He had never been able to feel things as deeply as he should; he had been raised in a home where everything was pretense and no one spoke the truth. Not even me. I had accused Victor of creating a monster, but I had done the same."

It takes big ovaries to take on the beloved Frankenstein classic but Kiersten White has written a flawless gothic retelling of which Mary Shelley herself would be proud.

Fantastic dark and creepy read! Highly recommend.

Now I'm going to go pick out the next book I want to read from this author.
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,048 reviews1,382 followers
October 5, 2018
This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found @The Book Prescription

“For everyone made to feel like a side character in their own story”

🌟 I like the dedication of this book very much as I always think of people as main or secondary characters. I myself am a secondary character!

🌟 Some of you know that I didn’t finish the And I Darken book. But you also know that I believe in second chances. I wanted to give Kiersten her second chance, and while this was not a favorite book, not even close to that. I like this one more than the first book and I did finish it.

🌟 My problem is not the writing itself, because the writing is great and there were a few quote that I like. My problem in both this book and the And I Darken book is the Main characters. Sadly, I don’t seem to like the MC of the book because they tend to be boring, predictable and kind of stupid.

🌟 This is supposed to be a feminist retelling if I am not wrong. Elizabeth should have been more interesting, Victor should have been more interesting but I was more intrigued by Justine and Mary. I even considered DNFing this and that maybe Kiersten’s style is just not for me. But the book got better in the second half. I felt it was predictable and tedious at first but then there is a mini plot twist and things got really interesting after that point which made me continue reading without hesitation.

🌟 Many of the character’s behaviors made me roll my eyes and say “Really?”. I should disclose that I had never read Frankenstein but I know the story from other media forms. That was part of why I was interested in reading this. Some said that this is a horror book but I wasn’t scared.

🌟 Summary and Prescription: A feminist Frankenstein retelling with a not so interesting characters. The start was shaky and a bit slow for me but it definitely gets better. It has a very good writing but I could not relate to the main characters. Still a decent read for fans of feminist retellings and Frankenstein.
Profile Image for Natalie Monroe.
595 reviews3,588 followers
November 26, 2018
“You are mine, Elizabeth Lavenza, and nothing will take you from me. Not even death.”

I have a confession to make. Even though I'm getting an MPhil in Victorian literature, I have never read Frankenstein.

gasps all around

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Get back to your hidey-holes, you ghouls.

I do know that the original Elizabeth Lavenza is a classic "Angel in the House" figure. She's sweet, passive, bland. Some scholars have argued that she smoothly rotates through the three prime female paradigms of the nineteenth century: daughter, mother, and wife. THIS Elizabeth Lavenza is also sweet and obedient, but that's a mask to further her own selfish desires. She wants to leave her abusive caretaker and live in the comfortable Frankenstein mansion.


“I needed to be something they would love. And so when I got out of bed, I left behind anything I wanted and slipped into sweetness as softly as I slipped into my warm socks.”

What also drove the story for me, I think, was Elizabeth and Victor's twisted love story. Don't get me wrong; it's problematic as fuck. But it's also intriguing and intense. Victor needs Elizabeth in his own crooked way. Elizabeth, in turn, manipulates Victor and becomes who he needs so he’ll love her and protect her interests.

Plus, with all of Elizabeth's agency and intelligence, she never feels like a 21st century heroine plunked into a 19th century world. One of the issues I had with Stalking Jack the Ripper (and boy, I had a lot) was that the heroine didn't feel like a product of her time. Her ideas were too radical for that era. I much rather read about women negotiating their lives and gaining power in a patriarchal society. Elizabeth is feminist in a way that I can imagine a Bronte heroine would be. She longs to go to school. She acknowledges that women are too dependent on their husbands and are not allowed to leave them even if they’re abusive, like The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. At the same time, she doesn’t try to ignite a revolution because that’s not the way things were done. She exists within her bounds while transcending them, and that takes serious creative skill.

The last third of the book did get a little predictable, but it does little to detract from its overall charm. Both original Shelley fans and new readers are going to adore this feminist retelling.
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
940 reviews14k followers
January 13, 2021
This book almost doesn't deserve this rating because I should've reread Frankenstein to fully understand this, but I just didn't get what it was supposed to do. Also them naming the monster???? bye
Profile Image for Meagan.
334 reviews185 followers
November 7, 2018
Elizabeth was deliciously flawed 😈. loved her character and the growth she experienced.

I loved the message of this book: Be you! Be your gloriously flawed self. Do not try and change who you are for others. And last, but most importantly, create your own future. Do not let others dictate it for you. Ugh, where was this book when I was teenager!

I loved Kierstan's writing! It is always so beautiful! After about page 60 the pacing and the plot really picks up. So don't give up before you get at least to page 60! I did almost DNF this because I was anticipating a dark read and thought the book wasn't delivering. But I decided to give Kiersten another chance and she did not disappoint! It definitely gets dark!☻☻

This was so good that I actually put Frankenstein on hold at the library! I can't wait to read it. Lol don't crucify me because I have not read Frankenstein lol. I have just never been interested, but now I can not wait! 😊😊

The only critique I have is that the first 60 pages were a little slow. But after finishing the book I do appreciate those first few pages as they really set the stage for the characters, the atmosphere, and the plot.
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,838 followers
September 30, 2018
this book was a Ride

so creepy, so entertaining, so messed up. the characters are really deep and flawed and terrifying. and those plot twists, hashtag 👌



my brain: you're already reading a kiersten white book and it's not going so hot so why not pick up ANOTHER ONE OF HER BOOKS 🤪🤪


buddy read with claraaa 💖
Profile Image for Riley.
429 reviews21.7k followers
October 16, 2018
I'm super conflicted on this. I loved the characters so much. Elizabeth is one of the best protagonists I have read from. She's my slytherin queen.
But this was so boring. The pacing was all over the place. There were really long stretches where nothing happened and then the action scenes went by so fast. I also fell asleep while reading it at one point which never happens so........
Profile Image for Korrina  (OwlCrate).
193 reviews4,558 followers
March 18, 2018
I finished it! But I can’t really decide how I want to rate it yet. I liked it, but I don’t think I was in the right mood to read it. But the writing was quite good, it was definitely creepy and interesting. And if you like the source material, you’ll probably find a lot to enjoy in this retelling.
Profile Image for Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*.
2,473 reviews1,083 followers
December 1, 2018
“You are mine, Elizabeth Lavenza, and nothing will take you from me. Not even death.”

I really enjoyed this. The character of Elizabeth receives a backbone and an unconventional retelling. Smiles, dimples and sweet curls are the face behind a manipulative mind in more control than others would realize at first, deceived glance. The flashbacks embedded into the story between the present hunt and discovery were especially interesting - I get impatient with this kind of thing usually, but in this case it truly was the heart of most of the story, providing a necessary psychological backdrop. Not only did the author play around with the character of Elizabeth, but Victor? Yikes. It's actually more of a plausible scenario. Even the father and mother got dysfunctional character traits that made them shine, as by the side as they were.

Elizabeth, Elizabeth. What a diabolical mind you have. What beauty, what genius. A fascinating look into the woman who stood behind the man, shaping behind the scenes. Not all stayed roses and even she may earn some redemption.

This story wholly focuses on the bond between Victor and Elizabeth and her life, not really on the 'monster'. But, when they comes up, it's also handled marvelously well. Love the added twists and changes to the classic story in the second half and ending with all of that. Gothic horrors indeed.

Pacing can languish at times, especially at the beginning, but it still stays focused enough. It was fascinating to see the manipulative pulls in her mind, the companions that came across so convincing, her change into something better and stronger, the theme of survival. If you're a fan of Frankenstein, you may enjoy this one - it's a completely different tale in many ways, of course, but it's still a different take from a different perspective.
Profile Image for Mara YA Mood Reader.
342 reviews268 followers
October 8, 2021
$1.99 on Kindle US today 10/8/2021!! Perfect for Spooky Halloween reads!!

5 Freaky-Frankenstein Stars!!! I freaking loved this!!

This is the first I’ve ever read of Kiersten White and I don’t know why after reading this brilliant retelling!! I’m definitely going to read more by this author.

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein is now among one of my top reads of the year.

It’s just soooooooooo refreshing. And unique. And a perrrrrrrfect YA. The type of YA that I WANT!!

Here’s what I loved:
•Twisted but still chill
•Horror/Gore that’s mild but still creepy
•Romance that’s not really romance (or maybe it was just in my head) but definitely not the focus because the plot was just sooooo freaking good that romance isn’t needed to keep things interesting —I KNOW you get me!
•Creepy freaking twisted boys —yaaasss you guys know me
•Victorian/Regency/Gothic Era
•Foreign setting (as in NOT in the US like every other damn YA)
•Elizabeth’s character growth —realistic!!
•Plot twists that left me white knuckling pages!
•And NOT a typical YA where everyone’s swooning over hot boys that are “so bad” but are actually just misunderstood sweethearts
•No instalove!

I’m so depressed that there is no more. These characters became so alive to me. Thoughts and fantasies and wonderings of Elizabeth and Victor and Henry consumed me. I dreamt about them at night. I pondered them all day. And now it’s over. It ended so beautifully but I don’t know what to turn to next that will bring me these feels again!
Profile Image for Beverly.
835 reviews313 followers
May 8, 2019
I was really looking forward to this, but perhaps my expectations were too high. It was very slow going for me, even though it is not a long book.

There are aspects of it that I loved, like making Elizabeth the focus of the story and getting to hear her thoughts about her being allowed into the family in order to be Victor's pet. I loved how the author creates such a strong person in Elizabeth. She knows what her role is: to befriend the strange boy and fashion him into a semblance of a human being. Victor, as a budding psychopath is revolutionary too, what else would you call a boy who likes to take living things apart to see how they work?

Where I think it falls apart for me is at the end where a different ending is created, so that Victor won't be triumphant. It is a brilliant homage up to that point, because she does her magic within the framework of the original story. It is when she deviated from it that it lost its sway for me.
Profile Image for Sadie Hartmann.
Author 21 books4,832 followers
April 26, 2022
Congratulations to author Kiersten White for winning the 2018 Stoker Award for Best YA Horror novel!
You can soon read my full review/experience of my reading of this novel when it's published to Cemetery Dance! Coming Soon.

What a treat that a signed hardback copy of this book showed up in my mailbox just a few weeks before I learned that Kiersten White had won the 2018 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a YA Horror novel. Hearing such glowing reviews made me eager to read this popular retelling of a classic, horror favorite.

Seventeen-year-old orphan Elizabeth Lavenza finds herself rescued from a life of uncertainty when she is given to a wealthy family in the hopes that she will be a comrade for their unusual son, Victor Frankenstein. White tells the story of this exchange through Elizabeth’s real time narrative and periodic flashbacks.

I enjoyed how the story snippets from the past consistently closed the gap between the drama that was currently unfolding and the circumstances that led up to them. I have read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein twice and I’m a huge fan of the 1930s movie, so I’m familiar with the story. It was a pleasant surprise that even devout fans of Frankenstein could read this story and feel like it had originality and a fresh perspective.

Almost immediately I started developing some theories as to what was going on, and these guesses kept my curiosity piqued as I rabidly turned the pages to see if my hunch was correct.

Our main protagonist, Elizabeth, is complicated. In some ways, her flaws irritate the reader. She seems preoccupied with her own self-preservation to the point of playing the fool for Victor just to keep her good standing with the Frankenstein family. But in other ways, I admire her resolve and her determination to boldly pursue that which she truly wants.

Victor Frankenstein is a gothic horror lover’s dream character! I absolutely devoured all the scenes he was in. His character arc is expertly evolved over the span of the novel. We get to make discoveries about Victor only through his closest confidant and partner, Elizabeth. It’s fascinating to experience all of Victor’s narcissism through Elizabeth’s naiveté and patiently wait for something to happen that will change the entire course of the story. It’s that tension between what the reader already knows to be true and what the characters still need to find out that makes this book hard to put down.

My only complaint was that there were a few chapters that felt like filler—a little bit of a long detour that doubled back just to return to the same point of climax. Also, I wish some more time was spent in Victor’s laboratories, but I do understand the focus was intentionally on Elizabeth this time. White did a great job writing interesting characters; even the supporting ones like Justine, Henry and Mary were given unique personalities and voices.

I loved the ending, the epilogue and the author’s notes. Kiersten White is a delight and I can’t wait to read another of her books.
Profile Image for Grace.
129 reviews113 followers
September 11, 2020
This is one of the best retellings I've read in a long time. I noticed it when it first came out, but I didn't want to read it because I had never read the original Frankenstein. I ended up reading it my senior year of high school, and then picked this up this year. I'm so glad I did.

This is the story of Frankenstein, as told from Elizabeth's pov. It begins after Victor has already created his monster, when Elizabeth comes to find him and he is sick in one of his fits, which he fell in after the creation of the monster. It follows the events of the story thereafter, with its own twists that are done remarkably well.

"I had accused Victor of creating a monster, but I had done the same."

The character development was very good. I loved Elizabeth and how she was not all black and white. She is a strong woman, but she hides it well. As for the others, I felt like Victor and Judge Frankenstein were very mysterious. It almost makes you keep going back and forth with them, but particularly with Judge Frankenstein. As for the character deaths, I felt like they lost some of their impact since I knew they were coming, and I think I tried to distance myself from those characters from the beginning (oops).

The novel ties in so, so well with the original Frankenstein. I don't want to go into any details because it so lovely and I'd rather you be able to discover it for yourself. I was worried the book might be somewhat predictable and boring, but it wasn't at all. It has a very tight plot so that in the beginning you are intrigued with getting to know Elizabeth and the parts of her world that aren't so evident in the original Frankenstein. By the time this luster starts to fade, there's a huge plot twist that takes it away from the original, while still staying true to it.

Whether or not you've read the original, this book is an absolute gem. I don't know whether you should have read the original first or not, as I have some mixed emotions, but I'm leaning toward yes, just so you won't be spoiled for the real Frankenstein. Frankenstein won't spoil you for this, but this WILL spoil you for Frankenstein. I'm honestly very glad I waited until after reading Frankenstein to read this retelling. But, if you don't have any interest in reading Frankenstein (even though you definitely should!!) don't let that stop you from enjoying this masterpiece.
Profile Image for Taylor.
486 reviews140 followers
September 22, 2023
“Sometimes we were strangers even to ourselves.”


Lightning streaks across the sky. The wind howls, rain pounds against the windows, and shadows creep along the walls of the parlor. A warm fire crackles in the hearth, and a book sets in your lap. Through the glass, trees writhe and twist in the tempest. The storm rattles your bones. The dark corners of the room send a chill up your spine. And maybe, just maybe...you see a figure, standing outside the window.

Watching you.

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein was a creeping, biting, terror of a story. It set my hair on end. Moved me to tears. Made me so angry, so unsettled, that I couldn't put it down for the life of me.

Kiersten White is a genius.

In this book, we follow Elizabeth Lavenza: adopted cousin of the Frankensteins, blushing bride to Victor, and an ultimately silent presence in Mary Shelley's original story. Frankenstein is a masterful work of fiction, and a classic for a reason - however, White's attempt to tell Shelley's tale through the perspective of Elizabeth was a true feat. Who was Victor, really, to Elizabeth? Why was she chosen by the Frankensteins to be his "special friend?"

What dark, dreadful things would a young girl have to do to survive the mind of Victor, a young boy with little empathy and incessant curiosity?

White beautifully captures the gothic, dramatic flare present in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The Frankenstein's manor house on Lake Geneva, silhouetted by snow-capped peaks, the grimy streets of Ingolstadt, and the crisp, vibrant beauty of mountains and glaciers leapt off the page. The setting was so immersive, and the historical period was incredibly well-realized. Supposedly, Elizabeth's wealthy parents died of the plague when she was a young girl. With no money or prospects, she was taken in by a poor family with too many mouths to feed. Eventually, she was sold off to Madame Frankenstein, who was taken by Elizabeth's golden hair and pretty face. She was to be Victor's special friend.

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein takes a deep dive into the toxic, twisted relationship between Elizabeth and Victor. Elizabeth's livelihood depends on Victor's opinion of her. If she can't tame him, can't lead him back from his more...violent urges, the Frankensteins have no use for her.

Therefore, Elizabeth's whole sense of self was shaped by Victor's wishes. In order to secure a place for herself in a world that constrains, belittles, and controls women, Elizabeth must be a version of herself that Victor loves. Approves of. She lingers in Victor's shadow because she knows that's where she needs to be in order to get what she wants. This made for a fascinating character in Elizabeth. She's calculating, intuitive, manipulative, and extremely smart. Even smarter than Victor, probably, but she can never express that in front of him. He always has to be the most intelligent person in the room.

“I, however, was perfectly aware of my beauty. I considered it a skill, alongside speaking French, English, Italian and German. It was a language of its own, in a way. One that translated well in different circumstances.”

I loved Elizabeth as a character. She's one of the most dynamic, interesting female protagonists I've come across, and I was immediately sucked in by her narrative voice. When Victor has all but disappeared while attending University in Ingolstadt, Elizabeth is determined to track him down. Their relationship is...extremely complicated. Victor is emotionally abusive, quick-tempered, and controlling. Elizabeth had to shape her entire life around him, and sees Victor as her only ticket toward stability. This is during a time period where women had to get married in order to survive, especially if they had no money. White wrote Victor and Elizabeth's relationship with intricacy and care; Elizabeth defends Victor, covers for him, even loves him to a degree. Witnessing Elizabeth crawl out of her toxic relationship with Victor on her own volition was gratifying to see, and completely cathartic for me. I loved it.

The other characters were great as well. Victor was portrayed as the villain he always was in this book, and I loved White's take on his dark, damaged personality. Mary was a wonderful addition to the story that I would have liked to have seen more of. Henry deserves the world. He's such a sweetheart.

Justine was a minor character in the original classic, but plays a much larger role in here. I can't express to you the depth of my love for her. I was so surprised by how moved I was by Justine's character. Her horrible upbringing, kind, sensitive heart, and emotional bond with Elizabeth made me adore Justine so much. Truly, I haven't been so utterly moved by a female friendship in a long time. I was brought to tears! Seriously, Elizabeth and Justine's friendship was everything to me.

White also gave Victor's Creation an interesting twist in this book, which I really enjoyed. There's a found-family element toward the end of this story that made my heart so happy. If I had one complaint about this book, it's that I wanted it to be longer.

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein expertly intertwines new, fresh ideas with Mary Shelley's original story, and made the emotional beats of the classic ring even truer for me. Elizabeth's perspective was fascinating, and I adored the female gaze White lended to this horrifying story. The writing was excellent, and there were moments in here where White captured Shelley's creeping terror perfectly. I was spooked several times while listening to the audiobook. The narrator was superb!

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

I just...don't have anything negative to say about this book. I adored it. Kiersten White is one of my favorite authors for a reason, and her niche is dark retellings focused around angry, complex female characters. It's my brand, honestly. I love it. If you haven't read this book, please do. I've heard other reviewers claim this book was boring or slow, and while I can understand some of the complaints, I was thoroughly engaged from start to finish.

Gorgeously dark, twisted, and full of soul. This book was perfection.


“Some nights, when even my childs heart knew that what I had been asked to endure was too much, I would stand on the edge of the lake, lift my face to the stars, and scream. Nothing ever called back. Even among the creeping things of the lakes night, I was alone. Until Victor.”
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