The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

Updated: Jan 21, 2020

"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 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 indulging 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 whatever the cost... as the world she knows is consumed by darkness."

The most amazing thing about classic horror stories is how they still influence many writers today.

To read 'the Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein,' you don't have to know anything about Mary Shelley's original creation. No, this book seems to take the story of Dr. Frankenstein in a completely different direction than what was known 200 years ago. I, personally, haven't read Shelley's book, but after reading this one, I certainly want to now. Victor Frankenstein is the most interesting character I have read about in a long time.

'The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein' takes us to Victor's childhood, where we observe him becoming the insane doctor that he was in 'Frankenstein' - but this one doesn't pass Victor's 21st birthday, and his creation of a 'creature' is much earlier than in Shelley's version. This book was still very enjoyable,even if it doesn't line up with the classic. But instead of following Victor's descent into darkness, we follow Elizabeth's ascension from darkness through her need to be taken care of for the remainder of her life - 'And if Victor did not seem to respond to my sweetness,I would simply cry. He never could stand it when I cried. It would hurt him. I smiled in anticipation, letting the meanness at my core stretch like ill-used muscles' Another interesting part of this book is seeing how well the author, White, creates a sociopathic lead female character, who has tailored herself to wearing the right faces and acting a certain way to get what she wants.

We enter the book with Elizabeth and her good friend, Justine, on a trip to find Victor, who has stopped writing from school some months before - Victor's mother had died before he left, and now Elizabeth was questioning whether or not his father was going to keep her around. We get flash backs here and there of Elizabeth and Victor as children together. The reader is shown that Elizabeth is the only person who can calm Victor during his 'rages,' and she seems to be the only person he allowed inside his world. We're led to believe that Elizabeth truly cares for Victor,but quickly we are told that she only cares if she has a roof over her head or not. Eventually, Elizabeth finds Victor, but he is in the midst of a fever - an ailment he falls under quite often whenever his studies would keep him from eating, drinking and sleeping - he whispers in a fever state 'Do not tell Elizabeth.' and 'It worked.' The horror quickly takes place when Elizabeth explores his surroundings to find a makeshift lab with body parts,both human and animal.

The book spends a lot of time with Elizabeth waiting on Victor, usually for him to return home to the Frankenstein estate. Although White does an amazing job of bringing back words and writing that was of 200 years ago, sometimes it seems she's too busy concentrating on that rather than paying attention to consistency. The story had me glued to the book from part one, but what really kept me going was the character, Victor. If this entire story had been from his point of view, I would have put this book at the top of my favorite books list. This also should have been titled 'the Dark Descent of Victor Frankenstein,' because it's Victor who seems to slowly descend into madness, not Elizabeth, she seems to know what he is going to become, but because she is so occupied with keeping her place at the Frankenstein household, she does nothing to stop it.

Victor, by today's standards, is a murderer in the making:

"The deer stopped keening. It did not die as Victor tugged the knife through the skin over its stomach. I had imagined it parting like the crust of a loaf of bread,but it was tough, resistant. The sound of tearing made me sick. I turned away as Victor strained to make progress with blood coating his hands and making the knife slippery."

Elizabeth takes great measures to keep Victor out of trouble,even when he nearly severs the arm of his little brother out of curiosity. She focuses on keeping the little brother alive, then placing blame on the nursemaid by planting a pair of scissors from her sewing supplies. Elizabeth was not only a good liar, but she was also an antagonist. When Victor seems to not be able to cope with what he did to his little brother, she quickly tells him what they will say to his father: " ' We know what happened. It was the nursemaid's fault for leaving out her sewing supplies. She is stupid and lazy and still sleeping. She will be punished and relieved of her duties. Ernest will be fine.' I paused to be sure Victor understood that this was our story,no matter what. 'And we are fortunate that she is stupid and lazy and convenient, and nothing like this will happen again. Will it?' " She may have very well been the reason Victor did the things he did.

Victor, of course, ends up making a monster, but White didn't try to retell the Shelley novel, instead she tried to give it a different spin from a different perspective. As a storyteller, White did an impressive job with wording and flashbacks. For die-hard fans of Shelley's 'Frankenstein,' I wouldn't recommend ' the Dark Decent of Elizabeth Frankenstein' unless you are willing to read it with an open mind. I only wish there had been more scenes with Victor - an unforgettable character.

You can preview some of the book here.

- Hadley

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