The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

Genre: Sci-Fi (retelling)
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: standalone


the dark descent of elizabeth frankenstein

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.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


I read Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN not long after I started this blog, but was so unimpressed with the book. To me, the only reason it had any write to be regarded as a “great classic” was that it was the first sci-fi book.

Sci-fi is a genre created by a teenage girl – a rebellious, defiant teenager who forged her own path against society’s expectations for her.

Kiersten White captures that strength and self-determination in her eponymous heroine, Elizabeth. Elizabeth gets a bit of a rough deal in the original, but White takes the precariousness of her situation and delves into the mind of a girl who will do anything to save herself from the streets.

It’s a deeply feminist retelling, as Elizabeth must manage a difficult man while making him think that her love is unconditional and innocent in order to retain her position in the family. She’s having to work around society’s expectations while maintaining her image, if she wants to save her loved ones and herself. I loved the way she was woven into the framework original story in such a way that she is influencing the known story.

The addition of a new female character and the enlarged part played by Justine, the governess (whom I had forgotten was in the book), helps round out Elizabeth’s character. They both contrast to her, taking different approaches despite certain shared elements in their past.

DARK DESCENT is sci-fi in the same way that the original was. It’s not a “neutrino-gun” (*inner scientist cringe*) or space battles, but the creation-of-life central to FRANKENSTEIN remains a central idea. I probably would have called it historical fantasy, if it wasn’t inspired by Frankenstein – but it would be weird to call a book based on the genre’s genesis something else!

The world itself is Victorian, and very realistic. White has not skimped on the details, weaving them in so you hardly notice. She also doesn’t brush over the realities of life, doesn’t sanitise them under artistic license. This is clearest in the asylum section and when Elizabeth goes to Ingolstadt.

Read my reviews of other books by Kiersten White:

Young Adult:

Slayer (Buffy-verse):

Camelot Rising:




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