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review: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

★★★☆☆ // 3 out of 5 stars

Goodreads review: here

Oh Kiersten White, I love your writing. But I got beef with your creative decisions.

2.5-3 stars

How my reading this book went:

Up to last 30 pages: problems problems
Last 30 pages: problems fixed so quick

I mean I’m glad Henry’s not dead dead and that Elizabeth learns that it’s not good to enable Victor ‘cause he’s nuts and apologizes for enabling a murderer mad wannabe scientist, but this would have been a very short story if Henry and Lizzy just got married and cut Victor outta their lives you know?

Also I guess my bias is showing because I didn’t even like the original Frankenstein.

Pros:
– Prose (haha). I always enjoy the words Kiersten White lays down. The passage where Elizabeth was being emotional cut apart and she didnt know which parts of her were left that was good shit.

– I’m glad Victor’s not a doctor he doesn’t need credibility here. He was a student in the OG book, not a DOCTOR. And they kept it the same here. Phew.

– Justine and Elizabeth’s friendship – Justine is the one that truly shines here, though Elizabeth has her moments when it comes to Justine too.

– Henry – again he shines even tho he’s not on screen most of the time. I honestly wish this book went of the rails and went the Henry route instead but that’s a fanfic for another time.

– The attempt at making Elizabeth a morally complex character. Most of her actions are rooted in survival – most obvious being the enabling of Victor’s psychopathic tendencies and turning a blind eye to the danger his actions bring upon others. But the thing is, part of her really LIKED being by Victor’s side to an extent. She could have taken the “easy” route and cut Victor out of her life by marrying Henry (which would go off the rails and also make this a mighty short book), but she didn’t.

Elizabeth teaching Victor how to sew was supposed to be showing that Victor’s “brilliance” was really from Elizabeth this whole time, which I suspect is what inspired KW to write this book in Elizabeth’s POV, as she notes in her author’s notes. This sort of makes it seem like she’s responsible for all of this even tho Victor would have done these things either way. Anyway, in the end Elizabeth acknowledges her wrongdoings and being complicit to Victor’s games, so alright.

– Mary was pretty damn cool at the end “it’s time to kill your husband” hell yeah it is. That’s what I’ve been saying this entire time about Victor!!!

Problems
– The book would have been short if Lizzy just married Henry and cut Victor out of her life – that’s the easiest way to solve the problems the MC faces tbh. I feel like a lot of problems within KW’s plots have simple fixes, but she choses to make it all an uphill battle. the plot was predictable – Even tho I hadn’t anticipated the twist – when I got to it, I was like oh that makes sense it’s not surprising.

– DID KW JUST INSULT MARY SHELLY’S WORK BY CALLING IT THE FANFIC PENNED BY HER BOOK’S VICTOR!?

– The feminism? – Is it actually a feminist work because the MC is female and was originally a side character? HMM Some aspects certainly are like Justine not wanting her own kids but wanting to take care of kids because she likes them? I actually think this is an improvement on the And I Darken series because it seems like KW heard “us” out about how Lada had reacted to other women being abused vs. her own and KW wanted to rectify that somehow. KW’s books tend to mention bad things that happen to women/gloss over them instead of delving into those topics when the MC never had to experience them herself. It basically went like this:

Woman: yeah i escaped my abusive husband and got put in an asylum
Elizabeth: yeah same. except like I just told him I wouldn’t be ok with murder anymore
Woman:
Elizabeth: it’s the same. we’re both under the patriarchy.

At least Elizabeth acknowledges her (class) privilege last minute, but it rubbed me the wrong way how flippantly this is done in all of the KW books I’ve read.

The women are always their own downfalls (incompetence/lack of foresight) – see Lada. and they’re always going down to some level of stupidity rather than while they oppose something formidable – the greatest enemy is themselves?!?! is that it? There’s just some anachronistic feel to the type of feminism KW’s trying to pedal – like the “it’s feminist bc Elizabeth created a monster/enabled a murderer” it was for her own survival not because she’s on a power trip – but again SHE LIKED being connected to Victor, otherwise she would have taken the way out with Henry.

KW won’t let her MCs be actually equal – like there’s mentions of Elizabeth being actually SMORT bc she manipulates Victor and soothes him but he also talks down to her for being a woman. Just showing the sexist discrimination doesn’t really provide any sort of message to counter that other than show that it was BAD back in the day. I always feel like KW acknowledges it was bad but never goes the next level to right the wrong. That’s a personal nitpick I’m just tired of seeing it get a pass and YA operates too often on this level.

– How quickly Elizabeth turned over a new leaf. Comparable to Heart of Thorns with how she suddenly had all the answers about her conviction @ Victor and had to do right by everyone. Was this A True Dark Descent? – No, Elizabeth RISES from the grave! And morally north.

– Victor seemed more complex before he went full killer mode.

– The back and forth of the time jumps seem misplaced.

– Weird mentions of eastern languages being useful to know for business/empire building – typical white person proverb – it’s only useful if you can churn a profit from the pulp. I know that was probably sort of a shout out and being like hey Arabic and Chinese are cool but I’m just like ok I already knew that.

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