On Sale: October 2018
Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.
Originally published in 1818, the hubris of Victor Frankenstein and his creation has inspired readers, film goers, and television watchers for two centuries. In Kiersten White’s newest novel, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, Mary Shelley’s classic gets a new interpretation—this time from the perspective of young Elizabeth Lavenza. You remember Elizabeth, of course—the sweet, beautiful young girl adopted by the Frankenstein family when she and Victor are just children. In Shelley’s original novel, Elizabeth is the moral, self-effacing counterpart to Victor’s dark obsessions. And, on their wedding night, after Victor refuses to create a mate for his monster, she is strangled to death.
Kiersten White’s interpretation of Elizabeth is…quite different. Narrated by Elizabeth, this new novel shows readers the desperate dependency of her life on Victor’s happiness—obsessive, temperamental, emotionally abusive Victor—and Elizabeth’s ability to channel and calm his darkest impulses. What no one else truly sees is just how cool and calculating Elizabeth truly is—and what lengths she will go to in order to secure her very survival.
Reading The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein made me think of some of the other exceptional Frankenstein-inspired young adult novels of recent years—so if you, too, are craving other retellings, here is a list of where to go next.
This Dark Endeavor and Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel. Following Victor at age fifteen, This Dark Endeavor shows readers a younger version of the would-be scientist—still deeply curious and hungry for answers. The catalyst for Victor’s obsession with electricity and alchemy in Oppel’s version is a mortally ill twin brother, Konrad, for whom Victor will do anything. In both novels of the Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein series, Oppel paints a sympathetic young protagonist who faces failure, jealousy, and tragedy, and in response turns ever darker, cultivating the growing obsession within.
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter and European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss. You know The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore—the mashup graphic novel adventures of Dorian Gray and Captain Nemo and other literary luminaries from the nineteenth century? Imagine a feminist, prose version and you have Theodora Goss’s Athena Club. Though the novel is mostly narrated by Mary Jekyll, she is quickly joined by her fellow monstrous sisters—each experimented upon and abandoned by their horrible fathers—including half-sister Diana Hyde (Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), Beatrice Rappaccini (Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter”), Catherine Moreau (Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau). And of course, among their lot is Justine Frankenstein—the mate created by Victor to give to his original monster, his Adam—but who survived and escaped, and whose kind soul wants only freedom and the companionship of her newfound sisters.
Destroyer by Victor LaValle. Collecting issues one through six, Victor LaValle’s Destroyer takes a powerful, necessary modern interpretation of the mad scientist and their creation. Set in present day United States, the comic follows Josephine Baker, a mother who loses her teenage son to senseless police brutality on his walk home from baseball practice. A distant descendant of Victor Frankenstein, Dr. Josephine Baker takes her rage and grief and channels it into her knowledge of biology and nanotechnology to resurrect her son, Akai. Her actions draw the attention of her ancestor’s original monster, now known simply as the Destroyer.
Strange Star by Emma Carroll. The only middle grade novel on my list, Strange Star by Emma Carroll is one of my favorite interpretations of the Frankenstein mythos. A tale within a tale within a tale, the novel is narrated by a young man, Felix, who was a slave from America but who now serves as Lord Byron’s manservant and watches on as Byron’s guests dole out stories to chill the blood. And then, a young woman named Lizzie arrives—our second narrator—who has walked across countries to save her sister from a terrible fate. And then there’s the monster who follows in Lizzie’s wake…A beautifully nested tale, Strange Star gives a new perspective on Claire Clairmont, Dr. John Polidori, Percy Shelley, and of course, Mary Shelley herself.
So there you have it! A list of (post-)modern Promethean inspired titles, as the days get colder and the nights get longer.