Friday, May 17, 2013

Review: Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters - Suzanne Weyn

Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters by Suzanne Weyn
Genre: YA, classic retelling, mystery
Published on January 1, 2013
Published by Scholastic Press
Pages: 250
Read From: 5.11.13 - 5.12.13

When Doctor Victor Frankenstein died, he left behind a legacy of horror. . . .as well as two unacknowledged, beautiful twin daughters. Now these girls are seventeen, and they've come to Frankenstein's castle to claim it as their inheritance. 

Giselle and Ingrid are twins, but they couldn't be more different. Giselle is a glamorous social climber who plans on turning Frankenstein's castle into a center of high society. Ingrid, meanwhile, is quiet and studious, drawn to the mysterious notebooks her father left behind. . . .and the experiments that he went mad trying to perfect. 
As Giselle prepares for lavish parties and Ingrid finds herself falling for the sullen, wounded naval officer next door, a sinister force begins to take hold in the castle. Nobody's safe as Frankenstein's legacy leads to a twisted, macabre journey of romance and horror.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Despite the character impersonators, I actually do really like the cover. It's got the Gothic feel, with Giselle holding the candle, and Castle Frankenstein in the background with a full moon.

Characters: Giselle and Ingrid are practically opposites when it comes to their personalities. Ingrid is obsessed with science and discovering how things work; she could not care less about fancy dresses or what society expects. Giselle, meanwhile, is a social butterfly and hopes to bring Castle Frankenstein back into society as a place of balls and lavish dinners. The two are identical in looks, and yet everyone considers Giselle the pretty one and Ingrid the plain one. Even with their opposing personalities, Giselle and Ingrid are very close to one another, and it was this sisterly bond that I really loved about them. I enjoyed Ingrid's inquisitive mind, and I appreciated Giselle's love for pretty things, but it was their close relationship that really stood out to me as a shared best quality between them. I also really liked the more minor characters: Investigator Cairo, Ingrid's best friend Arthur, and Walter Hammersmith. Because this is a really short book, we don't get to know these characters as well as I would have liked, but even in the short time that they are in the story, they made an impression on me.

The Romance: I didn't wholly understand Ingrid's immediate attraction to Walter. He seemed like a nice enough guy, and I liked him, but in terms of a romantic interest, I would have definitely picked Arthur over moody Mr. Hammersmith. And yes, there is a bit of a love triangle with Walter, Ingrid, and Arthur, but only just. Arthur, poor lad, takes Ingrid's rejection of his affections very well, which only made me love him all the more. Giselle, surprisingly, doesn't have that many romantic escapades; just one, and I almost wanted to smack her. It was so obvious that Johann was just after her fortune! Everyone else could see it - why couldn't she?

Plot: Dr. Frankenstein has died, leaving his family's castle to his two twin daughters. Giselle and Ingrid never knew their father; he abandoned them to protect them from his creation, though the girls don't know this. Eager to restore her family's good name, which Dr. Frankenstein has more or less left in tatters, Giselle sets about bringing Castle Frankenstein back to its former glory, while Ingrid explores her father's journals and befriends the reclusive Henry Hammersmith. But Castle Frankenstein has always been regarded with suspicion and fear by the villagers, and when a rash of mysterious murders spring up shortly after the girls' arrival, it only makes things worse, and causes Giselle's waking nightmares to return. Castle Frankenstein had many secrets, and it looks as if not all of them have disappeared with Ingrid and Giselle's father's death. Spin-offs from classics aren't usually very good - especially when they involve so-and-so's daughter. So when I picked up Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters, I wasn't anticipating anything special. The storyline would probably be mediocre. Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered a terrific Gothic mystery that had me turning the pages as quickly as I could, just to see what would happen next. I was utterly riveted, so excited to explore this "what would happen if Dr. Frankenstein had daughters" tale.

Believability: The social protocol and science of the era was all quite correct. The Author, in fact, mentions that she made it a point to only use scientific theories and terms that would have been in use in this time period, and it really did a lot to make the story feel so much more authentic and period appropriate.

Writing Style: The narration is first person, and each chapter switches between Giselle and Ingrid. Because the two sisters are so different, their separate narrations have very distinct styles, making it quite easy to follow who is narrating when. It's also written like journal entries, but still has a very definite novel quality to it, and not the journal-feel of, say, a Dear America book. The liberties the Author took with Mary Shelley's original story were very slight indeed, and she stayed very true to Frankenstein, which I very much appreciated. Frankenstein isn't my favorite story - not even close, - but I don't like it when Authors take a classic story and twist it to their wishes. The resulting tale can hardly be called a retelling.

Content: None.

Conclusion: The final twist is, I'll admit, very easy to deduce on one's own, but that does not lessen the fact that it is a good twist, and rather than feeling let down at it being so easy, I was left feeling incredibly smug because I ended up being right. I also loved that the Author had Mary Shelley come to Castle Frankenstein and witness Ingrid's experiments and Dr. Frankenstein's lab. Now we know how she came up with her story! ;-) Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters was a very surprising and quick read. It could have been longer - it definitely would have been nice if the Author had taken the time to develop Ingrid and Walter's relationship, explored some of the characters a bit more, and built up even more suspense. But as it is, it's still enjoyable and a must-read for any Gothic novel or Frankenstein fan.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read (and guys who just love Frankenstein), thirteen-and-up due to interest level, great for Gothic novel fans, classic retelling fans, and Frankenstein purists.

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