There’s always at least a bit of darkness in Kiersten White’s books, and sometimes a lot. In honor of her latest, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, I’ve ranked them from darkish to darkest. Let’s descend into the fictional deeps, from a magical story with a touch of danger down to a book that’s basically just maniacal shadows captured on paper.
The Chaos of Stars
This mythological rom-com-ish standalone features the daughter of Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris. Isadora, the daughter in question, leaps at the chance to move with her brother to California, away from all the ancient drama that comes with their family. While hiding some dark dreams from her parents, she also falls for a boy who writes epic poetry.
Illusions of Fate
Next up on our whirlwind tour of Kiersten White, we have Illusions of Fate, another standalone filled with secrets and magic and a cute young lord. Since moving from Melei, her island home, to the country of Albion, Jessamin has felt like an outcast. When Finn, the aforementioned cute young lord, introduces her to the world of Albion’s nobility, Jessamin sees a world of money and magic. Not only that, but another lord (alas, not young and cute one, but vicious) is after the secrets Finn possesses, and only Jessamin can stop him. If you like your magic served with a side of witty banter, this is the Kiersten book for you.
Slayer (out January 8)
Considering the dark spookiness of its cover, you might be surprised to see this forthcoming Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff so close to the top of this list. Rest assured, it does have some darkness—but like the first season of Buffy, it’s also very self-aware and fun, featuring a girl who really does not want to be the Chosen One. Nina is super salty because not only did Buffy’s actions make her into a Slayer, they made her the last Slayer. Now, the daughter of a Watcher is training to defeat monsters—until the day bodies start turning up, and she truly is tested.
White’s debut is a foray into paranormal romance that’s also something of a spoof on paranormal romance—and it works beautifully. Evie has the ability to see through supernatural glamours, and she uses this skill in her work for the International Paranormal Containment Agency. If that wasn’t out of the ordinary enough, her ex is a faerie, she’s falling for a shapeshifter, and there’s a dark faerie prophecy about doom and gloom and destruction of all paranormal creatures that she might be at the center of. So, Evie’s pretty normal.
Fia and Annie are sisters with dangerous secrets: Annie has visions of the future and Fia’s first impulse is always exactly right. When they’re offered a place at the Keane Institute, an elite boarding school, Fia senses something is wrong. But the school is no ordinary school, and they want to use Fia’s gift—and her refusal would mean the end of Annie’s life. After Fia falls for a boy who has his own dark secrets, she starts working on ways to fight back.
You may be thinking, “Why is Kiersten White’s middle grade in the last half of this list?” Well, because it’s both super hilarious and super dark! In a laugh out loud take on some favorite fairy tales, White pulls in her experience with the art of paranormal and the art of snark and turns Little Red Riding Hood into a zombie.
In the Shadows, illustrated by Jim di Bartolo
Sisters Cora and Minnie live in a small town where mysterious things happen. Brothers Thomas and Charles have been exiled to the boarding house that Cora and Minnie’s mother runs—and the family history that follows the boys is one of sorrow and guilt. Arthur knows what darkness follows the other four, but can’t say why. Told in a mixture of prose and fabulously spooky illustrations by Jim di Bartolo, this is a story full of shadows, manipulations, and conspiracies.
And I Darken trilogy
There is some truth in advertising, judging by the titles of the final two entries on this list. And I Darken is a historical exploration of a question I’m certain you’ve already asked yourself, “But what if Vlad the Impaler was a girl?” With a name like Vlad the Impaler, you can imagine this book isn’t exactly filled with sunshine. Lada is a brutal princess, planning her vengeance on the Ottoman empire and plotting her return to her homeland and throne. Radu, her younger brother, just wants a place where he feels safe. This trilogy is masterful, and until very recently would have topped this list of darkness.
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein
We have arrived at our final stop on the darkness tour: White’s latest novel, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein. A perfect read for Halloween, it follows Elizabeth Lavenza, a young girl brought to the home of solitary Victor Frankenstein in order to become his companion. Soon the pair soon become inseparable, but her survival is dependent on her grasp of Victor’s temper and whims. Elizabeth is determined to stay alive, and will calculate what is required of her to do just that. This book would make Mary Shelley and the original Frankenstein proud—and it might make you shiver while reading it.