Unnatural Creatures

A Novel of the Frankenstein Women

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Pub Date 04 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 30 Nov 2022

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“Worthy of comparison to Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea . . . Unnatural Creatures is a splendid achievement from a writer at the height of her powers.”—Historical Novels Review (Editors’ Choice)

"This book has it all. Unnatural Creatures is an atmospheric, reimagined classic about the lines we cross for loyalty and love." — Foreword Reviews

Available in trade softcover, library hardcover, e-book, and audiobook formats. 

Some tales aren't what you think. For the first time, the untold story of the three women closest to Victor Frankenstein is revealed in a dark and sweeping reimagining of Frankenstein by the author of The Lost History of Dreams and Doomed Queens.

THE MOTHER. Caroline Frankenstein will do anything to protect her family against the nightmarish revolutions engulfing 18th-century Europe. In doing so, she creates her own monster in the form of her scientist son, Victor. 

THE BRIDE. Rescued by Caroline as a four-year-old beggar, Elizabeth Lavenza knows the only way she can repay the Frankensteins is by accepting Victor's hand in marriage. But when Elizabeth's heart yearns for someone else, the lives of those she most loves collide with the unnatural creature born of Victor's profane experiments. 

THE SERVANT. After an abusive childhood, Justine Moritz is taken in by Caroline to serve the Frankensteins. Justine's devotion to Caroline and Elizabeth knows no bounds . . . until a tragedy changes her irrevocably. Her fate sets her against Victor's monster, who is desperate to wreak revenge against the Frankensteins.

Stunningly written and exquisitely atmospheric, Unnatural Creatures shocks new life into Mary Shelley's beloved gothic classic by revealing the feminine side of the tale. You'll never view Victor Frankenstein and his monster the same way again.

“Worthy of comparison to Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea . . . Unnatural Creatures is a splendid achievement from a writer at the height of her powers.”—Historical Novels Review (Editors’ Choice)


Advance Praise

"Lushly atmospheric and rich with historical authenticity, Unnatural Creatures is a riveting Gothic tale that I devoured in one sitting . . . An inspired reimagining that was impossible to put down." —Mimi Matthews, USA Today bestselling author of The Siren of Sussex

"Eerie, romantic, and exquisitely written, Unnatural Creatures is a brilliant and feminist companion to a classic. Kris Waldherr's electrifying novel brings the women in Victor Frankenstein's life to the foreground, reminding us that the most interesting stories are often the ones that go untold."—Megan Collins, author of The Family Plot

"Kris Waldherr deftly uses the political climate of late 18th-century Geneva to add depth and nuance to one of literature's best-known stories of one man's folly . . . With settings so lush you can practically see, smell, and touch them, Unnatural Creatures, like the novel that inspired it, is a richly atmospheric work of Gothic wonder."—Molly Greeley, author of The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bough and The Clergyman's Wife

"A masterful Gothic rendering . . . Mary Shelley herself would be deeply moved by this dark tale of revenge and redemption." —Stephanie Marie Thornton, USA Today bestselling author of And They Called It Camelot

"This is the feminist reimagining of Frankenstein you didn't know you needed. Waldherr reanimates the story from the perspective of its three central female characters—Caroline Frankenstein, Elizabeth Lavenza, and Justine Moritz—creating a tribute to the strength and resilience of women that would make Mary Shelley proud."—Clarissa Harwood, author of The Curse of Morton Abbey and Impossible Saints 

"A fitting tribute to Mary Shelley's masterpiece, written by a true artist who understands that enlightenment can come from darkness. . . . A rich feast for fans of the gothic novel."—Libbie Grant, author of The Prophet's Wife

"A sensuous and empathetic look at the three women who knew Victor Frankenstein best . . . A veritable tour de force!" —Paulette Kennedy, author of Parting the Veil

"Waldherr transforms the women of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein from victims into protagonists . . . She sheds new light on one of literature's most famous stories in an atmospheric novel, which contrasts the unnatural act of Frankenstein's monster's animation with the maternal act of creation." —Finola Austin, author of Bronte's Mistress

"This is a book that will seep into your bones and chill your heart in the best possible way; Mary Shelley would be proud." —Hester Fox, author of A Lullaby for Witches

"Lushly atmospheric and rich with historical authenticity, Unnatural Creatures is a riveting Gothic tale that I devoured in one sitting . . . An inspired reimagining that was impossible to put down." ...

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Featured Reviews

Yessss! This book is everything you want for the spooky season! As you read, you can practically hear the low rumbling of thunder in the distance and feel the uneasy chill up your spine. It’s always a joy to read historical fiction when an author takes care in the details of their time and region. Waldherr has absolutely researched the events surrounding the original Mary Shelley book and has done an incredible job at not only adding to the same original writing flow yet distinguishing it as her own. This story is elegant, macabre, unsettling and delightful.

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I started reading this book half an hour before I had to leave to do an errand and was pulled in immediately--and was late to my meeting! The writing is excellent and the story is wonderfully evocative and creepy. I love novels where I feel utterly immersed in the time and place, and this is one of those gems. It carries you away and before you know it, you're in an entirely different world. There are unexpected twists that keep you guessing as to what's really going on, and characters that surprise you. A+!

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Incredible novel, easily one of the best I've read in years. Atmospheric, tense, with characters that jump off the page. By turns unnverving and wild, heartbreaking and flinty. I loved it.

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445 pages

5 stars

This book is the perfect companion piece to Mary Shelley’s great opus. It fills in the (fictional) background and history of the Frankenstein family and many of their servants.

Essentially this is the story not only of Victor, but of three remarkable women who supported and shaped him to some degree. I was absolutely fascinated by their stories. It takes place (mostly) during the 1790s. The revolution was going on in France and effectively intruded on life in quiet little Geneva in the process. When it finally reached Geneva, terrible things happened.

Caroline, Victor’s mother, was a somewhat nervous woman who would do anything to protect her little family. She was married to Alphonse, who was a syndic (a government official).They were quite well off and Alphonse’s position provided them with many benefits.

Elizabeth was taken in by the Frankenstein's as a very young child. She was of similar age as Victor and Caroline dreamed of them marrying when they grew up. Elizabeth was beautiful and accomplished. She and Victor loved one another.

Justine was found in the garden on Frankenstein property. She has scoliosis and was painfully shy. After they met the obviously abusive mother, Caroline took her in. Justine was forever grateful to the family and became very attached to them all.

The undercurrent in the story is Victor’s decline into madness and his scientific experiments. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if they were “successful.”.

This book is much more than a horror tale. It is brilliantly written and plotted. My hat is off to Ms. Waldherr. I keep thinking about the story. That is the highest compliment to any author. I immediately went to amazon to look at her other books. My hope is that she does a companion piece for other great stories.

I want to thank NetGalley and Muse Publications LLC for forwarding to me a copy of this remarkable book for me to read, enjoy and review. The opinions expressed here are solely my own.

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Oh, how I adored the lush, transportive, and terribly heartbreaking beauty of this Frankenstein revisiting and reimagining, lensed through the perspectives of three women, all incredible in their own right. Caroline--Victor Frankenstein's exquisitely gentle, selfless mother; Elizabeth, the beautiful and accomplished cousin betrothed to Victor, with secret torments and a mysterious past of her own; and poor, broken, and orphaned Justine, devoted to the family--but just how far will she go to prove it? I loved how richly imagined and fully realized these three characters were, and in my rapt, convulsive reading of this tale it dawned on me how desperately it needed to be told.

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It’s been years since I’ve read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, an amazingly masculine though authored by a very young female. You might get a bit more out of Unnatural Causes if you’ve read Frankenstein recently, but the book does stand well on its own.
Unnatural Creatures is a feminist reimagining from the perspective of three female characters—Caroline Frankenstein, Elizabeth Lavenza, and Justine Moritz. All are outsiders brought into the Frankenstein family: first, Caroline, a poor girl married by the father, Alphonse; second, Elizabeth, a poor girl found and adopted by an older Caroline and Alphonse and who becomes the fiancée of Victor Frankenstein; and finally, Justine, a poor hunchback discovered by Caroline and Elizabeth and brought into the Frankenstein home as a servant, but treated well and even educated. These three women become, in turn, the three protagonists in Unnatural Creatures. Strong and complex in their own rights, they wrestle with the philosophical ideas of fate versus self-determination; whether they are responsible for themselves or are victims; whether love or duty is the greater need to fulfill; whether female-based procreation is better or worse than the male-based procreation espoused by Victor Frankenstein.

Waldherr’s prose was delightful, so fully akin to that of Mary Shelley I felt I was reading the original novel. She weaves in historical tidbits occurring in the late 18th century as the French Revolution makes its way to Geneva, thus upping the stakes for the wealthy Frankenstein family. I am not a horror reader, but loved this book. It will definitely go on my keep-forever shelf.

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I feel like I've been through an emotional wringer. Firstly, I had no previous Frankenstein experience, never having read Mary Shelley's original work, though I knew the basics. I don't think it's necessary to have read it, the elements are all here. I was captivated by this book from the first chapter, but it was only over halfway through that I thought it was something special. The writing is so lush, so cinematic for lack of a better word, it's so easy to imagine these scenes and be transported. And the emotions. Oh, the emotions, from hope to despair, to frustration, sadness, empathy to despair again. It's about humanity, hubris, compassion, loyalty, love, hatred, revenge, strength,isolation and belonging. This book is a triumph not soon forgotten. A gothic classic, regardless of the publication date. I received an ARC from the publisher and Netgalley for an honest review

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Chimeras and Consequences

Frankenstein is one of the most emulated, revised, and enduring books of its kind. Unnatural Creatures is inspired by that classic work of gothic horror. Mary Shelley's book, first written as her contribution to an informal contest between friends way back in 1818, was in turn inspired in part by the three books the monster finds: Paradise Lost; Plutarch's Lives; and The Sorrows of Werter.

I never considered how much was happening in the world at that time: revolutions overthrowing monarchs; inventions and processes that transformed industry; discoveries that galvanized medicine. All influenced changing social rules and customs. Rich in historical detail, Unnatural Creatures is faithful to the allegorical spirit of the original, while broadening the scope and deepening the meaning.

Kris Waldherr, while rejuvenating the monster's tale, has brought the era to life as well, and made all that turmoil relevant to the story. Her writing matches Shelley's antiquated, formal style, but is easily understood by the modern reader. Waldherr's versions of Victor Frankenstein's mother, his betrothed, and his mother's attendant are each distinct characters and immensely relatable. As she fleshed them out, the profound influence they had on each other as well as on the fates of the entire family conveys the tragic story to her own poignant culmination.

I'm grateful to the author, Muse Publishing, and NetGalley for a free advance reader's copy of this excellent novel. I was by turns fascinated, horrified, repulsed, left bereft and somehow hopeful. My review is given without obligation: Unnatural Creatures is an excellent read and a completely worthy companion to Mary Shelley's legacy.

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Unnatural Creatures by Kris Waldherr is a tour de force that fleshes out the stories of three women in Mary Shelley’s classic novel “Frankenstein”: Victor Frankenstein’s strong-willed mother Caroline; his loving, sensitive fiancé Elizabeth; and perhaps most importantly, the Frankenstein’s servant Justine, a character who Waldherr gives a fascinating background and a whole new lease on life.

It has been years since I read Shelley’s novel. This book can be enjoyed and appreciated without having read “Frankenstein,” but the experience will be immeasurably improved if you read it before or after. It is only because I saw a stage play a few years ago that I had become reacquainted with the beats of the story, which is very different from the way I’d remembered it. Kudos to Waldherr for imagining new depths to the Frankenstein story and bringing it to life in this fascinating tale of adventure, imprisonment, love, hate, devotion, betrayal, art, science, genius, madness, truth, ugliness, joy, terror, light, darkness, life, death, and good vs. evil.

There is a marvelous twist in the tale that I never saw coming and made me gasp (which I’m sure Mary Shelley never envisioned and yet works perfectly with her tale), and I relished the ending. Bravo! This is not a novel for the faint of heart, but for those who enjoy a retake on a classic and are intrepid enough to undergo the harrowing journey, it is highly recommended.

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Imagine a fractured fairytale that twists the ending of a story you've long known, yet stays true to its original essence. Unnatural Creatures is a reimagination of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein that honors the characters, setting, and gothic nature of her work. Kris Waldherr succeeds in developing the Frankenstein women as the focal characters of the novel without diminishing the importance of Victor Frankenstein and his monster. Each of the women, Caroline, Elizabeth and Justine, advance the story from their own perspectives, giving a female (some reviewers have said feminist) narrative to the monster's lore. The writing is absolutely beautiful and the characters truly come alive on the pages. Amidst so much formula fiction, Unnatural Creatures stands alone. It is unique, interesting and highly satisfying. I won't say more because I don't want to ruin it for the next reader. Read this book!

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This is the book that I never knew I needed but that I waited for my whole life. It was so well written with characters that were really well developed and an absolutely riveting stoeyline. The book is full of rich imagery and vivid descriptions. I loved it.

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