Friday, October 2, 2015

ARC Review: This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee

Title: This Monstrous Thing
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Published: September 22, 2015 by Katherine Tegan (HarperCollins)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch’s life shattered to bits. 

His brother, Oliver—dead. 
His sweetheart, Mary—gone. 
His chance to break free of Geneva—lost. 

Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead. 

But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces. Oliver returns more monster than man, and Alasdair’s horror further damages the already troubled relationship. 

Then comes the publication of Frankenstein and the city intensifies its search for Shadow Boys, aiming to discover the real life doctor and his monster. Alasdair finds refuge with his idol, the brilliant Dr. Geisler, who may offer him a way to escape the dangerous present and his guilt-ridden past, but at a horrible price only Oliver can pay…

**** I received an advance copy of this book from a giveaway from Bookiemoji (thanks ladies!). This fact has not changed my opinion. ****

This Monstrous Thing was one of my most anticipated debuts. As soon as I heard about this book I knew it would be right up my alley. Historical fantasy yes, but better than that, Steampunk Frankenstein. It sounded incredibly creative and that's exactly what it was. This Monstrous Thing is an interesting retelling with a compelling plot and complex characters that I really enjoyed.

It has been a while since I read Frankenstein. I had to read it in college and thankfully in a history class. I think I enjoyed it a lot more because it was a conversation about the historical implications and what it said for the time period, which is exactly what I think Mackenzi did with this story. She took the larger implications of Frankenstein and crafted an interesting and complex new story that stayed true to the spirit of the original. One of the great things about this book is that it's a retelling that actually acknowledges the original work in the book. Like Frankenstein is the basis for the story and a plot point. It's super meta you guys but it's done really well. Maybe that's because it's not a hard and fast retelling or even reimagining. It was a recreation which is even more meta I can barely handle it. One of the things that I really enjoyed that Mackenzi adapted is the steampunk aspects. The clockwork elements were subtle and well-built. They didn't overwhelm you with details and was a really great show style of world-building. It just crafted something that was creative and compelling, not to mention the perfect world for a new kind of Frankenstein's monster.

But even better than the steampunk world was the larger themes about culture and humanity that Mackenzi built within the book. I was expecting a dark and atmospheric book that pulled more from the horror aspect of the original story but this had a more science fiction feel to it. It pulled more from the science and cultural implications of Frankenstein, concepts that were a huge part of the original book and it was incorporated so well here. It could be argued that Frankenstein is one of the first examples of modern science fiction and there were some really great themes here that you see a lot in hard scifi, things like whether man and technology should really mix or if it's like we're playing god. It also brings up almost these racial ideas of what it means to be human and treating those who have clockwork parts as lower class citizens, It added a lot of additional conflict to the book.

But there was so much conflict in this book in general. It seemed like almost everyone was against the main character of Alasdair. Every time I turned around another antagonist was being exposed and our hero had his find his way out of one scrape or another. It made for a book that wasn't particularly mysterious but was really engaging. There was lots of action and adventure in the book, more than I expected if I'm being honest. And you would think that this would lead to a rather disconnected plot development but it really didn't. There were a lot of different plot points but they all worked together and flowed in a way that created a cohesive and interesting story. It was a much faster read than I expected because it did flow so well and the plot was so full of action. I wanted to keep reading and find out what happened.

But the heart of what kept me reading was the main character Alasdair and his relationships. Alasdair in general was an interesting character. He's likable in his intelligence and compassion but he's also a bit unlikable in his single-mindedness. He's definitely a different spin on the Victor Frankenstein type character. There is a little bit more humanity to him and a lot of that has to do with his relationships. Particularly his relationship with Oliver. You can understand their connection, how much he cares for his brother and how much it hurt to lose him. But that also made him a little reckless. And there is also a really interesting spin on his desire for resurrection that is almost like turning back time and to get a second chance which I really liked and added some intrigue to both of their characters. Both Alasdair and Oliver had some good character development but I wish we had spent a little bit more time with Oliver. Instead other characters took a bigger role. The female characters here were complex with interesting character development too. I thought Mary added a lot of color and complexities to the story and she was such a unique character. But my favorite was probably Clemence. She felt like this really fun combination of two characters from the original book. An the characters were complex and interesting, adding a lot of conflict and color to the book.

This Monstrous Thing was a engaging and entertaining read that was so readable. There were so many great themes about humanity, a fascinating world, and great characters. When it was all over I closed the book with this conflicted desire though. I loved it a lot but as a standalone it left me wanting more. More from Mackenzi and more about these characters. But that is a mark of a good read to me and on the whole that's what this was.

I give This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. This is a really interesting and engaging retelling that I think fans of Frankenstein should definitely check out. But even if you aren't a fan and you like steampunk, science fiction with themes about humanity, or just want a good story about family then get your hands on this one.

Have you read This Monstrous Thing? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. I really enjoyed this one too! For some reason I found the beginning to be really slow though (probably just a me thing). I really love the way the story was told and how Frankenstein was incorporated :D I just realized I did not talk about Mary at all in my review. I guess my dislike of her is strong lol! I found her to be selfish but I guess her crazy world drove her to it. Lovely review Cassi :)

    1. Yeah, the beginning was a little slow but not like the very beginning, the part in Ingolstadt. Oh well. I found the incorporation of Frankenstein really interesting and creative. My dislike of Mary was pretty strong too. She's one of those antagonists I mentioned without naming them.

  2. Oooh nice! Hearing good things about this one and I really can't wait to read it! I've also had Frankenstein on my TBR pile for about a year now! Might try reading that one before this one! We'll see! Great review!

    1. I liked Frankenstein. That with this one would make a great Halloween read. I hope you like them both.

  3. Yes! Okay, so I wasn't super hyped about this before, being not overly sentimental about Frankenstein, but now you made me want to pick this up asap. I DIDN'T KNOW IT WAS STEAMPUNK! Also I love well-done history and I freaking love the idea that this book acknowledges the original work and builds off it. Also I like characters like Alisdair who are a little nuts. Lovely review!

    Sarcasm & Lemons

    1. I'm so glad I could convince you to read it. The author is overly sentimental about Frankenstein too so I'd say this book is definitely for fans of the original. Plus it's it's own story so I think you'll like it.

  4. After Kristen's review and now yours I'm even more sure that I'm going to love this, so I'm totally planning to get it signed next month from Books of Wonder!
    Fantastic review Cassi, I love how you explained so much about the meat of the book without really giving much out about the plot so we can dive in ourselves!

    1. Mission accomplished. Thanks Pili. I try really hard to not give anything away.