A wildly creative Gothic fantasy retelling of Frankenstein, This Monstrous Thing is a wholly new reimagining of the classic novel by Mary Shelley and is perfect for fans of retellings such as Cinder by Marissa Meyer, fantasy by Libba Bray and Cassandra Clare, and alternative history by Scott Westerfeld.
In an alternative fantasy world where some men are made from clockwork parts and carriages are steam powered, Alasdair Finch, a young mechanic, does the unthinkable after his brother dies: he uses clockwork pieces to bring Oliver back from the dead.
But the resurrection does not go as planned, and Oliver returns more monster than man. Even worse, the novel Frankenstein is published and the townsfolk are determined to find the real-life doctor and his monster. With few places to turn for help, the dangers may ultimately bring the brothers together—or ruin them forever.
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|Age Range:||13 Years|
About the Author
Mackenzi Lee holds a BA in history and an MFA from Simmons College in writing for children and young adults. Her short fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Atlas Obscura, the Boston Globe, Crixeo, and the Newport Review, among others. Her debut novel, This Monstrous Thing, won the PEN New England–Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award. Her second book, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, was a New York Times bestseller and an ABA bestseller, earned five starred reviews, was a #1 Indie Next Pick, and received a 2018 Stonewall Book Award Honor and a New England Book Award. She loves Diet Coke, sweater weather, and Star Wars. On a perfect day, she can be found enjoying all three. She currently calls Boston home, where she works as an independent bookstore manager and pets every dog she meets. www.mackenzilee.com
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really liked this one, and am not sure why it took me so long to read. I love, love imagined retellings like this, and Mackenzi Lee did such a great job with THIS MONSTROUS THING. It was so interesting and kept me guessing throughout.
This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee is a fantastic retelling of Frankenstein as well as a great steampunk novel! I loved her alternate, steampunk Europe and the society of Shadow Boys and Clockwork Men. While Lee changes some elements to fit within her steampunk world, she’s mostly true to the original classic and the life of Mary Shelley. The novel centres around Alasdair Finch and his family’s involvement with the dangerous society of Shadow Boys. These illegal mechanics re-build broken bones and damaged organs through clockwork parts. While set mainly in Geneva, there exists a strong prejudice across Europe against people with clockwork parts (some places more strongly than others). Lee bases this off real-life issues of the time and the reader can see the authenticity of that, the buildup of raw emotion. These prejudices might even be compared to today’s real-life issues. The novel is in first person POV and I loved being inside Alasdair’s head. He’s a very likeable character, particularly for his flaws. Some of the many emotions he feels and experiences are very relatable. For instance, there’s his past jealousy of his older brother, Oliver, for holding the attention of Alasdair’s idol, Dr. Geisler. Geisler introduces the Finch family to this world of Clockwork Men, and all Alasdair dreams of is going to Ingolstadt and studying under his idol, in a university that values technological advancement. Oliver and Alasdair have a strong brotherly bond, but this jealousy causes a huge rift and so we have This Monstrous Thing. The writing is impressive! I felt there was a smooth transition between the present timeline and past memories or flashbacks of Alasdair. The action is somewhat slow in the beginning, but picks up near the end (and very much worth it!). I loved the action scenes, they were all phenomenal and the face-to-face with Alasdair and Oliver was very powerful. I have siblings and seeing our own bond within these characters was very stirring. A few things I didn’t expect but loved was how Lee wrote Mary Shelley in as a character and the way Frankenstein existed as a book in the novel. With the tension surrounding Clockwork Men already high, Frankenstein creates even more anxiety and fear. Both the police and the general public in Geneva make it their number one mission to find both this monster of Frankenstein and the society of Shadow Boys. When deciding how the original tale would exist in Lee’s retelling, this was definitely the right call. Furthermore, I loved learning about Mary as a person beyond her legendary classic. I read Frankenstein in high school and at the same time learned about Shelley, but never beyond that. Lee establishes a new appreciation of both author and novel in This Monstrous Thing. As a fan of Frankenstein, I was already confident I’d enjoy it, but This Monstrous Thing goes above and beyond my expectations. I love books and television/film that focus deeply on sibling bonds. It’s intriguing to read about how far someone will go for their brother or sister. For Alasdair, mortal limits mean nothing when it comes to saving his brother. Whether or not you’re a fan of Shelley’s classic novel, you’ll love this deeply evocative story of two brothers and their world of clockwork.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This Monstrous Thing is an awesome steampunk take on the Frankenstein story that breathes new life (ha ha!) into the monster tale. When Alasdair's brother Oliver dies, Alasdair brings him back to life using clockwork parts but he doesn't come back the same way he was before he died. Then the book fast forwards two years. Alasdair keeps the fact that he brought Oliver back to life a secret from their parents, and I wondered why. I could see both pros and cons of letting them know the son they thought was dead was alive again in some way, but I think ultimately Alasdair feared for Oliver's safety. Clockwork men and women are hated and feared, and Alasdair knew he couldn't hide Oliver forever if he brought him home. I wasn't a fan of Alasdair's father - he was too gruff with his living son. If I only had one son who was still alive, I'd like to think I wouldn't be so tough on him. I guess it was because of the difficult life their family leads due to the secret and illegal work they do with clockwork parts. Still, I wasn't a fan of their father. I do like Alasdair and Oliver. Their relationship sounded very close before Oliver died, but it changed after Oliver was brought back from the dead. It changed in ways Alasdair couldn't have predicted, and I loved the exploration of their relationship and the factors that changed it. Admittedly there were a couple of slow moments in This Monstrous Thing; however, I still enjoyed the story. I love that there's an exploration of what makes us human and the question of whether that humanity is wiped away (and if so how much?) when you start adding mechanical, moving parts to keep the body going. But most of all, how much humanity remains when you die and are brought back with mostly mechanical parts? When you can't remember much of your life? If you're a fan of Frankenstein and are looking for a fresh re-imagining of the story involving a tale of two brothers, then This Monstrous Thing will be right up your alley.
I read Frankenstein over a year ago and I have to say I’m not a fan of classics. However, I’m a fan of retellings, especially ones that make me appreciate classics I didn’t appreciate so much. This Monstrous Thing was definitely a retelling that did justice to Frankenstein. Alastair is a Shadow Boy, a mechanic that fixes bodies instead of machinery. In Geneva, men with metallic body parts are considered creatures and less than human. When Frankenstein is published, Alastair is convinced it’s about him and his former-dead brother, Oliver, who’s alive again. Pressured by his idol, Alastair needs to figure out who wrote the novel and whether it really is about him. Can Alastair accept his past and move on to help his brother? I was iffy about This Monstrous Thing, since I wasn’t a huge fan of Frankenstein but I was actually so pleased with the actual retelling part of the novel. I loved that Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, made frequent appearances in the novel and that she was a character. It was definitely fascinating to see a literary hero become a character in the novel. The plot of This Monstrous Thing lagged a little, as it was mostly flashbacks but I still enjoyed it for the most part. The characters were all lovely and I’m a bit happy that the romance wasn’t too bad. I really liked Alastair and Oliver, and how their brotherhood was portrayed so well. I especially loved Oliver and the themes of humanity and self-acceptance that were in the novel. In terms of diversity, This Monstrous Thing lagged as well. There was no cultural, religious or racial diversity but one of the side characters was unidentified on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum which I thought was nice. (Just because there were no books written about LGBTQIA+ characters in the 1800s, it doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. Just saying.) Overall, This Monstrous Thing was a wonderful steampunk retelling of Frankenstein and the woman behind the book. I really enjoyed it and I highly recommend it to historical fiction and classics fans!