Book Review: This Monstrous Thing

This Monstrous Thing
By: Mackenzi Lee
Published by: Katherine Tegen Books
Release date: September 22, 2015
Genre: YA steampunk
384 pages
Source: ARC kindly provided by publisher

I chose this book specifically because it's a re-telling of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, one of my all-time favorite novels. I loved teaching Frankenstein to my seniors, but struggled with how to make it accessible, because the nineteenth-century language is pretty thick for average high school kids to slog through. I was hoping that this book would give me all of the philosophically interesting themes to explore, in language that's easier to digest. In that, the novel is fairly successful.

This Monstrous Thing is not simply a re-telling, however. I won't spoil here how it's different, but I will say that I love the concept, and would be glad to see a few more novels employ the same device. It made for interesting reading, even though I am thoroughly familiar with the source material.

This book takes the science fiction of the original and turns it up a notch, adding in the element of clockwork replacement parts for body parts that no longer work or are missing. It was fun to take the original horror and turn it on its ear, portraying the objections of others as prejudice. In this way, This Monstrous Thing is quite timely.

I've read many books that were more literary, more linguistically beautiful. I've not read many, however, that give so many opportunities to meaningfully think about current scientific problems as well as social issues. This book would be an excellent choice for a book club or classroom set because of all of the amazing discussion that it would invite.

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…


  1. I AM SO EXCITED FOR THIS MONSTEROUS THING. Great review! And, there is a twist? *squeals*

  2. Oh, now you've got me curious! I loved Frankenstein, but part of that might be because I didn't read the original text until college when I was well used to slogging (and at that point, running gleefully) through romantic and Victorian writing styles. I always wished there was a better explanation for the science-fiction elements in the story though...Victor's statement that he wouldn't want to tell people his method for fear of allowing people to make more monsters always felt a little stilted to me. Does This Monsterous Thing treat Frankenstein's monster more in a fantasy or sci-fi light?

    1. You won't really get answers here; it's given a more fantasy treatment. For me, though, the investigation into what it means to be human is much more interesting.

  3. OOoh nice review! I thought this one sounded very intriguing! Glad to hear it was enjoyable! I also really want to read Frankenstein, as I have yet to do so and never did it in school either! Hopefully soon! Great review!


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