September 25, 2015 • Cee • Reviews

This Monstrous Thing

This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee •  September 22, 2015 • Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)
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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 this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

First sentence: “My brother’s heart was heavy in my hands.”

The first time I ever read Frankenstein was in a required British Literature course for my major, and I absolutely fell in love with the story. When I heard about This Monstrous Thing, my heart nearly leaped out of my chest because I never knew how much I wanted this book.

This Monstrous Thing takes place in 1818 Geneva, where Alasdair Finch has to deal with his guilt for his brother’s death as well as navigate the constant threats against Clockwork men (people who have clock parts as body parts) and Shadow Boys (mechanics who help them) that have been more rampant since a new book called Frankenstein was published, which seems to detail the events of the resurrection of his brother, Oliver. Not only does Alasdair have to deal these, he has to deal with Dr. Geisler, his idol, who has nefarious plans for Alasdair and his brother.

Doesn’t that sound interesting?


  • It is inspired by Frankenstein, and incorporates the book in the story. 

Frankenstein is one of the best classical literature books I’ve ever read. You have this book with great layered narration (Captain Walton’s letters to his sister about Victor Frankenstein telling his story where Frankenstein’s creation tells his story—story inception basically) that discusses science vs. religion, monsters, power of creation, and responsibility in a way that makes you want to analyze it.

Mackenzi Lee inserts Frankenstein book into the story, where the characters have to deal with this publication that seems to recount Oliver’s resurrection, and it’s amazing to read. You can tell Mackenzi knows Frankenstein like the back of her hand. She does a beautiful job twisting everything on its head and giving you wonderful parallels to Frankenstein (like when Alasdair flees from Geneva because of the police but unintentionally leaves his resurrected brother behind, which parallels Victor Frankenstein running away from his creation).

  • It’s a rich steampunk world that recreates the world of Frankenstein with Shadow Boys and Clockwork people.

It’s not the 1818 Geneva that we know (or hear about); it’s a bit technologically advanced where people can have clockwork body parts. Crazy and cool, right? Those people are called Clockwork men, and they are looked after by Shadow Boys, who are mechanics that fix those clock parts. Clockwork men aren’t accepted in this world (but more so in Geneva), and have to hide themselves or they’ll be harassed by people and police for being an abomination and unnatural in the eyes of God. It’s sad, but it parallels commentary that is addressed in Frankenstein, which is so well done.

  • It wonderfully discusses who the real monsters are, and what is natural and what isn’t.

Much like Frankenstein, This Monstrous Thing comments on the question, “who are the real monsters,” but instead of Victor Frankenstein and his creation, you get humans and Clockwork men. There are people like Inspector Jiroux (and past Oliver) who deems Clockwork men unnatural because they weren’t designed in God’s image. It speaks to the time when the Age of Enlightenment—a movement that emphasized on using reason and science than on old traditions like religion—was paving way. When you get down to it, who are the real monsters in This Monstrous Thing? Is it Clockwork men or the people who deem Clockwork men unnatural and an abomination? It’s a great discussion that Mackenzi Lee does a great job exploring.

  • Scenes between Alasdair and Oliver will get you emotional.

You can see how much Alasdair loves his brother simply by the crazy and dangerous thing he did: resurrecting Oliver. Guilt plays a part in his reasons for doing that, but you can’t question his love for his brother. Alasdair wants to protect his brother—from the world that will shun him and from the truth that Alasdair had been hiding from Oliver—and it forces him to set aside his own dreams to go to Ingolstadt for university. It’s heartbreaking seeing these two characters try to deal with Oliver’s resurrection because it ultimately may not have been the best decision.

  • You want to learn about these great characters. 

Yes you will. You’d want to know about Alasdair, who’s a genius and longs for the good days before his brother’s death; Oliver, who had been a troublemaker when he was alive but now he’s a resurrected man, unable to go outdoors; Mary, the girl Alasdair was in love with; Dr. Geisler, Alasdair’s idol who works with clockwork parts and is desperate to reanimate the dead; and Clemence, Dr. Geisler’s assistant who takes Alasdair to Dr. Geisler. I don’t want to talk about specifics about these characters, but you’ll learn so much about these characters, their mindset, and their motives. It’s truly fascinating.

  • It incorporates real life historical figures into the story.

What a surprise it was to me when I learned who was incorporated in the story. It makes sense, and I should have seen it coming, but hey, I sometimes don’t get the full picture until it’s hinted at. I was over the moon when I saw these real life people in This Monstrous Thing. I like the way Mackenzi Lee portrayed a particular character because she wasn’t how I thought she’d be (I imagined her braver).

Though, their incorporation felt a little disjointed, but that didn’t dissuade me from the story.


I could go on and on about This Monstrous Thing, but I won’t. This Monstrous Thing has captured the essence of Frankenstein. It’s everything my heart ever wanted in a Frankenstein retelling because it stayed true to the story, but reinvented it in a way that is incredibly enjoyable and distinctively different.

If you haven’t read Frankenstein, trust me when I say that Mackenzi Lee does an excellent job paralleling events and issues that happened there in This Monstrous Thing. I was amazed to see how many things that reminded me of Frankenstein, and how exciting the events played out. It’s done with sheer perfection. Mackenzi Lee, this is an exceptional Frankenstein retelling, and you deserve all the cheers. I know fans of Frankenstein will enjoy this book. (I sure did!)

You don’t have to read Frankenstein to read This Monstrous Thing. Mackenzi Lee filmed a great recap of what happens in Frankenstein, so you don’t have to read it. (Though, you should still read Frankenstein if you can.)


7 Responses to “(ARC) REVIEW | Why You Must Read This Monstrous Thing”

  1. Emma says:

    I read Frankenstein for a British Literature class too. I haven’t read a steampunk novel yet…at least I don’t think so. This one seems really interesting, especially because it’s a retelling. I’ll have to check it out.

  2. Lily B says:

    Never really read Frankenstein, but enjoyed the old movies, so now I am very..very..curious.

  3. I’m not the biggest fan of the writing style in Frankenstein, but I absolutely love the themes and questions posed in the novel so I’m a big fan as well! Somehow this book passed under my radar, so now it’s too late to plan for fitting it into my preorders, but I’m definitely going to keep it in mind whenever I get a chance to go book shopping ;)

  4. Dianne says:

    I admit, I haven’t read Frankenstein. I remember buying it for $2, trying to read it, and failing. And now I don’t know where my copy is sooooooo. But I’d love to try out This Monstrous Thing because your review convinced me to. Good thing I have it on my Kindle! Will get back to you once I’ve read it. I need to diversify the books I read and honestly, mention of a non-contemporary setting always makes me hide. Haha!

  5. Talina says:

    I’ve never read the book Frankenstien however, right after I finished reading This Monstrous Thing, I wanted to pick it up ASAP because it sounds so freaking intriguing! TMT was such a great read for me and am so happy you enjoyed this book as much as I did! <3 Lovely review, by the way!

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