Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

This Monstrous Thing

Rate this book
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…

384 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 22, 2015

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Mackenzi Lee

19 books8,236 followers
Mackenzi Lee writes books you might have read. And she no longer uses Goodreads or accepts friend requests.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
537 (21%)
4 stars
1,001 (40%)
3 stars
715 (29%)
2 stars
147 (5%)
1 star
53 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 620 reviews
Profile Image for Wendy Darling.
1,521 reviews33.8k followers
November 20, 2015
"Have you ever thought...that maybe (he) only acts like a monster because you treat him like one?"

This book seamlessly blends history, gothic mystery, and steampunk into a thoughtful reimagining of the creation of Frankenstein, and it's one of the best YA retellings I've read. The author has clearly done her homework on the time period, as well as the story's literary roots--and beyond that, she makes this story of clockwork men and women, struggling to survive in a world where they are feared and despised, seem solidly urgent and real. You'll feel the pinch of gears melded to human flesh and your heart will quicken as they're pursued through the streets of Geneva...and you'll feel compassion for everyone involved.

I liked the relationship between the two brothers and I liked the characters, though I do think many of the secondary ones could've been developed a bit more, especially the women. But I enjoyed this debut immensely. Strongly recommended for those who loved The Lost Girl and Of Metal and Wishes, as well as those who enjoy Inspector Javert/Jean Valjean chase dynamics.

A bit more of a review to come.
Profile Image for Kassidy.
338 reviews11.1k followers
March 1, 2016
Loved the steampunk elements, the characters, and the ties to Frankenstein. There's also great discussion on some philosophical topics.
Profile Image for Gemma ♕ Bookish Gems.
469 reviews214 followers
January 2, 2018
God this has been a long time coming! I don't know why its taken me so long to get round to this review. Honestly, I loved this book so much so I have no idea why I just can't write this review!!

Fair warning: there is no structure to this review. Sorry its just my random thoughts.

One of my favourite things about this book is the characters. Almost every one of them is flawed with a good heart, affected by something that is deemed important in their world which causes them to act selfishly or sometimes dangerously whilst maintaining that basic 'goodness'.

For example, Alasdair misses his brother so badly that he uses the very science that his brother dissaproved of to bring him back. He took someone elses work and fixed it because he could but he didn't take a second to think about if he should and the outcome was a sad, isolated Oliver who saw himself as a monster and knew others would to. It is not surprising therefore that once Oliver is free, he acts as the monster that he assumes everyone sees him as.

And sadly, he is right. In a wonderful parallel on racism, and also homophobia and other prejudices, we see throughout the book how anyone with clockwork parts is treated as second class citizens, wrong, unnatural. We see the Shadow Boys being forced to work in secret, being forced underground, so that they could help people, fix people. We see a civil rights movement building. Clockwork people rising up against their suppressors but in a way that caused terror and not understanding.

Then there was Mary Goodwin/Shelly. The catalyst. Writing a 'novel' to try and cement herself in a world she was a stranger in. By using Alastair and Oliver's story she betrayed their trust but she could never have realised how the book would strike a cord with so many downtrodden people, so many people looking for a saviour, a Godlike figure; who understood them, who cared for them, who resembled them.

Back to Alasdair, a teenage boy, motivated by grief and unthinking of the consequences. So what next? What does he do once he's brought his brother back but locked him away because he knows he could never be accepted by the rest of society? He tries to go on as normal whilst keeping everything that has happened a secret from his parents, two people who would want to help him and who deserved to know the son they were grieving was living in miserable isolation in a derelict château within walking distance from where they struggled through their days. But how can things go back to normal? Then the resentment sets in. He is stuck there. Stuck in Geneva when he wanted to follow his dreams, the dream his brother had been embarking reluctantly on. He acknowledges the jealousy he had to felt toward Oliver, the way it had played its part in his brothers demise.

Then there is Clemence who has secrets upon secrets. A girl ahead of her time. A girl who is looking for a home, a family. Fierce. Determined. Sad. Tired. Angry. I don't want to write too much about Clemence. Not because I have nothing to say but because I don't think I can do her character justice without giving away her secrets and even if only one person who reads this hasn't read the book, it would be one person spoilt too many.

I guess what I'm saying is that the characters are complex. They have dimensions. They make you feel. This book might be a retelling of a book which has been adapted dozens of time, but it felt fresh and new.

I had more sympathy for Oliver than I have ever felt for Frankenstein's monster before (I guess the only one that came close was the version in Van Helsing. The Hugh Jackman film. I'm sure others will have a better version. You are probably shaking your head at me even sort of liking that film but hey each to their own).

I felt more compassion for Alasdair, understanding his motivation: not just ambition but grief.

I even sympathised with Mary driven by a desire to be accepted and using the only weapon in her arsenal. Wanting to show she could be one of them.

This book is just phenomenal. It is heartbreaking and heartwarming. Its a retelling and its something new. It's complex. It's about family, grief, ambition, loneliness, prejudice civil rights and science vs nature. It's everything but at its heart, to me, it's a story about consequences.

A cautionary tale. Read it. Trust me.

* * * * * * * * * *

What a book. Absolutely adored this.

RTC when it’s not the middle of the night!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,670 reviews1,269 followers
September 29, 2015
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.)

“Here I was touched by your sacrifice, and come to find out you’re still obsessed with Ingolstadt and studying with the man who killed me.”

This was an interesting YA retelling of Frankenstein, that was still a bit different to the original.

Alasdair was in a difficult position in this book; trying to hide the fact that he had reanimated his brother after his death, whilst continuing to be a son who didn’t live up to expectations put a real strain on him, and it was clear how much stress he was under!

The storyline in this was pretty good, with both Alasdair trying to work out what to do with his brother, whilst questioning who had written the newly published book ‘Frankenstein’, which seemed to be the story of what he had been through with his brother. I thought this was quite an interesting storyline, although it seemed a bit obvious who the author was ha ha! I also liked the steampunk touch to the novel.
There was a little smidgen of romance in this, but not a lot at all.

The ending to this was pretty good, and I thought that things were tied up quite nicely.

7 out of 10.
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone.
1,461 reviews184 followers
July 27, 2021
3.5 Stars rounded up to 4.

Well this was such an interesting reimagining of Frankenstein!

I thought Mackenzi's steampunk makeover of this classic piece of gothic literature was clever and whilst pretty true to the original, had it's own brilliant spin on the macabre tale. It could have done with a bit of a nip and tuck (sorry, not sorry), as I felt the momentum stopped at a couple of points. Overall however, it was an incredibly enjoyable reading experience that followed the themes of dangerous knowledge, humanity and isolation explored in the original.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,079 reviews17.2k followers
October 5, 2017
“You took my life and Oliver's life and made them into this book. You made us into monsters, both of us.”

Actual Rating: 3.5 stars. Do you ever read books that don't really stand out? That you love while reading, but can't think of anything standout to mention? That's how I felt about this. It's a very solid and well-paced book, it's lacking in romance but strong in friendship, and it's a creative retelling. But there's nothing here that makes me cry with delight, you know? A fun read, but not a memorable one.

First of all, the plot and concept is really interesting. A retelling of Frankenstein in which Frankenstein: the book actually exists? Alternate history? It's just as interesting as it sounds. This novel is so fast-paced and entertaining I can hardly complain. Just the thing for my reading slump.

“We're all monsters. We're all careless and cruel in the end.”

The themes here about evil are so interesting and well-done; maybe my favorite thing about this book. For that reason alone, I'd definitely rec this to fans of This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab, one of my current reads. They have very similar vibes.

While these characters maybe aren't the most nuanced of all, they're all solidly interesting characters. There's main character Alasdair, the Frankenstein of this story. His reincarnated, maybe-a-monster-and-maybe-not brother Oliver. His ex-girlfriend Mary. And his new friend Clemence.

I also LOVE how this doesn't focus on romance. I kept waiting for Alasdair's relationship with Clemence to turn romantic, and it never did. They only have a strong friendship!! The only romance takes place in the past, which I loved.

I do, however, feel this was a little underwhelming. It just didn't go deep enough into the situations for my taste. The characters were never pushed to their limits or broken to the degree I wanted them to be. There's not much development and not many plot twists. Nothing bad, just nothing particularly fabulous or standout either.

VERDICT: Maybe not a fabulous book, but I solidly enjoyed this. Recommended for anyone who needs a good fast-paced read. I preferred Gentleman's Guide, though.

Also, my review for Mackenzi Lee as a person would be a five-star gush review. I LOVED HER TALK SO MUCH. And yes, she is just as passionate about random historical figures as her books would indicate.

Blog | Goodreads| Twitter | Youtube
Profile Image for Liz.
600 reviews506 followers
December 24, 2015
I spend a lot of time working with the original story, meaning Frankenstein and it grew on me, but this one was not quite as amazing as I had hoped. It was good, mind you. But I am generally not particulary fond of steampunk. The problem with clockwork people, while intriguing, left me very very cold and the turning point of the story that felt rather forced.

I liked the way the author connected the original story with this one via one particular character and I liked Oliver although there was not nearly enough of him.
What I definitely had a problem with was the writing and the dialogue. It was way too modern. The book is set in the 19th century and there are plenty of books where one could look up the appropriate way to converse so I refuse to believe that this would have been very difficult. Thanks to the modern writing the authenticity factor was completely absent, which is of course not good.
Furthermore, many of the characters seemed one-dimensional to me, their stories took up very little space and as a reader I could not connect to a single one because for the most part it seemed to me that the only purpose they served was to contribute to Alasdair's development and make him move forward. With mixed success.
And that leads me to the unfortunate protagonist. My my, he was awful. For a genius he was rather dim and regarding some other characters and topics he acted like was in denial. Which annoyed me to no end. Besides, the interactions between the characters and especially Alasdair and the others were just...shallow.

All in all, an enjoyable, light read that has a lack of depth and authenticity/believability.
Recommended? Maybe. If you want a fast-paced, non-demanding book than this one is just right for you. Otherwise, I'd say - read Frankenstein.
September 22, 2018
“We're all monsters. We're all careless and cruel in the end”.

Tenía este libro desde el año pasado en mi biblioteca, pero no lo había leído porque me parecía un crimen leer un retelling de Frankenstein sin haber leído el libro original. ¡Pero por fin leí Frankenstein y me encantó! Así que ya era hora de entrar en este mundo oscuro del siglo XIX de la mano de Mackenzi Lee.

Ginebra, Suiza, 1888. La historia que tenemos aquí se ubica en una sociedad que, a pesar de estar en el siglo XIX, tiene algunos avances tecnológicos interesantes y temidos: ciertas personas tienen partes mecánicas que les permiten vivir a pesar de tener alguna afección, haber perdido una extremidad, etc. Si bien en varias ciudades de Europa las personas con estas modificaciones, y los científicos que las hacen posibles, son vistos como humanos normales, en Ginebra las cosas son más complicadas y los persiguen y rechazan. Por eso existe una sociedad llamada los Shadow Boys, que se dedican a salvar con mecánica a las personas que lo requieran.

Todo empieza realmente cuando conocemos a Alasdair, uno de los Shadow Boys de Ginebra, que siempre ha estado muy interesado en la ciencia y que, además, guarda un oscuro secreto. Dos años atrás, Alasdair pasó el mejor de los veranos con su hermano Oliver y con Mary, una chica vivaz que estaba de visita en la ciudad. Sin embargo, eventualmente Mary le cuenta que se va a casar y, al final de ese verano, ocurre un accidente y Oliver muere. Alasdair que está destrozado y desesperado utiliza sus conocimientos y la investigación del brillante Dr. Geisler para intentar revivir a su hermano usando muchísimos mecanismos... y lo logra, pero a un precio monstruoso.

Las cosas se empiezan a retorcer cuando, en el presente, aparece un misterioso libro contando la historia de un tal doctor Frankenstein y su monstruosa creación. La sociedad de Ginebra se revoluciona, empiezan a odiar aún más a los mecánicos y sus modificaciones y, por supuesto, Alasdair se siente más acorralado que nunca, pues esa historia significa que alguien más conoce su secreto y podrá revelarlo en cualquier momento.

Es muy difícil decirles cuánto me gustó cómo Mackenzi Lee entrelazó esta historia con el origen del libro de Mary Shelley. ¡Es absolutamente increíble! Igual que en Frankenstein en This Monstrous Thing la historia está llena de angustia, miedo, rencor y la aplastante sensación de no pertenecer al mundo como lo conocemos.

Poco a poco vamos entendiendo cómo la culpa está acabando lentamente con Alasdair y cómo lucha constantemente con la disyuntiva de seguir sus sueños y estudiar y el hacerse cargo de su hermano, del ser que creó y que ahora lo ata permanentemente a un lugar. Es imposible no sentir empatía hacia Alasdair, pues durante todo el libro su lucha interna es asfixiante. Quieres que deje salir el secreto que lo está ahogando, quieres que la situación se resuelva, que pida ayuda... pero en realidad los problemas se van haciendo más y más grandes... hasta que explotan, casi literalmente.

Mi parte favorita de todo el libro fue cómo Mackenzi Lee creó una metahistoria del origen de Frankenstein. En este mundo todo es real, la historia de Frankenstein fue inspirada por hechos reales y Mary, que es un personaje importante aquí, fue testigo de ellos. Adoré que se incluyeran relatos de el viaje de los Shelley a la casa de Lord Byron, pero también adoré cómo Mackenzi Lee logró imaginarse esas páginas en blanco que había de ese viaje. Las amistades que Mary pudo haber hecho, las aventuras, los pequeños romances, las visitas prohibidas, los momentos que preferiría olvidar.

Y Alasdair, oh, Alasdair. Creo que pocas veces había sentido tanto la angustia de un personaje. Este chico tiene muchísimo sobre sus hombros y la sensación de saberse acorralado, perseguido y observado es abrumadora. Ahora, a pesar de todo el dolor que carga Alasdair, me gustó muchísimo que no se refugiara en romances sin sentido, que en realidad no pegaban mucho con la historia. Adoré que Mackenzi Lee se centrara en construir un mundo victoriano perverso y oscuro y, sobre todo, en apoyar toda la historia en la relación tan fuerte que hay entre Alasdair y su hermano Oliver.

El final del libro llega entre páginas convulsas, revoluciones, explosiones y traiciones; llega en medio del miedo, de la inevitabilidad del destino y de el deber de hacer lo correcto; llega en medio de lágrimas, de promesas cumplidas y de la imagen de un futuro en el que los rumores y el desconocimiento no ciegue a las personas. El final de este libro es tremendo e intenso, vale cada una de las palabras que lo cuentan. En este punto no quieres decirle adiós a ningún personaje (menos a un par que son absolutamente detestables), así que es duro cerrar este mundo de partes de reloj, de mecánica y de seres revividos... pero habrá valido la pena llegar hasta el punto final, se los prometo.
Profile Image for Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight).
857 reviews119 followers
April 30, 2018
4 Stars

*I received a complimentary copy of this book. This has not influenced my review.*

I recently reread Frankenstein and, upon finishing, decided I wanted all the retellings. I started with this one, and I'm really glad I got the chance to read it because it was a beautiful, somewhat bittersweet story about brothers and grief and monsters and what it means to be human.

I will admit the pacing was slow and a bit uneven. Something happened near the beginning, then there was a span of the book where not much action happened and we only got to know Oliver (the main character's resurrected brother) through memories, and then things picked up again for the last third of the book or so. However, the writing was lovely and atmospheric, so I enjoyed reading it and didn't mind the slow pace.

The images of our vagabond youth---children of the Shadow Boys, back when we were knotted so tight together---had been washed away by my latest memories of him in Chateau de Sang, raging and snarling and tearing apart the furniture. The fight in him that I had once admired had been transformed from glowing and bright into something you could fall and cut yourself on.

As far as Frankenstein retellings go, this was a great one. It mirrored the original in some ways, but it was also its own unique story with a steampunk twist, and it touched upon issues such as humanity and prejudice. It even brought Mary Shelley herself into the story, which was interesting.

More than anything though, this was a story about brothers and the love between them. I would have enjoyed getting to see more of the relationship between them in the present, rather than mostly memories of the past, but regardless, Alasdair and Oliver's relationship was complex and imperfect and all the more beautiful because of it.

So overall, although the pace was slow, the writing was lovely, the retelling aspect was interesting, the sibling relationship was touching, and I enjoyed reading this book!

Recommended For:
Anyone who likes Frankenstein retellings, pretty writing, and sibling relationships.

Original Review @ Metaphors and Moonlight
Profile Image for Faith Simon.
191 reviews164 followers
July 27, 2018
This is a rich, steampunk reimagining of Frankenstein. I don't have much experience with steampunk, but after reading this I find I can certainly be a fan of similar works.
I love re-tellings, and this book was no exception. But this one is interesting because rather than re-telling the story itself, it's a reimagining of the circumstances around the story, including real people like Mary Shelley who wrote it. I really liked this and thought it was immensely interesting. We don't often see this sort of storytelling with popular works of fiction that are being re-told, and I can't even think of just one instance, but I can't even explain just how much I loved this.
So if I'm praising the premise so much, why am I only giving it 5 stars? Basically, this book was really good and interesting to read, as well as knowledge extending, and I wasn't overly unable to get through it, it was sort of boring sometimes. There's an entire section that's centred around the main character getting his wits sorted out about him, but no presence of his resurrected brother whatsoever. In fact, he really only appears near the beginning and near the end. You'd expect him to be a bigger part of the story, past the obvious plot point that his brother feels constantly tied to him. I didn't hate this at all, but I just felt like there were relatively minor stakes and the only real exciting thing happens near the end. This is good climactic pacing, but sometimes one could be careful about how exciting the in-between events are, to keep the reader entertained and all of that jazz.
I really liked the characters, you know I loved Clemence. My queer senses were tingling from the very beginning, and you best believe I was extremely excited to see that my senses were correct. But she was pretty much the only endearing and enjoyable character. Which is understandable, the circumstances are rather dreary, so most of the characters reflect this, and only have certain roles to play out in the story, after all.
My final thoughts, is that if you like re-tellings, this should be on the top of your TBR list.
Profile Image for Sandra Uv.
1,002 reviews230 followers
December 5, 2019

“Él ya no estaba roto, pero seguía muerto.”

Una creación monstruosa es un retelling de Frankenstein interesante y entretenido que se lee en nada. No me ha emocionado ni enganchado pero he pasado un buen rato leyéndolo.

-Reseña completa: http://addicionaloslibros.blogspot.co...
Profile Image for Sara Cantador.
Author 2 books4,282 followers
January 14, 2020
Cuando conocí la existencia de este libro me llamó la atención. Pero cuando ya me enteré de que era una especie de retelling de uno de mis libros favoritos, el clásico de Frankenstein, os podéis imaginar que casi grito.
Tenía muchas ganas de leer Una creación monstruosa precisamente por eso. Reconozco que no me he encontrado lo que esperaba en este libro, y no quiero decir mucho porque precisamente las mejores sorpresas son las del principio, así que voy a intentar mantener esta reseña corta, straight to the point y dejaros con las ganas de leerlo y descubrir los oh oh que provoca para que los descubráis por vuestra cuenta. ¡Empecemos!
La historia se sitúa a principios del siglo XIX con un capítulo impactante e inquietante que, sin duda, os recordará a Frankenstein si lo habéis leído (recomiendo hacerlo, independientemente de si lo hacéis antes o después de éste). A partir de ahí, cuenta la vida de Alasdair, nuestro joven protagonista, en la cual no parecen suceder grandes cosas… Excepto que tiene un gran secreto guardado: su hermano Oliver. Los dos viven en una Ginebra alternativa, donde los mecánicos, es decir, las personas que tienen partes de su cuerpo mecánicas, son despreciados por el resto de la sociedad. En un momento crítico, Alasdair recibirá la visita de una desconocida y una propuesta que siempre había deseado, y que desencadenará una serie de acontecimientos impredecibles.
Por un lado, me gustaría hablar de los personajes. Por supuesto que mi primera asociación fue la de Alasdair con Víctor, del clásico. Es la más obvia y rápida, aunque sus similitudes acaban pronto. Si Víctor se desentendía de sus obligaciones como creador, Alasdair las abraza y es incapaz de huir de ellas. Oliver, con su carácter explosivo e impredecible es, sin duda, el monstruo. Pero además de ellos, aparecen otros como Geisler, Clémence u otra aparición que, sin duda, ha sido para mí la más interesante (ésta es una de esas cosas que quiero que descubráis vosotros y vosotras). Dicho personaje y sus intervenciones, aunque escasas, son para mí una de las mejores cosas de la novela. Me ha parecido una idea súper original por parte de la autora el mezclar la obra clásica, con la ficción y la realidad detrás del origen de dicho libro. Y es que Mackenzie Lee hace un fantástico trabajo enredando la ficción y la realidad, deformando unos y otros para ajustarlos a su propia obra, sin desmerecerla a ella ni a la obra original. Es muy interesante.
Por otro lado, me ha encantado la ambientación. No sólo Ginebra es una ciudad que me encantaría conocer y, por tanto, me provoca curiosidad, sino que la deforma de nuevo en un lugar desagradable y restrictivo. La ciudad, al igual que el resto del mundo, está envuelta en un halo steampunk súper atrayente e interesante, el cual aporta el toque a la novela juvenil que tenemos entre manos. La idea de personas con articulaciones, brazos, o incluso pulmones creados con metal, engranajes y aceite, me parece entre inquietante, mágica e interesante. Así mismo, son estas personas las que representan, y sobre las que recaen, el miedo, el rechazo y la opresión de una sociedad en general no preparada para los avances científicos. La autora hace así paralelismos entre las inquietudes que se tratan en Frankenstein y la propia novela juvenil, tal y como explica en una nota aclaratoria al final del libro. Francamente, me ha encantado.
Así que, resumiendo, lo que más me ha gustado ha sido la ambientación, los guiños y toques steampunk, y la mezcla tan resultona de la novela clásica, y la realidad y la ficción que trae consigo.

No obstante, y sólo por ponerle un punto negativo, reconozco que la resolución del final, con más acción, no me ha terminado de convencer. Me parece que, en general, el conflicto flojea en algunos puntos, se resuelve demasiado rápido y de forma algo precipitada, como si no terminara de encajar con la tónica del resto del libro.
En general, os recomiendo mucho la lectura, especialmente si ya sois fans locos/as del clásico como yo. Es increíble lo mucho que he fangirleado con esta novela, y creo de verdad que va a mi lista de favoritos del 2020. De hecho, aunque todavía queda, literalmente, toooodo el año, estoy muy feliz de haber arrancado la década con una novela que me ha gustado tanto. ¡Espero que la disfrutéis!
Profile Image for Mlpmom (Book Reviewer).
2,976 reviews363 followers
August 21, 2015
Lee's well written, well told debut novel set in a Victorian steampunk era was fascinating and makes one wonder that it is her first novel. With words that are sometimes lyrical and a setting that is every bit as believable and it fantastical, this story really does stick out and jump off the pages.

Having been one that was always fascinated with Dr. Frankenstein and his freakish monster, it was no wonder that when I saw This Monstrous Thing, I didn't hesitate one iota to pick it up and dive right in.

Entertaining, engaging, imaginative, and fun are just a few words to describe it. I wholeheartedly was hooked from the very first page and found it hard to put down as I ventured into the life of Alasdair, his family, and the mechanical clockwork men that were so hated and feared throughout the story.

I enjoyed this so much and I'm so very excited to read more from this author in the future.

*An ARC Copy of this was provided by the Publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Profile Image for Molly.
456 reviews129 followers
December 18, 2015
HUGE thank you to HarperCollins for sending me an ARC of this book!


end of review.


Okay no sorry I lied. I am just OLIVER.

Okay, so this book! I have a little story behind this book. Back when the cover came out (I think I was still in Japan? idk) I was like 'wow, monsters, clockwork men... sounds like my kinda book! (I'm a closet monster/cyborg fan. They're HOT.) and I followed the author on twitter. Then I moved to Boston and I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW SHE LIVES HERE OKAY. I was at an event for Lori Goldstein's book and I heard someone whisper behind me "That's Mackenzi Lee... author of This Monstrous Thing!" and I was like say what? I have an eARC of that!!!! And like an hour after the even ended I got up my courage to said hi and we fangirled about Maggie (Ganseyyyy) and now we're friends so it went from being a book that hooked me with monsters to being a book written by a friend and I was all OMG about reading and reviewing it because I AM SO SCARED TO READ BOOKS WRITTEN BY FRIENDS.

But I loved this. Lately I've been in the mood for fantasy (to balance out all of the contemporary I like to read in the summer, and the winter, and the fall... okay...) so this was just perfect for me (as I was in between two super summery contemporary books). I loved the setting, the dark atmosphere, the fact that it was set in the winter, the liberties taken with the real history it was based on and... Oliver.

This is a book about two brothers and the monstrous things they do. Oliver is dead and then Alasdair brings him back to life and hides him in a castle. Alasdair is a Shadow Boy; he works on clockwork body parts that replace the missing limbs of war veterans, and he's damn good at it. His brother's mentor, Giesler, was working on reanimation, and Alasdair figured out how to improve it and make it better, make it work. So when Oliver ends up in pieces, Alasdair puts him back together.

I loved the world that Lee creates. I loved the tension in the streets, the very real prejudices against the clockwork men. A lot of it can be related to our time, to ten, twenty, fifty years ago. Politics and segregation, police brutality... all pretty timeless stuff. I loved how Alasdair and his family ran a toy shop to cover up the fact that they were making mechanical body parts! The creep factor in this book was high and I LOVED it.

As I mentioned, I am all hearts in the eyes of Oliver. Give me monsters, give me vampires, give me shapeshifters, give me broken men, give me cyborgs. I loved how sassy and mean Oliver was and I loved how he played off Alasdair, their banter was the best. I loved how Oliver questioned himself and how both brothers though themselves monsters despite appearances.

I also adored Clemence. She really won me over and I had a few OMG NOOOO moments when it came to her well being. Mary was horrid, and I loved how horrid she was. I wanted to off Giesler from page one, and Alasdair was a perfect narrator. It was easy to slip into his mind and to feel what he was feeling.

Overall this book was awesome and I feel like fans of steam punk, historical fantasy and even gothic horror will enjoy this!
Profile Image for Creatyvebooks.
227 reviews9 followers
June 23, 2015
My mind is completely blown. This is such an innovated retelling of Frankenstein that I have ever read. Not only is it filled with such breathtaking details but it's beautiful at it's core. So much emotion takes place as one tows the line of playing GOD and questions what it means to be human.

For the die hard Frankenstein fans out there this is a must have to add to your collection. I truly enjoyed reading This Monstrous Thing. Mackenzi Lee has found a fan in me and I can't wait to read more of her work.

Thank you Edelweiss and Katherine Tegen Books for the opportunity to read such a wonderful book by an amazing author. I will have a more thorough review closer to release date.
Profile Image for Aj Sterkel.
756 reviews31 followers
January 25, 2018
Guys, I love this book so much! My first five-star read of 2018. It’s not a mind-blowing, brilliant piece of literature, but that doesn’t matter because I basically inhaled this book. It’s compulsively readable. It kept me awake for most of the night because I had to know how it ended.

Alasdair is a Shadow Boy, a mechanic who builds prosthetic limbs. In 1800s Europe, this is a dangerous profession because people see the fusing of flesh and machine as disgusting and unholy. Alasdair’s family is forced to move from place to place to avoid prosecution. In one of those places, Alasdair meets Dr. Geisler, a man who is trying to do more with clockwork than just build limbs. The doctor is trying to bring corpses back to life. Alasdair doesn’t believe this is possible until his brother, Oliver, dies. Alasdair and his somewhat-girlfriend, Mary Shelley, use Dr. Geisler’s techniques to resurrect Oliver. But, Oliver comes back more monster than human. Then Mary betrays Alasdair by writing a book—Frankenstein—about their experiences. Now Alasdair really has some problems . . .

“You took my life and Oliver's life and made them into this book. You made us into monsters, both of us.” – This Monstrous Thing

I love every character in this novel. They’re all anti-heroes with complicated—and often selfish—motives. You can’t fully trust any of them. Even Alasdair (the narrator) keeps information from the reader. I can understand why. The dude has made some unfortunate decisions in his life, but he’s not so evil that I hated him. For me, he’s the perfect blend of good intentions and bad outcomes.

One of Alasdair’s flaws is that he sees what he wants to see in people instead of what’s actually there. This flaw comes back to bite him several times throughout the novel. I think it’s a relatable flaw. We all want to believe the best about people, but sometimes you’ve got to admit that certain people in your life are jerks.

“We're all monsters. We're all careless and cruel in the end.” – This Monstrous Thing

Since the characters are anti-heroes, the plot is very twisty. Especially at the end. I finished this book in the middle of the night because I couldn’t put it down until I learned which characters survive the ending.

Originally, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this novel because I don’t like retellings, and I think Frankenstein is a boring story. I shouldn’t have hesitated. This book isn’t a retelling because Mary Shelley is a character in This Monstrous Thing. She’s not a minor character, either. She interacts with Alasdair and has a big role in the plot. I liked seeing a real person’s life fictionalized in a novel. It’s unusual.

(Also, unpopular opinion: Mackenzi Lee is a better writer than Mary Shelley. I studied Frankenstein in school and loathed every second of it.)

“Perhaps we all said the right things at the wrong time; perhaps we couldn't help it. Perhaps words became too heavy to haul, and the moment we let them loose was always the wrong one, but they needed to be free.” – This Monstrous Thing

Okay, I have to come up with something negative about This Monstrous Thing so it doesn’t just sound like I’m fangirling. Um . . . some parts of it are slightly obvious? There were times when I saw the answer to a problem long before Alasdair figured it out. Maybe the story also could have used more Oliver? Oliver is the resurrected monster, but we barely see him.

Those are tiny complaints. This book is a fun, escapist read with complicated characters and a cool steampunk world.

TL;DR: Why are you still looking at this review? You should be buying yourself a copy of This Monstrous Thing.

Profile Image for Stacee.
2,670 reviews701 followers
December 12, 2015
I was really excited about this book when I first read the synopsis, but as it came closer to the time to read it, that excitement was gone.

I did like the story and the characters. The writing is good and the plot was interesting. It kept me turning the pages, but I wasn't captivated by any part of it.

Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with it, I just couldn't get into the story like I was hoping to.

**Huge thanks to Katherine Tegen and Edelweiss for providing the arc in exchange for an honest review**
Profile Image for Jessica Cluess.
Author 8 books1,370 followers
September 5, 2015
This is a weird and wonderful reimagining of the Frankenstein story. In 1818 Geneva, Alasdair has brought his brother, Oliver, back to life with the help of clockwork. Now, with the publication of Frankenstein, their lives get even more complicated. It's so refreshing to have two siblings as the emotional core of a YA fantasy. The writing is fantastic, the clockwork is imaginative, and Alasdair is an intriguing protagonist. You're not completely sure whether to trust him or not. This is a fantastic book to be coming out near Halloween. Definitely buy.
Profile Image for Ally.
290 reviews33 followers
August 23, 2015
"We're all monsters," I said. "We're all careless and cruel in the end."

3.5 stars

Let me preface this by saying that I am not a huge fan of the classics. On time I tried to read Wuthering Heights and it took me the entire summer to read the first ¾ of the book before I gave up. Granted, that was back when I was in high school and might not have had an appreciation for finer literary works, but still. All this to say that I haven’t read Frankenstein. The closest I’ve come is A Cold Legacy, which I liked well enough, but didn’t find amazing.

But this book made me want to give it a try. Set in an alternate history where men are fitted with clockwork/mechanic parts after the war, we meet Alasdair, a brilliant, kind of selfish boy. Living in Geneva, an apparent ‘safe haven’ for survivors of the war due to its neutrality, Alasdair secretly constructs limbs from metal and clockwork for war veterans. But being a Shadow Boy is a dangerous occupation to have in a city like Geneva, which is intolerant and discriminatory toward such practices.

It's hard to believe that the people we love can do terrible things to us

Plus, there’s the small problem of him bringing his brother back to life in this manner. And the fact that someone (three guesses who!) has written a book about it, stirring up unrest amongst those who have similar inflictions.

I must say, I really enjoyed the characters in this book. Alasdair was kind of a jackass, but one that you want to succeed. I think a lot of us will be able to see and empathize with his specific brand of selfishness. But the character that really blew me away was Clémence. Such a strong and contrary female character for her time. I won't say much more, though I don't think I would spoil much, but it was nice to have her adding some diversity to the characters.

And Oliver. Our tortured monster. He was interesting. I'm still not sure how I feel about him.
He was wearing nothing but trousers, and it seemed a miracle that his metal joints hadn't frozen at that height in this cold. He raised his chin as the wind teased his dark hair, the light from the clock face shafting through it like veins of gold in obsidian. He had his shoulders thrust back, his twisted clockwork body on display

This book really did a good job of portraying Mary as one of those people everyone thinks is good, but who really isn't.
"You don't know me, Alisdair. We had a few months together and you have spent every moment since then creating some make-believe version of me in your head, but whoever you think I am, I am not. I am not clever and I am not brave and I am not good. I am not any of those things I pretended to be to keep you interested in me."

I actually disliked her a lot by the end of this. Definitely one of the worst characters in the book, but someone who fooled everyone.

Overall, an interesting read. If you liked A Cold Legacy you should give it a try.

I received an advanced review copy from Edelweiss. All quotations are from the ARC and subject to change
Profile Image for Fonda Lee.
Author 27 books3,829 followers
May 10, 2015
STEAMPUNK FRANKENSTEIN, PEOPLE! What else do you need to know?!

If you haven't already run out to buy it on those two words alone, let me assure you that this book is so good it hurts. This Monstrous Thing takes the original Mary Shelley story and infuses it with fantastic clockwork and unforgettable characters: the brilliant but guilt-burdened Alasdair, his volatile brother Oliver, and a nuanced and complicated supporting cast, each character with his or her own ambitions and secrets. The book is beautifully written, utterly devoid of typical YA tropes, and perfectly paced. Clever and original in the way it pays homage to the original Frankenstein, it tells the story of two brothers and the choices that tear them apart and pull them together. It about regret, longing, discrimination, hope, and fear. It is about lies, betrayal, and forgiveness. It is about humans and monsters and how they are often one and the same. In short, it is fantastic. If you are a fan of Frankenstein, sibling stories, steampunk, mystery, historical fantasy, or good books period, read this book. Just do it.

STEAMPUNK FRANKENSTEIN. I mean, why did you even need to read this far?
Profile Image for Jodi Meadows.
Author 23 books4,611 followers
August 1, 2015
A steampunk Frankenstein retelling! And definitely a must-read for those looking for books about brothers, and books very light on romance.
Profile Image for Jemailyn.
302 reviews
October 31, 2020

Are you good, or are you clever?

The use of clockwork in humans was considered illegal and taboo in Geneva. Alasdair's family was part of Shadow Boys, a group of individuals secretly helping people by using clockwork mechanism as substitute for those who wanted to function "normally" after sickness or war ravaged a part of their bodies.

On a dreary night in November..

When his brother Oliver died, Alasdair decided to put his knowledge into use by resurrecting Oliver. This decision changed everything for Alasdair mainly because he had successfully accomplished what no one could not. When a book entitled Frankenstein started circulating around Geneva, clockwork people and the Shadow Boys fell deeper into peril. At one point, his father was arrested and his mother was missing, and the only person who could help him was in Ingolstadt.

You can't make people the way you want them to be, Alasdair. Sometimes you just have to love them how they are.

I loved the story of Alasdair, no matter how twisted it was. An amazing tale of innocence, learning, enthusiasm, betrayal, guilt, regret, conflict, love, forgiveness, and moving on. I'd never had difficulty immersing myself into this world, and I was quite charmed by the author's storytelling and steampunk world building in this Frankenstein retelling.
Profile Image for Cee.
964 reviews218 followers
September 17, 2015
I enjoyed this steampunk rendition of Frankenstein, but ultimately the story left me as cold as the monster's corpse.

Alasdair Finch is a Shadow Boy. He knows how to use clockwork parts to make mechanical limbs for people. When his brother dies, he does the incredible - he brings Oliver back to life. But Oliver is no longer who he used to be.

Set in an alternate version of nineteenth century Geneva, This Monstrous Thing is loosely inspired on the real-life Mary Shelley and the publication of Frankenstein. In Ms Lee's re-imagining, Frankenstein is based on Alasdair, who resurrects his brother in an act of desperation. Additionally, there is a tension between the populace of Geneva and the people who have mechanical limbs. They are seen as less than human, abominations, monstrous. If they would find out about Oliver, who is more mechanical than human, they would kill him.

I highly commend the author for integrating the Frankenstein source material in a creative way. While it leans on the same themes of the creation of life and its ethical implications, the book tells its own story, with fresh characters and a different outlook. It tries to tie in with debates on shunning of those seen as less than others. While I thought the underlying societal tensions were well written, I didn't think there was much reason for why exactly the Genevan peoples would hate people with mechanical limbs so much. There were some vague religious connotations, but it needed more motivation to be truly believable that people would act this way. Especially because the surrounding towns never seemed to be so averse to clockwork.

The core of the story of This Monstrous Thing is the tension between Alasdair, his brother, and Dr. Geisler, a scientist obsessed with bringing people back from the dead. I can't say much about the plot, except that it features much running around by Alasdair.

While there were many elements in the story that I enjoyed - including the lack of romance between Alasdair and Clemence, the assistant of Dr. Geisler - in other ways This Monstrous Thing never stood out. While the setting is historical, the language definitely is not. At one point (in my ARC at least), one of the characters responds by saying "No shit.". It features an old broken down castle and Geneva and clockwork, however, the setting never truly came to life. The interactions between Alasdair and Oliver were interesting, but there weren't enough of them to make them profound.

I can't put my finger on anything that is offensively bad in this book, but neither is there anything that truly surprised me in its awesomeness. This Monstrous Thing is a fun read - which can also easily be read if you haven't read Frankenstein.
Profile Image for Anna Shelby ☕.
241 reviews13 followers
November 29, 2016
This is a tale of two brothers struggling in a gothic steampunk era. The one more despicable and monstrous than the other. We follow Alasdair, narrating the story. Having reanimated his dead brother, he now keeps him hidden in a gloomy castle. And Oliver doesn't particularly like it. Being isolated and lonely he stuggles with self-loathing and gnawing self-doubt. Being born into a family of Shadow Boys (manufacturers of clockwork-prostethics) the Finch family has to do their work in secret, due to societal prejudices towards clockwork-(wo)men.

The growth, or rather growing up, Alasdairs is the beating heart of the story. Throughout his journey he matures to take responsibility for his work, reflect emotionally (with a little help) and draw the consequences from it.
I loved the writing style and the first POV, the dark secrets that made the characters interesting and believable. I kept going from sympathizing with Alasdair to wanting to just slap him silly for what he does or doesn't do! I loved Oliver from the first scene, not only because he's so broken, angry and sassy but because he's so incredibly, unimaginatively good. Lee paints such a grand brotherly love, that I struggle to comprehend how could he forgive him for what he's done?. Because I cannot. In the end it was still about Alasdair finding his way to live.
Utterly devoid of YA-tropes, this was a very pleasing read.The story is told in two timelines: in the present we follow Alasdair through the physical world and in the flashbacks we see the events that are the source of his suffering. At the same time the flashbacks are the way Lee lets meet the reader and Oliver, before his death. The ending is very satisfying and leaves me longing for a novella. I'll def. read her other books!
Profile Image for Iris.
543 reviews252 followers
August 31, 2020
hi ignore my old review I no longer feel comfortable supporting this author

Displaying 1 - 30 of 620 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.