Sara's Reviews > This Monstrous Thing

This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee
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Actual Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Set in Geneva, Switzerland in 1818 (the year when Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was published), This Monstrous Thing explores the question, "What if there was a real-life inspiration behind Frankenstein?". Enter Alasdair Finch, a Shadow Boy who uses machinery to give new limbs to French Revolution and Napoleonic War survivors. However, Alasdair has done the unthinkable: Using his talents, he's brought his older brother Oliver back from the dead - and Oliver is no longer the carefree, compassionate person he once was. As Frankenstein grows in controversy and the local authorities intensify their search for Shadow Boys (their trade is illegal in Geneva), Alasdair is offered the opportunity of a lifetime: A university education at his dream school, and refuge with his idol, the "mad scientist" Dr. Geisler. But what - including Oliver - is Alasdair willing to sacrifice for ambition's sake?

This Monstrous Thing seized me by the heart early on and refused to let go. Worldbuilding details, especially Geneva at Christmastime and the "nuts and bolts" of the Shadow Boys' craft, were breathtaking yet not overdone. Characters were shown at their best and worst, making them multi-dimensional and relatable. (My two favorites were Oliver and Clemence, Dr. Geisler's full-of-surprises assistant.) Most of all, I loved how Alasdair and Oliver's tremulous relationship was the centerpiece. It's a refreshing change from romance-centric YA stories. Plus, it mirrors the story's other struggles with loyalty, prejudice, and secrets, clanging at the essence of what it means to be human.

Some reviewers have said they wanted to see Oliver's resurrection and other flashbacks play out "in real time." Personally, I was fine with Lee's approach. It allowed relevant memories to inform Alasdair's current, more urgent dilemma. And apart from some modern-sounding dialogue, This Monstrous Thing blew me away. Even if a Frankenstein reimagining isn't your typical reading fare, give this a chance. I did, and I came away exhilarated by the last few chapters and heartened by how far the Finch brothers had come.
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Reading Progress

June 9, 2015 – Shelved
June 9, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
October 16, 2015 – Started Reading
October 16, 2015 –
page 49
12.76% "Was afraid I'd finish Neverwhere without another book to read, so I started this while waiting as my car was worked on. Fascinating so far!"
October 19, 2015 –
page 96
25.0% "Something tells me Oliver isn't going to be too happy about this..."
October 20, 2015 –
page 170
44.27% "Huh?? How am I almost halfway done already?? *lol*"
October 21, 2015 –
page 246
64.06% "Uh oh. This isn't going to be pretty. ;)"
October 22, 2015 – Finished Reading
October 26, 2015 – Shelved as: male-protagonists
October 26, 2015 – Shelved as: great-sibling-relationships
October 26, 2015 – Shelved as: young-adult
October 26, 2015 – Shelved as: world-building-love
October 26, 2015 – Shelved as: steampunk
October 26, 2015 – Shelved as: historical-fiction

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