This Monstrous Thing

Hardcover | September 22, 2015

byMackenzi Lee

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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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From the Publisher

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 w...

From the Jacket

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. Heartbroken and desperate, Alasdair does th...

Mackenzi Lee holds a BA in history and an MFA from Simmons College in writing for children and young adults. She loves Diet Coke, sweater weather, and Star Wars. On a perfect day, she can be found enjoying all three. She currently lives in Boston, where she works as a bookseller and almost never reanimates corpses. Almost.

other books by Mackenzi Lee

The Gentleman's Guide To Vice And Virtue
The Gentleman's Guide To Vice And Virtue

Hardcover|Jun 20 2017

$19.57 online$21.99list price(save 11%)
This Monstrous Thing
This Monstrous Thing

Paperback|May 16 2017

$11.12 online$12.50list price(save 11%)
Format:HardcoverDimensions:384 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 1.21 inPublished:September 22, 2015Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0062382772

ISBN - 13:9780062382771


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! 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.
Date published: 2015-12-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A great Frankenstein story In the year 1818, Alasdair Finch lives in a world where men have mechanical parts and live hidden away with only Shadow Boys, illegal mechanics, to care for them. When his older brother Oliver dies, Alasdair uses his knowledge to bring him back to life but the Oliver that returns is different, more of a monster than the brother Alasdair remembers. It seems like an impossible task to repair their relationship and keep Oliver safe from a town that already fears and hates Clockwork people but then the novel Frankenstein is published and Alasdair knows they’ll be lucky to make it out of Geneva alive. October always puts me in the mood for creepy reads and this one seemed perfect for that. I love Frankenstein, historical settings, brotherly relationships, re-tellings, and this book promised all of that. And I got it. Alasdair was a character that I could really emphasize with as all he wanted was to have his brother back. He wanted his family to be happy and whole and he was at least going to try to use his knowledge to bring Oliver back. He was getting constant pressure from his parents to be better and was living with so many huge secrets that it was surprising he never just snapped. He was really smart and likely could have gone on to do anything he wanted but his sense of family, duty, and guilt kept him in Geneva with his parents and hiding his brother. The relationships in the book were absolutely fascinating. The main focus was the relationship between Alasdair and Oliver, comparing how they were before Oliver’s death and now that he had been brought back. There was so much anger, resentment, guilt, and fear but under it all was also the love that was so present in the flashbacks. There was the interesting relationship between Alasdair and Geisler, who was Oliver’s mentor and now offering to be one to Alasdair. He seemed to be keeping secrets and I never trusted him but I was hoping he was good for Alasdair’s sake. Another favourite was the developing friendship and maybe more between Alasdair and Geisler’s assistant Clemence. The writing and setting were both dark, as was expected from reading the synopsis. It fit the overall story very well and the world that was created was interesting and a little scary. I really liked how Lee showed the different ways other cities outside Geneva reacted to the Clockwork Men and Shadow Boys, not everyone looked at them with disgust and fear, and how easily a small group full of fear and hate can latch onto something, in this case Frankenstein, for a reason why their views were right the whole time, and infect so many more people. The action wasn’t fast-paced through the whole book but that didn’t make it slow or boring. There was the mystery of who had written Frankenstein, what was Geisler hiding, what was Alasdair hiding, what would Alasdair do with Oliver. So many questions that had to be answered along with the action scenes. It made for a fast and very enjoyable read. *I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Date published: 2015-12-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Steampunk Frankenstein retelling! This Monstrous Thing is a steam punk retelling of Frankenstein that follows Alisdair Finch. He is a Shadow Boy, like his father, which means that he is able to create and maintain clockwork body parts for those who have lost their original body parts to disease or war. However, clockwork people are looked down upon by society since they “are not in the image of God” and thusly an abomination. The novel enters on the consequences of Alisdair having brought his brother, Oliver, back to life with clockwork. Mackenzi Lee’s writing is great and there were some really gorgeous lines sprinkled throughout and there were some really vivid scenes that she painted with her writing that had me just kind of shocked and also captivated by the writing. We read the novel from Alisdair’s point of view and we’re able to see his point of view and his thoughts as he endures the roller coaster of consequences. And despite me not agreeing with his actions, I like that I was able to understand his motives and the reasoning behind his actions. I didn’t like Alisdair, but I was rooting for him through the novel and for things to turn out okay for him. Oliver is Alisdair’s brother that was killed after being pushed out of the clocktower window. Devastated, Alisdair revives him with his own improved version of Dr. Geisler’s theory. When the novel first begins, it is two years after Oliver has returned to the living and I really found myself empathizing with him despite him not being present for large swathes of the novel. I love the way Mackenzie Lee wrote him and I really kind of just wanted to give him a hug, despite his very sharp edges. I love how the original novel of Frankenstein and Mary Shelley was incorporated into the novel! It’s kind of meta in that sense and it was really interesting how the Frankenstein novel really created a lot of problems for Oliver and Alisdair. It was really interesting for me in how the original book and Mary were weaved into the novel as well, since I never really read Frankenstein or knew too much about Mary Shelley’s life. This Monstrous Thing is a great steampunk retelling of Frankenstein that had me captivated by her writing and also left me thinking about it afterwards, with the vivid scenes she paints in her novel and the real and relatable characters .
Date published: 2015-11-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A great retelling of Frankenstein! 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!
Date published: 2015-10-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Remarkable First Novel Mackenzi Lee has written what could be called A Clockwork Frankenstein - a story set in a steampunk world, where Alasdair Finch resurrects his brother Oliver with clockworks gears and batteries. And then, of course, things go wrong. This Monstrous Thing also features the young Mary Godwin (soon to become Mary Shelley), with whom Alasdair and Oliver share a particularly memorable summer before Oliver dies. Mary, in fact, helps Alasdair recover Oliver's body and transport it to the lab - where she witnesses the resurrection, an event so unnerving that it inspires her to write a horror novel (guess which one...). Lee has more than just a steampunk horror story here, though. In an afterword, she notes that the book is a kind of steampunk creation myth counterpart to Shelley's industrial revolution creation myth of Frankenstein. The book deals head on with conflicts like the resistance to change; bigotry, and the bonds of family - family by blood, and family by choice/circumstance. It's well written - the characters are well drawn and the events have a fierce internal logic that kept me turning pages at a faster than usual clip. This Monstrous Thing is one heckuva debut novel. I expect to read about movie rights selling any time now...
Date published: 2015-09-06

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Editorial Reviews

Richly imagined and ingeniously plotted, this version incorporates quotations from Shelley’s text while updating the perennial questions of the original regarding how far is too far when it comes to meddling in the affairs of life and death.