Published: September 22, 2015
Author: Machenzi Lee
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. Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead. .
This Monstrous Thing is set in an alternative steampunk version Geneva where people are patched together by clockwork pieces by illegal mechanics called, Shadow Boys. It is a retelling of the classic Gothic Novel, Frankenstein. In fact this is the story of how this version of Mary Shelly came up with story and maybe almost started a movement. Because life as a clockwork person, not so great.
I was originally drawn to this book because it was a retelling of Frankenstein, which is one of my favorites of the Gothic stories. I can still remember how reading it for the first time in my bed, in the dark with just my book lamp, and jumping every time our housed creaked and popped. So I'm always excited to see someone re-imagine the story. For better or for worse.
This Monstrous Thing was for kind of the better.
I say kind of only because when I originally saw the book, and even when I picked it up, I didn't know it was a Middle Grade novel. Which wouldn't have stopped me from reading it. Just because I'm not ten doesn't me I can't enjoy I book set for them, I did. Like this book I mean. It just wasn't as dark and as scary as I thought it was going be. At least for me personally. I could totally see my younger cousin not sleeping because of parts, or grossed out in places.
Despite that little hick-up, which wasn't really a hick-up, I liked This Monstrous Thing. Mackenzi Lee created a wonderful world and a strong story inside of that world. It was easy to pick up on the political drama of this steampunk Regency world without being bogged down by it. I didn't really see much flaw with character, keeping mind the age range this book was written for. Oliver was always sort of a mystery, but I felt that was the point. As a reader were only meant to see him the way Alasdair saw him. I felt like I disliked characters because they were written to not be trusted and to be disliked. I felt the story very quickly and there were very few moments where the story lulled.
My favorite part was the friendship between Clemence, who quickly became my favorite character, and Alasdair. I also really liked that they weren't written in as a romantic pair. They both sort of have what the other needs. Clemence is a person in Alasdair's corner that helps to keep both a clever and good man. While Alasdair is just there for Clemence without expecting anything in return by her friendship. It was wonderful to see.
Really the only issues I had with the book was I was expecting something different from what I got. Which really was own my fault for not noticing the fact this retelling was meant for a younger generation. Of course I also wasn't overly fond of our main character either. I spent most of the pick wishing he'd be brave and just make a decision about what it was in fact that he wanted. I needed him to decided what kind of Shadow Boy he was going to be. Not sit an mope.
But, all-in-all, I liked the book. I feel Mackenzi Lee retold this classic story wonderful for a new generation of readers, and I can't wait to share with my younger cousins who read. I've already passed my copy on to a friend who also is big fan of Frankenstein. So three stars is my final rate of This Monstrous Thing. It was a fun read that I enjoyed as a whole, but not something I see myself picking up again.
Though, I would like to see this become a TV show. I think it would be wonderful on screen.
What did everyone else think of the book? Any other Frankenstein re-tellings I should add to my TBR?