Thursday, October 26, 2017

Goldilox and the Three Scares Classic Horror Week Review: This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee

We're doing something a little different for Halloween this year. This time of year always brings out the monsters. And some of our favorites are the ones from literature. We're looking at retellings and reimaginings of horror classics like Dracula and Frankenstein. And I'm so excited to be reviewing our Frankenstein retelling today!

This Monstrous Thing
Mackenzi Lee
Release: September 22, 2015
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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 have loved Mary Shelley's Frankenstein since I first read it in high school but I didn't know that I needed a steampunk retelling of it in my life! I absolutely adored This Monstrous Thing! I'm still floored that this was Mackenzi Lee's debut novel because it was almost perfect!

It's the story of a young man named Alasdair living in an alternate 19th century full of cogs and steam who is driven by love and pride to use his highly illegal talents to resurrect his brother, Oliver, after a terrible accident claims his life. Lee’s version of Geneva in 1818 is a steampunk world filled with secrets and clockwork people. These Victorian cyborgs are maintained by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys like Alasdair and his family.

I loved the world Lee introduced us to in this novel. It just felt so authentic and the steampunk blended seamlessly with the other elements of the story to create a unique, fascinating world. The author chose to set this book in the 1800’s around the time Frankenstein was published and I think it was a wonderful decision. Not only does this book explore the themes of the source material it's based on, it explores the world in which that novel exists and poses a major threat to Alasdair and those he loves because that book appears to chronicle his attempt at bringing Oliver back from the dead. I can only applaud Lee's decision to make Mary Shelley a character in this book and who also happens to be Alasdair's ex! Oh, the meta gothic is strong with this one!

I loved how this book didn't simply retell the plot of the original with a few slight twists and turns but integrated the publication of the book as a plot point! When Frankenstein is released and people start reacting to it, Alasdair is forced to make some big decisions about his brother and his own future as well as his family’s reputation. This gives the book an air of suspense, and makes you worry for Alasdair and his family’s safety. We see his struggle of choosing between his reanimated brother and the future he’s always dreamed of and what those choices mean for him and everyone he loves. There’s hardly ever a dull moment as Alasdair discovers the secrets of his ability and works to figure out what the right decision to make is.

I have only one complaint and it's that while the central relationship between Alasdair and his brother Oliver is deliciously complicated and nuanced, the story's big reveal was fairly obvious from page one for me. But I'm willing to forgive that because Lee's world was so beautifully built and so lovingly rendered and I was hooked from the first.

This Monstrous Thing is the perfect gateway drug to Shelley's original novel, which was probably not Mackenzi Lee's primary goal, but is still a happy side-effect of her gorgeously written creation. It makes for a perfect Halloween read!

  4 / 5 Stars

My reviews of other books by this author:
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

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