Book Reviews

Review: This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee

This Monstrous Thing makes my geeky heart sing. Every time I discovered something new, I got even more excited. Not only is This Monstrous Thing supremely entertaining, but it is a fantastic work of self-reflexive fiction.


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…


This Monstrous Thing is part re-telling and at the same time so much more. While they take place around the same time as Frankenstein it’s so much more. It’s self-reflexive and steam punk. This book hooked me from the synopsis all the way to the last page. I can’t really pick a favorite part of this book: the steampunk politics, the creator complex, the Frankenstein elements? All of them are just too much for my geeky heart to handle.

  • The Clockwork/Steampunk element: This element of the world building included discrimination against these humans with clockwork parts. It was both eerie and also terrifying because some of the rhetoric, the check points all brought this question to mind: what do we consider human? And more importantly, what will we do to those we consider not human?
  • The Creator politics: There are multiple lenses of creator/created, author/body of work. One of my most favorite part of this book is that Lee draws a comparison between the creator and an author. This brings up an interesting question of what happens to our creation once we bring it into the world? What happens to our books once we put them into the hands of readers, once we bring them into the world?
  • The characters of Clemence and Mary were my favorite – for different reasons. Clemence’s story line and background were fantastic – I won’t spoil it for you, but she is dynamite, witty, and incredibly clever (and possibly bisexual? She definitely is attracted to women). And Mary was this silent hero, that I ended up liking for completely the wrong reasons? She was sharper edged than I expected, but I should have known!
  • Monstrous men and humanity. Are humans also monstrous? This is a theme that is not only woven throughout Frankenstein but has also plagued my thoughts for over a decade. What is the line between humans and monsters? Between monstrous men and clockwork girls? Is there an essence of monstrosity or do we teach it to each other?

If you are a fan of Frankenstein you have to read this. I did and I adored it. My geeky heart is so happy. Check out This Monstrous Thing on Goodreads.


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