Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Review: This Monstrous Thing – Mackenzi Lee


This Monstrous Thing – Mackenzi 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. 
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.



Review: Guys, I love this book so much! My first five-star read of 2018. It’s not a mind-blowing, brilliant piece of literature, but that doesn’t matter because I basically inhaled this book. It’s compulsively readable. It kept me awake for most of the night because I had to know how it ended.

Alasdair is a Shadow Boy, a mechanic who builds prosthetic limbs. In 1800s Europe, this is a dangerous profession because people see the fusing of flesh and machine as disgusting and unholy. Alasdair’s family is forced to move from place to place to avoid prosecution. In one of those places, Alasdair meets Dr. Geisler, a man who is trying to do more with clockwork than just build limbs. The doctor is trying to bring corpses back to life. Alasdair doesn’t believe this is possible until his brother, Oliver, dies. Alasdair and his somewhat-girlfriend, Mary Shelley, use Dr. Geisler’s techniques to resurrect Oliver. But, Oliver comes back more monster than human. Then Mary betrays Alasdair by writing a book—Frankenstein—about their experiences. Now Alasdair really has some problems . . .


“You took my life and Oliver's life and made them into this book. You made us into monsters, both of us.” – This Monstrous Thing



I love every character in this novel. They’re all anti-heroes with complicated—and often selfish—motives. You can’t fully trust any of them. Even Alasdair (the narrator) keeps information from the reader. I can understand why. The dude has made some unfortunate decisions in his life, but he’s not so evil that I hated him. For me, he’s the perfect blend of good intentions and bad outcomes.

One of Alasdair’s flaws is that he sees what he wants to see in people instead of what’s actually there. This flaw comes back to bite him several times throughout the novel. I think it’s a relatable flaw. We all want to believe the best about people, but sometimes you’ve got to admit that certain people in your life are jerks.


“We're all monsters. We're all careless and cruel in the end.” – This Monstrous Thing



Since the characters are anti-heroes, the plot is very twisty. Especially at the end. I finished this book in the middle of the night because I couldn’t put it down until I learned which characters survive the ending.

Originally, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this novel because I don’t like retellings, and I think Frankenstein is a boring story. I shouldn’t have hesitated. This book isn’t a retelling because Mary Shelley is a character in This Monstrous Thing. She’s not a minor character, either. She interacts with Alasdair and has a big role in the plot. I liked seeing a real person’s life fictionalized in a novel. It’s unusual.

(Also, unpopular opinion: Mackenzi Lee is a better writer than Mary Shelley. I studied Frankenstein in school and loathed every second of it.)


“Perhaps we all said the right things at the wrong time; perhaps we couldn't help it. Perhaps words became too heavy to haul, and the moment we let them loose was always the wrong one, but they needed to be free.” – This Monstrous Thing



Okay, I have to come up with something negative about This Monstrous Thing so it doesn’t just sound like I’m fangirling. Um . . . some parts of it are slightly obvious? There were times when I saw the answer to a problem long before Alasdair figured it out. Maybe the story also could have used more Oliver? Oliver is the resurrected monster, but we barely see him.

Those are tiny complaints. This book is a fun, escapist read with complicated characters and a cool steampunk world.



TL;DR: Why are you still looking at this review? You should be buying yourself a copy of This Monstrous Thing.











39 comments:

  1. So this book was something I thought about but then thought maybe no. I have to say you kind of sell it and think I need to add it back to my radar. Love a book I can't put down!

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  2. Okay, I feel like a dolt because I totally thought The Gentleman’s Guide was Lee’s debut. Somehow I totally missed this one. I’m such a sucker for morally ambiguous characters and/or those who are driven by their own (dubious) motivations. (Factors that made me appreciate The Cruel Prince.) I’m not always a fan of retellings but this definitely sounds worthy of a try.

    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books

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    1. Lots of people have said they haven’t heard of this book. That’s sad because it so fun.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  3. This sounds awesome - I'm going to have be sure to pick this up! :)

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  4. This definitely sounds like one I would like. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. Ooooh this sounds good - several Frankenstein-inspired novels at the moment (no surprises given the anniversary I guess) but I like the sound of this one a lot!

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    1. I’ve been avoiding the Frankenstein retellings because I don’t like retellings or Frankenstein, but maybe that’s the wrong decision. I really liked this one.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  6. I know I`m late to the party, but I recently read The gentleman`s Guide, and I loved it! Mackenzi is such a good writer. I did not know about this book before, but it`s definitely going on my TBR.

    Carmen`s Reading Corner

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    1. I still need to read Gentleman’s Guide. It’s high on my list of books to buy.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  7. I'm not really one for retellings though the angle of having Mary feature as a character I do find interesting!

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    1. I don’t like retellings, either, but this one isn’t a strict retelling, so I could live with it.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  8. Pffffff SAY NO MORE!a five star with awesome characters and twisted plot?? men built with clockwork parts??? "monsters"??? I'm so reading this book!

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  9. Ok, I've got to have this!! Congrats on your first five star :)

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  10. HOW HAVE I NOT COME ACROSS THIS ONE BEFORE? I don't really know why but I totally thought The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue was actually the author's debut! This one sounds fabulous and pretty worthy of being your first five-star read of 2018, I must say! Great review- thanks for sharing! <3

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    1. I have no idea why this book doesn’t get more love. It deserves it.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  11. heard many fantastic things about this one, like how you cannot trust all characters. Amazing that it's a five star read, I hope I can squeeze it in this year!!

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  12. I actually have this book, but wasn't sure about it. You are pretty greedy with your 5-stars, so this must be a worthy book. I loved your review (because I cannot resist a review filled with praise).

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    1. Haha, yes, I’m a cold-hearted witch. I don’t give out many 5-stars. This book is so much fun that I couldn’t give it less than that.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  13. YAY this makes me so happy! This is one that I own, and one that I wanted to get to, you know, eventually, but now you have me bumping it WAY up on my TBR for sure! Also, LOVE your picture!!

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  14. This my first time hearing about this book and it sounds really interesting. I've been wanting to read more steampunk so I'll have to check this out. Great review!

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  15. Will have to check this out! Any book described as 'compulsively readable' deserves some consideration. :)

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    1. Yes! I couldn’t put it down, and I was thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  16. Wow! Great review, AJ. I love the phrase "compulsively readable". I've been lucky and also experience that this year with Geekarella. It's a light-hearted and fun novel, nothing overwhelmingly literary or powerful, just fun. And sometimes that's exactly that we need.

    I haven't heard of this book before, but you've totally sold me on it! I've never read Frankenstein, however. Do I need to read that before This Monstrous Thing?

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    1. Nope, you don’t have to read Frankenstein to understand this one. That’s good because I think Frankenstein is excruciatingly boring.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  17. Great review! I have been wanting to read this one and you are just making me want to buy it even more lol. :o)

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  18. Wonderful review AJ, I'm going to have to add this to my list. I had to chuckled when I read the beginning of the synopsis, for some reason it reminded me of Pet Sematary by Stephen King.

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  19. I love that the characters are all kind of anti-heroes! I love complicated and flawed characters that you cant really trust. I'm going to have to check this one out. Great review!

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  20. I love how enthusiastic you are for this book! You've convinced me, especially with the steampunk vibe of the synopsis. I read a very different Frankenstein retelling recently, Frankenstein In Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, plus the original last year so it will be interesting to contrast the three.

    Stephanie Jane @ Literary Flits

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  21. Congratz on ur first five star rating of the year!!
    Honestly, from the title, I feel like it is awesome!
    Thnx for sharing ur review!💖

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  22. AHHHH I'm so glad you loved this one! I read it almost immediately after finishing and adoring Mackenzi's book The Gentleman's Guide to Vice & Virtue (FAVVEEE) and I loved it! Such a shame not more people talk about it. It flies under the radar too much!

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  23. Great review! I've got this one on my shelf and I'm excited to give it a try. :)

    Lauren @ Always Me

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