Saturday, October 17, 2015

Review: This Monstrous Thing

Title: This Monstrous Thing
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Steampunk
Source: Katherine Tegen via Edelweiss

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 by Nara

Even with more and more retellings being released, how could one resist a steampunk Frankenstein? Frankenstein retellings are rare enough, but a steampunk Frankenstein retelling? Heck yes. And I must say, Mackenzie Lee has done an absolutely phenomenal job of building the atmosphere of a steampunk Europe in the 1800s. From the very start, you already feel like you're in Geneva, with its shadowy streets and wintry gloom. There's a prejudice against people with clockwork prosthetics and our protagonist Alasdair Finch is a "Shadow Boy"- someone who does the maintenance on these prosthetics.

The Frankenstein element comes from Alasdair's brother, Oliver. He was killed in an accident, and Alasdair feels he has no choice but to bring him back. He's definitely brought back to life- but he's not the same Oliver that Alisdair remembers. You can see how broken Oliver is from the beginning, and you can't help but pity his existence- hidden away from society, relying on his brother to survive. The main conflict of the plot arises when someone in Alasdair's past fictionalises Alasdair and Oliver's story (and it's pretty obvious who it is if you know anything about the original Frankenstein), bringing to light this "monster" and creating a figurehead for the clockwork revolution.

The great thing about this book is the moral ambiguity. Even our main character is flawed, with his ambitions and his guilt and his selfishness. You're kind of not sure that you want Oliver to succeed in his goals either, as you can see the barely hidden darkness within him. And Mary, Alasdair's former "sweetheart", is far from the most moral character. Every character has flaws, but you can't help but like most of them.

Well, all in all, this is a book that I'd certainly recommend. With it's fantastic atmosphere and interesting characters, it's a great addition to the ever-growing list of retellings.

Really liked it
Overall: 8/10
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
World Building: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 3.5/5