A wildly creative Gothic fantasy retelling of Frankenstein, This Monstrous Thing is a wholly new reimagining of the classic novel by Mary Shelley and is perfect for fans of retellings such as Cinder by Marissa Meyer, fantasy by Libba Bray and Cassandra Clare, and alternative history by Scott Westerfeld. In an alternative fantasy world where some men are made from clockwork parts and carriages are steam powered, Alasdair Finch, a young mechanic, does the unthinkable after his brother dies: he uses clockwork pieces to bring Oliver back from the dead. But the resurrection does not go as planned, and Oliver returns more monster than man. Even worse, the novel Frankenstein is published and the townsfolk are determined to find the real-life doctor and his monster. With few places to turn for help, the dangers may ultimately bring the brothers together—or ruin them forever.
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This Monstrous Thing
In this alternative world, it's 1816 and it's illegal for anyone to use machines to replace body limbs. Those that help these people by replacing body limbs with mechanical pieces are called 'Shadow Boys'. Two years ago, one Shadow Boy, Alasdair Finch's life takes a horrific turn. His beloved older brother Oliver is dead and his sweetheart Mary has left him. He longs to study at the university but one mistake of his past keeps him in Geneva.
After a terrible accident, Alasdair does the unthinkable--he brings him brother back from the dead. But Oliver is more monster than man. Then a book comes out, FRANKENSTEIN, which mirrors his and his brother's life. When his father is captured, Alasdair flees and seeks help from Dr. Geisler, who has his own plans.
What worked: This is a very entertaining twist on the FRANKENSTEIN tale complete with Gothic horror and a steampunk edge. I loved how in this alternative world, we see the impossible happen--a brother is able to use clockwork pieces to bring his dead brother back to life. The vivid images of this world are magical but also dark and horrific. This world discriminates against those who aren't completely human. There are more than a few scenes that show downright cruelty to those who don't fit in with that society. There's one scene of a young orphan girl who passes out pamphlets and tells of how an orphanage refuses her as she's not totally human. She's barefoot in the December cold and her mechanical leg is rusting. There's not much in the way of kindness as the police can turn on that too.
I really loved how we see another interpretation of Mary Shelly, the author of FRANKENSTEIN. Her life was scandalous at that time. Only in this novel, we see her through Alasdair's eyes. There's misplaced love and betrayal that at first shatters Alasdair's world but then strengthens him when he has to come to terms with his biggest challenge.
The love in this novel is more between two brothers and the lengths one would go to in order to right a wrong. The biggest question is whether bringing Oliver back to life was morally right. But another important question is should Mary be responsible for the lives lost due to her retelling of what she saw that fateful day when Alasdair brought his brother to life? Who in fact is the real Frankenstein? Oliver who ends up shut up in a deserted castle and shunned as being a monster? Or those who torment those that are 'different'?
Haunting retelling of Frankenstein with a dark, addictive twist.
Great, dark, addicting
In the year 1818, Alasdair Finch lives in a world where men have mechanical parts and live hidden away with only Shadow Boys, illegal mechanics, to care for them. When his older brother Oliver dies, Alasdair uses his knowledge to bring him back to life but the Oliver that returns is different, more of a monster than the brother Alasdair remembers. It seems like an impossible task to repair their relationship and keep Oliver safe from a town that already fears and hates Clockwork people but then the novel Frankenstein is published and Alasdair knows they’ll be lucky to make it out of Geneva alive.
October always puts me in the mood for creepy reads and this one seemed perfect for that. I love Frankenstein, historical settings, brotherly relationships, re-tellings, and this book promised all of that. And I got it.
Alasdair was a character that I could really emphasize with as all he wanted was to have his brother back. He wanted his family to be happy and whole and he was at least going to try to use his knowledge to bring Oliver back. He was getting constant pressure from his parents to be better and was living with so many huge secrets that it was surprising he never just snapped. He was really smart and likely could have gone on to do anything he wanted but his sense of family, duty, and guilt kept him in Geneva with his parents and hiding his brother.
The relationships in the book were absolutely fascinating. The main focus was the relationship between Alasdair and Oliver, comparing how they were before Oliver’s death and now that he had been brought back. There was so much anger, resentment, guilt, and fear but under it all was also the love that was so present in the flashbacks. There was the interesting relationship between Alasdair and Geisler, who was Oliver’s mentor and now offering to be one to Alasdair. He seemed to be keeping secrets and I never trusted him but I was hoping he was good for Alasdair’s sake. Another favourite was the developing friendship and maybe more between Alasdair and Geisler’s assistant Clemence.
The writing and setting were both dark, as was expected from reading the synopsis. It fit the overall story very well and the world that was created was interesting and a little scary. I really liked how Lee showed the different ways other cities outside Geneva reacted to the Clockwork Men and Shadow Boys, not everyone looked at them with disgust and fear, and how easily a small group full of fear and hate can latch onto something, in this case Frankenstein, for a reason why their views were right the whole time, and infect so many more people.
The action wasn’t fast-paced through the whole book but that didn’t make it slow or boring. There was the mystery of who had written Frankenstein, what was Geisler hiding, what was Alasdair hiding, what would Alasdair do with Oliver. So many questions that had to be answered along with the action scenes. It made for a fast and very enjoyable read.