This Monstrous Thing – Mackenzi Lee [Review]

This Monstrous Thing is a young adult novel, written by Mackenzi Lee. This novel was published on  September 22, by 2015. Is a retelling of Frankenstein. It’s hard to place it in just one or two genres. It has steampunk, action, history, a little horror, and some science fiction.

This Monstrous Thing cover

Blurb for


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 read This Monstrous Thing from the public library. I hadn’t heard of Mackenzi Lee before. My goal at the library was to pick a book I didn’t know anything about. So I grabbed this one off the new releases shelf and checked it out. I took a risk, especially considering it was stickered Young Adult by the library, but I’m glad I did.

Quick Review: Captivating characters, living in Geneva during the 1800s. Interesting twist on a classic tale!

The Story

Allisdair and Elliott are brothers who work with their parents to fix clockwork men. This is illegal, which makes them known as Shadow Boys. When Ally accidentally kills Elliott, he uses the journals of a scientist to bring Elliott back to life. This comes with many complications, including the publication of Frankenstein and a threat to Elliott’s safety.

I really enjoyed the mix of external and internal conflict. The author balanced the two well. I was never bored. The story moved along at a quick pace. Even when the focus was more on how Ally felt about what he had done to his brother, I didn’t feel like it slowed much, because it got right back into the action within a few paragraphs.

The Characters


Although I didn’t feel that he showed a lot of growth as a character, I did like Ally. I could understand his struggle with feeling responsible for his brother, yet wanting to live his own life. His guilt took a while to understand, though, because the author only gave us bits and pieces before showing us what really happened to Elliott.


Lee did a great job of showing how Elliott could see himself as a monster and not want to live that way. Elliott was a sympathetic character. He fought his nature. His temper, which existed before his reanimation, is amplified, but he doesn’t want to be that way.


This Mary is based on the Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein.

I think the author could have put more information in the story about Mary. Although she was not present during part of the story, I felt like I needed to know more about her. However, her purpose was served, and I’m not overly concerned about this issue.

The Writing

The writing was crisp and clean, without any errors or inconsistencies that I noticed. I really enjoyed Mackenzi Lee’s writing style. It was easy to visualize what was happening. There were plenty of details, but the author wasn’t overly descriptive or wordy.

The setting descriptions were vivid. Although it’s an alternate history with steampunk elements, I easily felt like I was in the right time period and place.

Normally I don’t like flashbacks, but the author kept them short and interesting. So, in This Monstrous Thing, I wasn’t bothered at all by trips into the past.

The Worldbuilding

Some of the world elements in the story felt underdeveloped. Although I understood about the clockwork men, but it took me a while to figure out what the Shadow Boys were. It’s possible I missed something at the beginning; I still think, though, that this aspect of the story could have been more developed.

Do  I Recommend?

I liked reading This Monstrous Thing a lot. It’s hard for me to put a finger on why I don’t want to give it the full five stars. I feel like something was missing, but I’m not sure exactly what. Perhaps it goes back to the worldbuilding. Unfortunately, it’s been almost six months since I read this book, and the details are now becoming a little fuzzy.

Anyway, I do recommend reading This Monstrous Thing. If you like stories about human nature, guilt, and brotherhood, this would be a good match for you. There’s not much horror; it’s more of a science fiction/steampunk story.

My Rating:  4 out of 5 stars (B)


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About Jen Schaper

In addition to being a book blogger, I am a mother of three children, a retail backroom coordinator, and a wannabe writer (when I make time to do it).
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