This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee
Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: September 22nd 2015
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…
It's a mashing of various ideas into what led to a surprisingly great book. I've read several steampunk books in the past and despite how cool I find steampunk aesthetically, I find it hard to immerse myself in the lore. There's so many technicalities and so much worldbuilding, that it ends up confusing me. But in This Monstrous Thing, the concept of Shadow Boys and mechanical ligaments serving as aids for those who need - that's akin to modern technology, is it not? Adding in Mary Shelley and retelling Frankenstein in the sense that this was her inspiration makes that all the more interesting.
We have Alasdair Finch, Shadow Boy and Mary Shelley's likeness to Victor Frankenstein. After a tragic accident that killed his brother, Oliver, he sought to bring him back to life. However, that comes with a price, as Oliver remembers little to nothing about his past. Anything involving cogworks or machinery or mechanical ligaments... those people are discriminated against, called an act against God. Given the time period, anything remotely technological is an act against God.
In this book, Mary Shelley actually makes an appearance, as a friend to Alasdair and Oliver. Their plight served as an inspiration to her book, Frankenstein, which now those with mechanical parts are using as a prophetical book, as their savior will come and seek revenge on those who brought them misery. They think their savior is Oliver. Therein lies the problem.
The book was admittedly slower in the first half, but picked up on the excitement factor in the latter, particularly when Oliver tries to find his differences from Frankenstein's monster. There's a duality of nature here, and this quote struck me as being the central theme of the novel -
"We're all monsters, I said . "We're all careless and cruel in the end."
More so than that, Alasdair's relationship with his brother Oliver was something very strong and poignant. Time and time again, I was expecting that Oliver would betray his brother, but their love for each other won out. Familial relationships like that are beautiful things.
"I think I deserved it."
"You didn't," he said. "You don't. No one deserves anything I've set on them." He closed his eyes, his jaw tightening like a fist. "You should have told me how I died."
"I know," I said. "But I thought you already hated me for bringing you back and keeping you locked up. You'd have hated me more if you knew what I'd done."
"I don't hate you."
I held those words tight for a moment, pressed them deep and hard inside me until they left an imprint there, a brand to carry and run my fingers over when I didn't believe it.
This Monstrous Thing brought together many elements and intertwined them wonderfully! My favorite steampunk novel.