Book Review: This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee

When Alasdair's older brother, Oliver, dies, he resurrects him, only to realize Oliver isn't quite the same person he was in his first life. For two years he keeps Oliver hidden away, riddled with grief and guilt, but when his family gets caught for being mechanics who illegally help people with mechanical parts and Alasdair gets offered refuge and everything he's always wanted from an old family friend, but he'll have to decide if the outcome is worth the cost.

Book Review: This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee | reading, books, reviews, science fiction, steampunk
Title: This Monstrous Thing
Pages: 389
My Rating: 4 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher


*I received a complimentary copy of this book. This has not influenced my review.*

I recently reread Frankenstein and, upon finishing, decided I wanted all the retellings. I started with this one, and I’m really glad I got the chance to read it because it was a beautiful, somewhat bittersweet story about brothers and grief and monsters and what it means to be human.

I will admit the pacing was slow and a bit uneven. Something happened near the beginning, then there was a span of the book where not much action happened and we only got to know Oliver (the main character’s resurrected brother) through memories, and then things picked up again for the last third of the book or so. However, the writing was lovely and atmospheric, so I enjoyed reading it and didn’t mind the slow pace.

The images of our vagabond youth—children of the Shadow Boys, back when we were knotted so tight together—had been washed away by my latest memories of him in Chateau de Sang, raging and snarling and tearing apart the furniture. The fight in him that I had once admired had been transformed from glowing and bright into something you could fall and cut yourself on.

As far as Frankenstein retellings go, this was a great one. It mirrored the original in some ways, but it was also its own unique story with a steampunk twist, and it touched upon issues such as humanity and prejudice. It even brought Mary Shelley herself into the story, which was interesting.

More than anything though, this was a story about brothers and the love between them. I would have enjoyed getting to see more of the relationship between them in the present, rather than mostly memories of the past, but regardless, Alasdair and Oliver’s relationship was complex and imperfect and all the more beautiful because of it.

So overall, although the pace was slow, the writing was lovely, the retelling aspect was interesting, the sibling relationship was touching, and I enjoyed reading this book!


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  1. Cait @ Paper Fury

    So I have this one and STILL haven’t read it yet so I’m a bit ashamed.?? I really want to though because The Gentleman’s Guide was absolutely one of my top favourite books of last year *flails* Pity about the slowness, but I am looking forward to a brother story!!

  2. Barb (boxermommyreads)

    I really liked this one when I read it but now that you mention it, the pacing was a tad off. It has been the only Frankenstein retelling I’ve read although I’ve got Pride and Prometheus out from the library. Have you checked out that one? Great review.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Oh, I had not heard of Pride and Prometheus, so I’m glad you mentioned it! Although I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice, and I usually like to read originals before retellings. Oh well, I will add that one to my tbr anyway!

  3. Tori @ InToriLex

    It’s great to here about a story focused on a brothers relationship and bond! Sibling relationships can be really complicated. This sounds like a great reimagining

  4. Suzanne @ The Bookish Libra

    I didn’t even realize MacKenzi Lee had done a Frankenstein retelling. I thought her Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was fantastic, and this book sounds pretty great too. I’m always a sucker for a story about sibling relationships anyway and I do enjoy a good retelling, so I’ll be adding this title to my TBR.

  5. Dina

    What did you think of Alasdair? Was he compelling as a lead character? I do love this author’s presence on the internet in general. She often mentions badass female figures in history and it always inspires me. I do think you may like her Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue novel because it has a sweet are-we-friends-or-are-we-lovers tension and she captures a character’s growing awareness of his privilege. I hope you check it out. It’s like…up there for me in terms of favorites. It does meander a little but the characters are so much fun that you may not even notice.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Alasdair was compelling for the grief and guilt he felt, but honestly I found Oliver and the brothers’ relationship more interesting. I’ve heard wonderful things about Gentleman’s Guide! I’m just not really interested in non-SFF books though :-/ I know it’s kind of ridiculous since some of books I read aren’t even that fantastical, but idk. It’s just my weird thing lol. But maybe one day my tastes will change and I’ll give it a read!

  6. Daniela Ark

    oh man now you are making me crave all the monsters stories too! 🙂 I love that cover! and the fact that it is a Frankenstein. And did you say Steampunk?? I’m set in reading a Steampunk book because I love everything Steampunk BUT I haven’t read any! [smh again]

    1. Kristen Burns

      Lol I think this might actually be the first steampunk book I really liked? It wasn’t SUPER steampunky though. Mostly just with the mechanical limbs and stuff.

  7. Danya @ Fine Print

    Eeee, I’m so happy that you liked this one, Kristen! I haven’t read it yet, but I am obsessed with Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (which you should absolutely read if you haven’t yet). Lee has a real knack for writing about sibling relationships apparently, since TGGtVaV also features a strong brother/sister dynamic.

  8. Lindsi

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a Frankenstein retelling! This one sounds interesting, and I love the sibling aspect. I really like reading books about twins (maybe because I have them myself), but their dynamics always fascinate me. The same can be said for any siblings, but twins are just different… Haha. I think that makes sense. 🙂

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?

  9. Lynn

    I’m glad you liked this retelling! I find retellings of classics can be tricky but this one does sound good! I’ll have to check it out! Have a wonderful week!

  10. Olivia Roach

    I love seeing the relationships between siblings in books! I am so glad you liked this one and it is interesting that you’re reading retellings after having reread the classic. I actually have this one so hopefully I can get to it sooner rather than later. I also really like the fact that this one is unique but similar at the same time. I’ll just have to be prepared for its uneven pacing!!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Same! And I always like to read the original before reading retellings, if possible. And Frankenstein is a story that’s so thought-provoking and rife with potential for retellings to explore, you know? I hope you end up liking this one!

  11. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    I’d heard of this book because it’s Mackenzi Lee but also I think I remember seeing you mention it as a Frankenstein retelling (or someone mentioned it any and put it back on my radar) and it does sound like an interesting book. Retellings aren’t always done well but this one sounds excellent, I like that the relationship between the two brothers is central. I definitely want to read this one sometime soon… I just need to get around to actually reading Frankenstein as well.