Opening with heavy foreshadowing and a mysterious book (“green and slim…the title printed in spindly gold leaf on the spine: Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus”), debut author Lee imagines a steampunk back story for the Shelley classic.
Set primarily in Geneva after the French Revolution, the book chronicles a world in which damaged humans repaired with gears and sporting clockwork hearts form a feared and despised underclass. Teenage Alasdair, perpetual disappointment to his father but a gifted mechanic, secretly repairs and maintains these clockwork humans. Then family tragedy strikes, and a guilt-ridden Alasdair turns to friend Mary for help in doing the unthinkable. Two years later the anonymously written Frankenstein creates a European stir, and Alasdair recognizes his own story in its troubling pages. With a deserted stone castle and a mad scientist, a distorted, dangerous brother brought back to life and steely automatons, 19th-century police chases and first kisses, the young genius has his hands full. His first-person account references Coleridge and Milton, making this more than just a Gothic romance novel; the settings give a nice international feel. The old and new (“God’s wounds”; “it was a shitty choice”) are woven together in language and theme creating a solid tale that explores what it means to be human.
Part homage to a sci-fi original, part re-imagining, plenty of teen torment and trouble—an absorbing read. (Steampunk. 12 & up)