Review: The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

The Madman’s Daughter
Megan Shepard

Balzer + Bray
Released January 29, 2013
420 pages
YA / Science Fiction / Classic Retelling

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In the darkest places, even love is deadly.

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father's gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father's handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father's madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island's inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father's dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it's too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father's genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells's classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman's Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we'll do anything to know and the truths we'll go to any lengths to protect.

I am a bad sci-fi fan. As much as I love science fiction, I’ve never gone back and read all the classics that have inspired most of the genre fiction out there. While I have The Time Machine and War of the Worlds under my belt, The Island of Dr. Moreau is one Wells classic I just haven’t read yet. I’ve had it on my list for a long time and I know the general plot of it, but I went in to The Madman’s Daughter without having any preconceived ideas of what the plot should consist of, which was good, I guess.

Juliet has fallen from her high life of being the daughter of one of London’s most prestigious citizens to becoming a maid in the university where her father once taught. She’s an orphan doing the best to provide for herself after her father was banished from London for doing experimenting with unnatural science and her mother died from an illness. When she comes across her father’s former assistant, she learns he is still alive and insists on going with him back to the mysterious island where her father has set up his new scientific research compound.

For some reason I didn’t fall in love with The Madman’s Daughter like I expected. Juliet is a great character with hidden depths and shades of grey in her personality. She has hidden secrets that even she doesn’t quite know yet and she’s ridiculously smart for a girl of her time. Her knowledge of science and medicine that she picked up covertly from her father far outweighs the knowledge of the boys she comes across at the university where she works. She’s intelligent and strong-willed, but perhaps it was her lingering naiveté that put me off. For a girl to go through what Juliet has and to know what she knows about her father, and still believe that everything is a-okay bothered me. For being such an analytical mind, she pushed aside the facts staring her in the face.

Overall, The Madman’s Daughter is a long ship ride followed by a romp through jungle territory. There is a love triangle between Juliet, Montgomery, and the strange castaway that they picked up on their way to her father’s island. Someone is brutally murdering creatures on the island and Juliet’s father is indeed mad. There are moments of suspense, but not the heart-pounding adventure I wanted. Juliet’s inner monologue hints at her own impending madness as she fights following the path of her father for the sake of scientific interest. It’s more psycho-drama than adventure story.

It ends at what could have been the finale of a standalone, although bittersweet. At the time I read it, I had no idea how a sequel would fit into anything as the plot of Doctor Moreau was pretty well covered. Nothing and no one is quite who they seem in this monster tale, which creates some suspense, but mostly it was a little predictable and not something that I can get too terribly excited over.

 

I got a copy of this book from the library and long since returned in. Opinions are my own.