Review: Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd

Her Dark Curiosity
Megan Shepherd

Balzer + Bray
I received an ARC from the publisher in return for an honest review.
Released on January 28, 2014
420 pages
YA / Classic Retellings / Scifi / Mad Scientists

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To defeat the darkness, she must first embrace it.

Months have passed since Juliet Moreau returned to civilization after escaping her father's island—and the secrets she left behind. Now, back in London once more, she is rebuilding the life she once knew and trying to forget Dr. Moreau’s horrific legacy—though someone, or something, hasn’t forgotten her.

As people close to Juliet fall victim one by one to a murderer who leaves a macabre calling card of three clawlike slashes, Juliet fears one of her father’s creations may have also escaped the island. She is determined to find the killer before Scotland Yard does, though it means awakening sides of herself she had thought long banished, and facing loves from her past she never expected to see again.

As Juliet strives to stop a killer while searching for a serum to cure her own worsening illness, she finds herself once more in the midst of a world of scandal and danger. Her heart torn in two, past bubbling to the surface, life threatened by an obsessive killer—Juliet will be lucky to escape alive.

With inspiration from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this is a tantalizing mystery about the hidden natures of those we love and how far we’ll go to save them from themselves.

I like when I get the chance to read a sequel back to back with the prior book because I go in remembering who all the people are and their relationships to each other. I don’t have to fumble around for a few chapters trying to piece together what has already happened and how it fits into a new story that may happen months or years later. I think having that knowledge still fresh in my mind helped me enjoy Her Dark Curiosity a little more than if I’d been left trying to remember pieces of the previous book from a reading months before.

SPOILERS FOR THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER AHEAD

Juliet is back in London after a trek home that left her ill and her immediate arrest for injuring a professor that had attempted to rape her in the first book. A new character – a former colleague of Juliet’s father and the man who originally reporter him to the police – vouches for her and takes her in as a ward. She is once again a member of society and a desired one at that as everyone wants to get in good with the professor who is now her guardian. Meanwhile Juliet is sneaking out at all hours of the night to an attic room in a sketchy part of town as she tries to discover a cure for her own illness stemming from the animal organs her body keeps trying to reject.

When people Juliet has had altercations with begin to show up murdered and mutilated, it sounds very much like the handiwork of the animal side of Edward. But she left him unconscious in a burning barn on the island, so how could he be the one behind the serial killings? It’s all mysterious and Jack the Ripper-esque in a gas lamp London where science can very easily become the enemy.

This second volume is a lot more atmospheric than the first as it takes pieces of Doctor Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (quite literally in some cases) to emphasize the darkness caused by Dr. Moreau’s experiments with humanizing animals. Juliet suffers attacks that have her bones moving against her will as though changing her shape into something not quite human. Meanwhile a shady group of powerful men are trying to learn the secrets of Moreau’s work in an attempt to recreate the results and make large profits from foreign governments. Juliet of course finds herself right in the middle of all the danger and chaos as everyone believes she’s the key to what they want.

Every now and again, Her Dark Curiosity felt a bit repetitive, mostly in Juliet’s own monologue about the impending darkness she feels is taking her over. Her fretting isn’t quite as fascinating as when the darkness starts showing through her actions as she takes steps that move her closer to becoming like her father, choosing science and her own goals despite any potential grim consequences to others.

Most everyone else is kind of window dressing to Juliet. She has all the cards in this one with her motivations and actions driving the entire story. Everyone else is just there to do as she commands, which is a little disappointing. Having Juliet as this dominant female character is great, but it would be nice to have seen her surrounded by characters just as alive as her. Instead it is her agency driving everyone and even the bad guys don’t seem that scary as she starts indulging her own darker urges.

Any issues I may have had with Her Dark Curiosity went flying out the window with the final chapters. The set up for the inevitable third book had me squealing with excitement. Luckily no one else was home or they might have thought me as mad as Juliet’s father. I had no idea where Shepherd would take Juliet and her friends considering the concept of basing the story on Dr. Moreau was used up in the first book. I liked that another sci-fi classic involving a mad scientist set up a basis for this second book and am even more excited by the prospect of the third. The author has a firm grasp on the gothic Victorian setting and Juliet continues to become more interesting the further she falls down her dark rabbit hole.

 

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.