The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd
Series: The Madman’s Daughter #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on January 29 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery, Horror, Paranormal, Historical Fiction
Rating: 3/5 stars
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 really enjoyed the beginning of this book. It really hooked me in and I thought that the Juliet we meet in London was a fascinating character – she was smart and different and a little macabre, and I liked that. However, things took a turn for the worst when we were introduced to Love Interest #1, Montgomery. Suddenly a cruel scientist was trying to rape Juliet and she was cutting him with a cleaning tool and then off we go on a ship heading towards Australia. We meet Love Interest #2, Edward, on said ship and things just start to get simultaneously weird and boring, which is quite a feat in and of itself. This whole section of the book was just very rushed and disjointed.
By the time we hit the halfway point, I was thoroughly unimpressed by Juliet. I loved that she had a dark side, but she was very angst-y about it. She wanted to be absolutely nothing like her father, which for some reason meant that she couldn’t be interested in science. It didn’t really make sense to me, especially the explanation given towards the end of the book for her stranger inclinations. I like characters who embrace that darker edge to them. I also really wanted Juliet to make up her mind about where she stood regarding the ‘monsters’. Were they beasts or humans? Was killing them considered murder or not? How could she pick and choose which ones were more human than the others and apply her human morality only to those select few? I know I worded that very strangely, but I’m not sure how else to phrase it. Her attachment to Balthazar and the snakey guy pissed me off because the way I see it, if you accept one or two, you have to accept them all.
Juliet spent a vast amount of time worrying about which boy she most wanted to kiss, when she clearly had much bigger problems on her hands – namely the monster roaming the island killing people. No big deal though, right? My main problem was that the love interests were so freaking boring. I honestly didn’t find myself rooting for either of them, though I disliked Edward more than Montgomery. I suppose that makes me Team Montgomery? No thank you. Team Get-Juliet-The-Hell-Away-From-These-Psychos is more my speed. For the most part, the characters (with the exception of Dr. Moreau) are all very modern, with 21st century ideas and beliefs, which didn’t cohere well with the Victorian setting. I had some qualms with the chosen time period, as it didn’t seem to add much to the book. Due to the vast majority of the book taking place on a more or less deserted island, the Victorian element doesn’t really come into play much and it felt a bit wasted.
The only characters I actually liked were the maid and the experiment-man gone rogue. They were cool and interesting, though by the end of the book one of them was dead and the other couldn’t speak.
Having not read The Island of Doctor Moreau, upon which this book is based, I only vaguely knew what was going to happen (most of the time). I knew the general idea, but nothing beyond that. That said, there was at least one thing that really worked for me in The Madman’s Daughter, and that was the atmosphere. This book had some seriously creepy moments, and despite the major issues I had with it, I sped through it. I thought the writing was solid, and am interested to see what else Megan Shepherd can produce in the years to come. Though I saw the twists coming miles away (this from someone who doesn’t usually pick up on these things!), I think I’ll give Book Two a chance. We’ll see. Hopefully that one will be more gothic horror story and less YA love triangle.