Title: THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER
Author: Megan Shepherd
Series: The Madman’s Daughter, #1
Publication Information: Balzer + Bray, 2013
Genre: Young Adult – Historical Fiction, Gothic, Retelling
Rating: 4 Stars
Recommended For: People who don’t mind feeling uncomfortable the entire time they’re reading.
Warnings: Animal Cruelty, Violence
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.
(Summary from Goodreads)
THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER was simultaneously a quick read and a dense read. It was a relatively fast-paced mystery, but it also dealt with a lot of questions of morality in science. It made for an interesting dynamic.
I love how complex Juliet is – she’s intelligent and longs to escape the shadow of her father’s scandal, and yet she also longs for his approval. And then there’s also the war in her heart between Montgomery and Edward, with each boy representing a different side of her – Montgomery the innocence of her youth, and Edward the darker side of her she’s not sure she wants to give into.
While I think the love triangle was well done – both boys were compelling for different reasons – I wish it had taken more of a backseat since it felt like there were times it dominated the story. There were a few times I wanted to slap Juliet, because GIRL. THERE ARE FEROCIOUS JUNGLE MONSTERS TRYING TO KILL YOU. SERIOUSLY.
Speaking of jungle monsters, the setting is fantastic, from our brief glimpse of Victorian London at the beginning to the ocean and eventually the jungle. It was very atmospheric and, in the case of the jungle in particular, helped to add to the suspense of the story.
The only thing I would caution is there is a bit of animal cruelty in the book, and it’s described in some detail. It’s in a scientific context, but still. I had a hard time with it, and I’m not particularly sensitive to it, so.
TL;DR: An atmospheric gothic mystery with a compelling leading lady; an atmospheric setting; and a love triangle that occasionally detracted from the story, but was generally well done.