Written by: Megan Shepherd
Published by: Balzer + Bray
Release date: January 29th 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Gothic, Horror, Romance, Young Adult
Buy: B&N, Amazon
Add on: Goodreads
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’m really being drawn to retellings lately – I’ve got tons on my TBR list, recently read/reviewed A.G. Howard’s Splintered (a darker take on Alice in Wonderland) and Alex London’s Proxy (a dystopian retelling of The Whipping Boy), and now I’ve also fallen for The Madman’s Daughter. I think I’m starting to see a pattern – and it’s one that I really, really like.
Unlike Proxy and Splintered, though, The Madman’s Daughter is a retelling of a classic I wasn’t familiar with at all – H. G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau. I didn’t do any research on the original before I picked up Shepherd’s book. But I think even if I had, this retelling would’ve done a great job to surprise me and still pack a punch. Shepherd definitely follows the general storyline, but key elements are changed that will make it surprising and suspenseful to readers with or without a knowledge of the original.
The Madman’s Daughter tells the story of Juliet Moreau, whose father (a doctor) was disgraced and presumed dead some time ago, and whose mother died shortly thereafter, leaving Juliet without anyone to rely on. As such, Juliet has been barely scraping by, working as a maid and just earning enough to keep herself off the streets – until one day she finds something that makes her think her father may not be dead after all. Juliet follows her instincts and ends up reuniting with a childhood friend, Montgomery, who tells her that her father isn’t actually dead, but living on a remote island. Juliet travels with Montgomery to the island, hoping the rumors about her father weren’t true – but in fact, she realizes things are worse than she ever imagined.
If I’d read the original, I think I would’ve had a better grasp on how dark and oftentimes disturbing this book was going to be. It basically opens with the dissection of a rabbit (actually it’s worse than that, but I won’t go into it here), and subsequent scenes are pretty, um, vividly described. So if you have a problem with that kind of thing, this might not be the book for you. However, that sort of thing doesn’t bother me that much in books (movies are another story). I think it lent the story an authenticity – it felt like, without those scenes, the book wouldn’t have been as impactful. The story is supposed to be disturbing, and those scenes definitely made it so.
That disclaimer aside, the atmosphere of this book is probably why I rated it 4.5 stars. I absolutely loved the haunting, dark feel that permeates the story. The writing perfectly reflected this, and I was pulled through the book by what felt like suspense – it’s not breakneck-paced by any means, but the darkness and the constant hints at what’s going to happen in the end drew me right in, and I couldn’t put the book down. Even thinking back on it as I write this review, I can’t get over the feeling of the book. I was in the mood for something exactly like this, and it was really good.
The characters were really great, too. Juliet was a new addition to the original tale, and she’s the one who narrates the story. Her voice was incredibly unique – she’s from Victorian London, so of course she’s not going to be the “normal 16-year-old-girl” that’s so popular in YA. But more than that, she’s got this totally different way of viewing the world – it’s bleak and rather melancholy – but it fit the feel of the story perfectly.
I liked Montgomery as well – he had been working on the island as Dr. Moreau’s assistant since the night of his (I guess their) disappearance years ago. But he’s conflicted. He knows that the experiments Moreau is doing are wrong, yet helping Moreau is the only life he’s ever known. Montgomery and Juliet are also great together. The had the childhood-friends thing going for them, though, and I like it when that comes into play.
The one issue I had with this book was Edward. Edward Prince is a castaway who Montgomery and Juliet pick up on their way to the island. Literally the moment Edward wakes up after being rescued, and sets eyes on Juliet, he’s head of heels for her. This was a case of insta-love in the insta-ish sense ever, and I’m not a fan in this case. The two of them have no history whatsoever, and I think in the face of Montgomery and Juliet, Edward should never have been an option. But whatever. He played his (incredibly twist-filled) part in the plot, and I ended up liking his character by the end. I just didn’t like the part he played in the love-triangle. :P
The Madman’s Daughter is an incredibly atmospheric, dark, and often disturbing book that captured my attention from the very beginning. That bleak atmosphere was my favorite thing, but Juliet and Montgomery also played their part in making this book totally engrossing. The final chapters also had me on the edge of my seat, leading up to an ending that I would never in a million years have predicted – despite the copious clues left earlier. The very last page ends with a huge twist, and very abruptly… which I’m a little annoyed by, to be honest – but only because I want to know what happens next so badly. Bring on Her Dark Curiosity!!