Monday, February 9, 2015

Book Review: The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Title: The Madman's Daughter
Author: Megan Shepherd
Publication Date: January 29, 2013
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 420
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Reviews for books 2 & 3

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. 

The Madman's Daughter sat on my TBR shelf for over a year, waiting to get a second glance. I had read the blurb before I put it there, of course, but I apparently didn't read it close enough. Recently, while looking for something new to read, I came across this book again and gave the description another read. And I saw the last paragraph. I was totally sold! The Island of Dr. Moreau was one of the books I was forced to read in high school (we watched the 1977 movie too!) and was totally enamored with. The idea of a mad scientist making these creatures on a secluded island just really caught my interest for some reason. So when I realized this book was based on that story, I absolutely had to read it as soon as possible!

This is a book that is definitely leaning towards gothic. There is nothing heartwarming here, so if you're looking for that special feeling and a happy ending, look elsewhere. I would have expected nothing less from a book based on Dr. Moreau. The story begins with Juliet working in a university hospital as a maid, fallen from her on-high status as a result of the scandal surrounding her mad scientist father who promptly abandoned his family when the warrant went out for his arrest. Assumed dead, he was never sought out by his daughter. But when she gets a hint that he might still be alive and then has a run in with her long-lost childhood friend, she sets off to find him again. What she finds is not what she had in mind, however.

The characters in this story, particularly Juliet, Montgomery, and Edward, were all very well portrayed. Juliet was not the kind of helpless heroine who gets on my nerves and Montgomery and Edward were mysterious enough in the beginning that it allowed for a great deal of revelation and growth throughout the book. I was able to identify with Juliet as she attempted to reconcile the conflicted feelings she had for Montgomery and Edward - the boy she'd idolized as a child and the mysterious castaway. Both had their redeeming qualities and I'm definitely interested to see where this particular love triangle goes in the rest of the series. Juliet's father was just what a mad scientist should be - totally mad. My heart broke for Juliet as she realized just how deep that madness went. The secondary characters in The Madman's Daughter - Alice, Balthazar, and Jaguar - were all very well developed as well.

The plot itself, while significantly different from The Island of Dr. Moreau, was intriguing. I loved finding things out along with Juliet as the story progressed. There were also several twists that I never saw coming! The search for the monster on the island was particularly good. Without giving too much away, there were some intense, unexpected facts that came to the surface near the end that were just awesome! The way Megan Shepherd built up the worlds of both London and the Island was also really well done. The gloom and hopelessness of London was tangible, as was the uncertainty and danger of the island.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Though I went back and forth on the rating (probably because I had to take some time to come to terms with the ending), I settled on four stars. I didn't realize until after I finished that each book in the series is based on a different classic - The Island of Dr. Moreau, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Frankenstein. I'm very excited to see where this goes in the next book once Juliet is back in London!