Review: The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd
Rating: A twisty, creepy, Gothic horror story with adventure, intrigue, and romance. Tight pacing, one or two tiny flaws. But HOLY GOD THAT ENDING.
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.
The Cover: Mysterrrrrious. Slightly haunting. It hardly implies the tropical-ish jungle setting of the actual island, but it does convey the Victorian Gothic feel of the story.
The Story: I've read the H.G. Wells book this story is based on-- The Island of Dr. Moreau-- but it was a long time ago. I'm not sure whether or not this influenced my enjoyment/understanding of the plot, but either way, I loved this book. Straight up, unapologetic love. The writing is magnificent and the plot is tight and swift. Creepy goings-on abound, which is awesome because I love creepy goings-on. I had one or two minor issues with it, which I'll get to later, but overall I'm just mad about The Madman's Daughter! And now you should be mad I actually thought I should make that joke.
I must admit, the London portion of the plot wasn't quite doing it for me, but thankfully we get out of there pretty fast. I quickly came to love Juliet. She's intelligent, resilient, and pretty take-charge, despite the fact that her situation totally sucks. See, her dad, the formerly prosperous Dr. Moreau, created a big old scandal when Juliet was ten years old. He's gone, she's all alone, and she's still suffering the consequences of his transgressions. Now, just by reading the synopsis, you'll know I'm not spoiling anything by saying Juliet finds out not-so-dear old Dad is still alive and kicking, but I didn't really like the way she found out that he was. As in, the clue that tipped her off was kind of... convenient? I'm not sure. It didn't quite work for me. But I bought everything that followed it no problem.
Juliet sets off to find her dad and demand some answers. She crosses paths with her childhood friend Montgomery, who used to be a servant for her family and is now her father's assistant on the island. He is also, wonderfully, a great big hunk of sexy. I give Montgomery two thumbs up for being a stalwart dude with some serious emotional conflictions and disheveled handsomeness. He has darker elements to him that I found fascinating. Dr. Moreau, of course, is off his rocker. Or maybe he's not. Or maybe he is. WHO KNOWS, it's a mystery and you must read to find out! I mean he's kind of by definition of the title a mad scientist, but how mad is mad?
Montgomery isn't the only hot dude Juliet encounters on her journey back to her father. She also meets handsome and mysterious castaway Edward, who I've got to say is my favorite part of this whole damn book. He's complex. He's ten different people. He's just himself. He's passionate and smoldery and conflicted and holy crap, Edward, you hot sexy thing you. I found him so absorbing. I was completely fascinated by him every second he was on the page. I wanted to get inside him and learn all his secrets.
Juliet feels a strong pull towards both of these guys, and I'll admit I did too. Yes, you could argue this is a typical YA love triangle, and in some ways you'd be right; I actually wish the romance had taken more of a backseat in this book, which is something I never wish, because I wanted to focus on more of the island intrigue/science-y stuff. But the unique setting and situation elevate what could be a generic love story. And BELIEVE ME when I say that the resolution of this triangle is anything but typical. Serious, serious shock moments await you in this book. Like, I kind of had a heart attack maybe.
Also, knowing the plot of The Island of Dr. Moreau in no way ruins this book for you. They AREN'T the same. Shepherd made some truly amazing changes to the original tale. Yeah, some major surprises might be ruined for you, and several of the plot twists are almost ridiculously obvious, but not the most major one of all. Oh no. There is a twist so big, so crazy, so completely MIND ALTERING that I actually closed the book, stared at the wall for a minute, and then shrieked "WHAAAAAT?"
That ending. That. Ending. The final revelation, the denoument, and then the FINAL FINAL DEVASTATING BLOW and I was literally just like "Why why why" but also I just needed the next book in my hands immediately. Because I have actually no clue what is going to happen next. To say things are up in the air in an UNDERSTATEMENT. This book is heartbreaking and beautiful and so disturbing. So completely disturbing.
I loved spending time on this twisted little island. It was creepy and terrifying and the mystery really did confuse me in exactly the way it meant to. There's this truly disturbing undercurrent of primal instincts versus human reason, or order against chaos, civilization on top of wildness. It was like there was deep danger pulsing underneath every moment of the story, waiting to explode. And then it EXPLODED and it was awful/awesome. Animal lovers beware, though: some scenes depicted in this book are horrifying. I was actually nauseated through some of them. And I'm such a big marshmallow that I had NIGHTMARES.
So basically, YOU WANT TO READ THIS BOOK. It is so good. And because I love you so much and want what's best for you reading-wise and everything-wise, I'm giving away a SIGNED ARC of The Madman's Daughter! Giveaway is US/CA ONLY, unfortunately. I just spent a FORTUNE on my last couple of international giveaways, but I promise I'll do another one soon.
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