Sunday, January 12, 2014

Review: Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd

Review: Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd
Release date: January 28th, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (harperCollins)
Series: #2 in The Madman's Daughter trilog
Source: e-ARC
Rating: A nice beginning, an ENORMOUSLY frustrating middle, and a decent ending. But worst of all, a Love Triangle of DOOM.


 This review contains spoilers for book one, The Madman's Daughter. To read my review, go here.

 I wrote a post on Friday about one of the greatest bookish tragedies out there: Second Book Syndrome. Sadly, this is the book that inspired that post, as I thought it was an enormous letdown compared to its predecessor, which I actually thoroughly enjoyed. The plot was overshadowed by a hideous love triangle, the character's motivations became difficult to track, and... OH YEAH. THE LOVE TRIANGLE. Lots and lots of good in here that was totally negated by the Return of the Boyfriends.

Really, I'm not opposed to love triangles. I wrote a whole post about how they can be used for good. It's like that saying that guns don't kill people, people kill people. (A saying I don't like, but you know.) It's all about how the love triangle is wielded. Well, pack the car and run for the hills, this love triangle is coming for you and your home and your soul.


The Madman's Daughter ended with Juliet, daughter of the infamous Dr. Moreau, drifting alone into the sea, her father dead by her own hand, his island full of monsters burning. Now that was an ending, right? I seriously did NOT know where Shepherd was going to go with the sequel, and it excited me muchly to learn it would be based on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which gave me lots of ideas for what the plot could be, Juliet-wise.

I wish this book had focused on Juliet's dual nature. On the darkness inside her, on... oh, I don't know, Her Dark Curiosity, perhaps? But no, instead it was Her Romantic Curiosity. The book had the chance to really GO THERE with a certain twist. Make Juliet truly torn and tortured and grappling with her dark side, with her animal side, with her mad Moreau side. Instead it went elsewhere with the "big reveal". Instead, Juliet's dark curiosity amounted to her basically being interested in science. It amounted to her still having the hots for boys who should be dead why aren't they dead be dead.

Admittedly, Shepherd cleaved to the promise in the title by the end, when Juliet starts to get a little twisted, but by then she'd already lost me. The action and intensity at the end should have wowed me, but everything that had preceded it ruined it for me.

We find Juliet, at the beginning of Her Dark Curiosity, in London and living safely as the ward of an old family friend. Strange and brutal murders have been occurring all over London. A rare flower has been discovered on every body, and the police and papers are calling it the hallmark of the Wolf of Whitechapel, newest serial killer on the block. It's good stuff, right? Even though Juliet spends a good chunk of time moaning about if ooooonly Montgomery were heeeeere. Yes, that same Montgomery who tricked you into climbing aboard a raft and shoved you out to sea. IF ONLY HE WERE HERE.


I was so with the book at this point. The writing was excellent, the setting atmospheric, and the plot intriguing. And then the plot jumps the shark. It jumps freaking Jaws, is what it does. And this may be a SPOILER, but it happens so early on in the book that I feel comfortable discussing it (and really, you can see it coming). One of her boyfriends--the one that died on the island? The one that's a beast person who literally killed people on that island? Surprise! Not dead! Huzzah! Isn't that manifique?

No. It is not magnifique. The love triangle has resumed with a VENGEANCE. When characters die, they need to stay dead, okay? JUST BE DEAD.

 And then there's so much romantic angst. Like, no. Edward is a murderous beast who hulks out and kills people. I cannot even, Juliet. Everything you do in this entire book, Juliet, is just confusing to me. I should have written this review in the form of an intervention. Like, this one thing she does? I cannot EVEN. It's kind of a spoiler but it's also the biggest WTF moment I have ever experience, so I will white it out here. BUT I NEED TO RANT.

I don't know about you, but when a guy comes home all freshly bloody and covered in MURDER, I'm not going to jump his bones. I don't know. MAYBE THAT'S JUST ME. I MEAN, HE JUST MURDERED A PERSON. OH MY GOD JULIET. OH MY GOD. HE IS COVERED IN BLOOD AND NOW YOU ARE TOO AND HIS SHOES HAVE HOLES FOR HIS BEAST CLAWS AND GIRRRRRL LOOK AT YOUR LIFE LOOK AT YOUR CHOICES

This is basically the romantical plot:

Edward: Heal me, Juliet! The Beast isn't me!

Juliet: You're a monster! No wait, I will heal you after all, because I might love you, because apparently the first book never happened.

Edward: So you love me?!

Juliet: Shit, I forgot about Monty. Nope. I love him.

Edward: Forget about Monty. He has seeeeecrets.

Juliet: No! Not my Monty! TELL ME.

Edward: I cannot for REASONS.

Monty: Sup. Hi. Love me.

Juliet: NO I'M MAD I... You're still quite hot. Mmmmm.

Edward: My love! Please don't-- *hulks out*

Shoot him, Juliet. Just shoot him** and all of your problems will be solved.

**Shoot either one, really. I'm not terribly picky.

And then we get the friend, Lucy, who I should really like but... Is it the law that all YA best friends need to be prettier, more confident, and more fashionable than the shy and retiring MC? Honestly? Lucy is a bit of a non-entity, sadly. In fact, I was hoping for more personality from everybody.

The twists are predictable, the plot is boring, the love triangle makes you want to bang your head into the wall, and don't get me started on the love interests themselves. One of them is a personality-less abandoner, and the other is literally a murderer. Okay then. Juliet Moreau? More like... Juliet MORE BEAUS. Ba dum tshhh!

And then there are just the logic fails. How on earth did the police not figure out that the killer was getting a rare flower at the Royal Botanical Gardens? Isn't that the first place you'd think of and check? Juliet's plan at the end is just the WORST. It's horrible and brutal and really wonderfully written, but Christ on a breadstick, girl. And I can't track the changes in character motivation and personality.

The writing remains top-notch. As in, the actual construction of the prose. In that regard, Shepherd is enormously talented, and that will be enough to rescue this plot for a lot of people. But the wildly inconsistent and foolish characters killed any possibility of enjoyment for me. I could not get past the angst and the stupidity. Such a sad example of Second Book Syndrome.


  1. I read your review and nodded the entire time. YEP. I actually disliked this one so much that I ended up giving away my ARC of The Madman's Daughter. I know the trilogy might come back and surprise me in the third book(though I'm not hopeful with that WEIRD out-of-nowhere ending), but this one was just a struggle to get through that I think I have broken up with this series. I do think Megan Shepherd's prose is quite lovely and I'll read whatever she does after this trilogy but for now. . . NOPE.

    Love triangle of doom for SURE. Ugh. I can't even talk about it. *glares at book* I have no idea why that love triangle had to come back to that degree. It completely overshadowed everything, and then Juliet's character was just all over the place(and not just how it's suppose to be either--some things were such a departure from her previous characterization). Sigh.


    You wouldn't believe how long I seriously thought Juliet was going to turn out to be the murderous beast, bu noooooooooo, the book wouldn't dare go for a twist like that and REALLY make Juliet fight with her dark side and indulge in mad science in the name of a cure. Nope. The interesting moral exploration that makes up the base of Jekyll and Hyde had to go to the man and it had to be reduced to basically shit.

    (Seeing your review is making me feminism and I'd read Jekyll and Hyde just before reading Her Dark Curiosity, so yeah.)

    I ain't even gonna touch the third book unless it gives me the one thing I want: canon compliance. KILL THEM. KILL HYDE AND FRANKENSTEIN AND EVERYONE BECAUSE THEY ALL DIE IN THE END.

    Also, I forget whether or not you've seen Red Riding Hood and the post-murder sexytimes that I associate with this book because they do the same damn thing. If you haven't, watch it, possibly with Christina or other friends. Lots of snarky fun will be had. If you have, watch it again. More snark for all!

    In general, you nailed it. You nailed everything wrong with this book.

  3. So a lot of the problems you had with this book, I actually had with the first. I read your review to see if I needed to give the whole thing a second chance, because, like you said, Shepherd can write. I thought maybe she was going to go somewhere good with this. Maybe turn it all around. Shoot both the boys because they both deserve it. (I had a feeling monster-boy wasn't so dead.) But no. No second chances from me, particularly when it's messing with some of my favorite classics.

  4. You HAVE, HAVE, HAVE to write the intervention. PLEASE. That. Would. Be. The. Best. Post. Ever. Ok, now that that is out of the way...your review is 100% spot on. It is exactly how I felt. There were so many wtf moments and not in a good way. There really isn't much more to say beyond, yes--I felt the same way and please write that intervention. I think Juliet needs it (and I need to read it).

  5. Crap, the return of the love triangle... I might leave reading this one till I head how the third one goes next year. I just cannot... Love triangles are extremely irritating for me, and the hits of it in book one were the part of the book I really disliked, and now here they are again? Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!! =(

  6. I'm still in love with your review. <3 But my god. I need to stop thinking about this book because it's making me BEYOND DEPRESSED. It isn't fair that a book should be this bad :\ Seriously. And I haven't even read all of it yet. But I peeked a lot. And damn it. I agree with a lot of what you said. <3 So thank you for being honest about it :D Love triangles are the worst. And Edward is worse than worse.

  7. Damn! I had high hopes for this one, because the first book blew me away. I LOVE having an MC that's complex, complicated, dark, and gritty and believable and *not* ruled by romance. That's what I loved about Juliet in the first book- she could be swoony but she remained focused on the science, on the madness, on the nature of a soul and her dad and all the other 99% of life parts. I was hoping Book 2 would be all "how do I transition back into London society, how do I bury what I've experienced, how do I be normal, and happy, and maybe still do science???" without the romance. WHY must every YA have romance? No no no! *pout*
    Thanks for the honest review, and for saving me the personal disappointment of reading it myself.

  8. Yes to all of this! Horrible, horrible, horrible romance that bored the crap out of me. The flaw in the plot where the police couldn't figure it out.. Juliet as a whiny heroin. This could have been so much better.


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