Title: The Madman’s Daughter (The Madman’s Daughter #1)
Author: Megan Shepard
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: January 29, 2013
Summary: 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.
With Halloween creeping close, I’ve been in the mood for some spooky reads and this one really piqued my interest. I watched The Island of Dr. Moreau years ago, and it scared me so bad, I wouldn’t even look at the movie case. So the combination of spooky potential and the great time period should basically guarantee a great book… right?
Well, mostly. This book was definitely spooky, and I was really happy to get that. I loved that the author didn’t tone down the creepiness or gore, it was very successful in that way. I actually had to put this book down at some point and go turn the lights on because I was starting to nervous sweat every time I looked at the dark corners of my bedroom. The one thing, and honestly this was like the only think I really disliked about this book, was the absurd amount of romance. It really took so much away from this story for me, and toned down lots of intense, scary building up that I think the author could have been building throughout the book.
Juliet, while obviously having a problem controlling her lusty feelings, was actually a very interesting character to me. She was a survivor, a fighter. It was nice to see a proactive, headstrong woman set in this time period, even if her reputation was technically already ruined. But this thing I liked most about her was the way that she was so clear and honest about everything. When she first goes to the island and meets her father, she is intentionally ignoring the sighs that something is wrong because she wants him to be different. But once stuff starts going bad, she doesn’t go into denial. She gets mad and tries to find solutions. And even the things that frighten her, such as her own darkness, she faces it head on and knows it’s there and never tries to hide or deny it.
There were two love interests in this book, Montgomery and Edward, both or who were kind of eh. Montgomery is the childhood sweetheart, the slow burn through the book. Edward is the handsome survivor, the flashes of lust. I honestly liked Edward more, just because when we start to find out his story, it’s shocking and exciting. The problem was, both of these boys hate each other because they are both madly in love with Juliet, and they are constantly having this weird rivalry going on. It was annoying and frustrating that when scary, messed up things are happening on this island, the guys are trying to compromise her virtue. I totally get that in this time where it’s inappropriate to even flash some ankle, you’re going to be dealing with lots of sexual frustration. But Juliet spent a ridiculous amount of time daydreaming about or actually kissing these guys, and it made me grumpy. Here I am, trying to get into the chilling atmosphere and suddenly Juliet’s having an erotic dream about one of the two hunky hunks. It kept throwing me off.
However, this book was well written enough that I was still thoroughly engaged with the story line. The setting was scary, her father was scary, the inhabitants of the island was scary, everything was scary. There is this one part where a monster is trying to get into Juliet’s room through the window, and just the mental image the author conjures up, with the dark room, the stormy night, and the clawed hand wrapping around the bars… Yikes, I’m getting shivers just thinking about it. The atmosphere through the whole book was so tense, and some parts of the book were almost too disturbing. But in such a good way, there was this eerie village for the inhabitants that just made my stomach twist and the experiments that her father does are so evil.
If you read this book, you have to kind of shove logic off to the side. Doing that while reading a paranormal book is easy because what do we actually know about demons and ghosts and things? But this book is about science, and in that, it’s hard to not question or feel disbelief. Her father is making human/animal hybrid people and giving them emotions and the power of speech and things. If her were using magic, that would be easy to accept. But he is just doing it with his own medical skill, which is hard to believe. We never get many details on how this is done, except that he doesn’t seem to have any fancy machinery, and wondering about how the author expected us to take that without questioning bothered me. You do accept it while reading because you’re engrossed in the story, but afterwords, it starts to fall apart a little. Which is understandable, how is the author going to explain it to us when it can’t actually be done?
The other thing I liked about this book was that it explored some deep questions. It delved into what exactly makes us human, how we define that and separate ourselves from animals. It explored some psychological stuff, with Juliet exploring her own darkness, and witnessing her father’s madness. I really like when those big questions, the “what defines us” sort of questions, I like when they are smoothly integrated into a story and it makes you think.
This book really did satisfy my need for a spooky book, and I loved the author’s writing and tense build up, even if I despised the amount of romance. But the unpredictable plot twists and a number of gut twisting, horrifying scenes overrode my dislike, and I couldn’t put this book down, no matter how many goosebumps it gave me.