Published: January 2013
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: young adult, gothic, adventure, sci-fi
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.
Juliet Moreau is a cleaning maid in King’s College, London, brought down from her place in aristocracy when her father performed illegal surgeries and disappeared. When she receives news of a possibility of his return, she seeks him out only to find her old servant Montgomery. After begging him to take her to her father, Montgomery and Juliet sail to the South Pacific and land on a remote island, filled with disfigured natives and an eerie sense that her father is hiding behind a monstrosity larger than she could ever dream of.
Shepherd does an excellent job of maintaining interest as the book progresses. Each chapter is full of action, horror, and scientific curiosity. Each character, from Juliet to Montgomery, to Dr Moreau and the marooned Edward, from Balthazar to Alice, has something to hide. The suspense of their personal secrets, mixed with the dangers of the humid and wild jungle, make for a fantastic gothic read. It’s inspired me to read Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, which normally I wouldn’t have read!
However, what prevented me from giving the book four or five stars is the forced love triangle. Juliet is torn between Montgomery and Edward, and even in the most terrifying situations she mulls over her emotions. At the end of the book, after all twists and turns are revealed, this conflict is somewhat justified — to give in to animal instinct or to give in to human emotion? The story could have been much better if the triangle weren’t so emphasized or pronounced. The secrets and science and eerie quality of the island could have become more of a character itself — and it had plenty of opportunity to be a character — rather than a backdrop.
According to Goodreads, this may be the first of a trilogy. I like the way it ended, and do not see a need for a second or third book, but it would be interesting to see what Shepherd has next.