Title: The Madman’s Daughter #1
Author: Megan Shepherd
Publication date: 2013
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Number of pages: 420
Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built her 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 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. (I cut the rest of the blurb because it sounds too spoilery to me, especially for those who don’t know the original story of The Island of Doctor Moreau)
Finally a book that lived up to my expectations! It had been a while! Well, this book didn’t put me head over heels because there were a few things (one in particular) that bothered me, but still it was a great read and it didn’t disappoint at all.
The Madman’s Daughter is the story of Juliet Moreau, a young girl born a noble in Victorian London but lost everything when her father had to face terrible accusations because of his scientific experiments and disappeared. Now, at only sixteen, Juliet has been on her own since her mother’s death, trying to survive day after day by working as a maid. But when she suddenly ran into Montgomery, her father’s former assistant, and find out that he still is his assistant, Juliet doesn’t hesitate before following him to the island where her father has retired to pursue his work after the scandal. There, she will discover what his father’s science really is about, and what she’ll find might change her forever.
This story is a retelling of The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells. I haven’t read it (yet) so I can’t say if it has a lot in common with the original story or not (it seems so, from what I know about H.G. Wells’ work, but I might be wrong). But in any case, that was a very original story for a YA book. Well, there were a few classic things like the romance, the young girl who has to stand for herself... but in the subject tackled and the general atmosphere this book was one of a kind.
Juliet was a very interesting main character. Feminist at a time when women had no rights, she isn’t interested in finding a husband but rather in medicine and science, like her father. All throughout the book you can feel this fascination Juliet has for her father: she admires him, but at the same time she fears him. And this feeling only became more marked when unravels the mystery of his experiments. Since I knew what Doctor Moreau’s experiments in the original story were, the revelation wasn’t really one for me but I still found it very interesting to see how Juliet reacted to this, how torn she was. Because she couldn’t help being horrified and angry, but at the same time she couldn’t deny her admiration and love for her father all of a sudden. Personally, I didn’t like the father from the moment I ‘met’ him, but that’s also because I knew that he was a madman, knowing the original story.
I chose to read this book around Halloween time because I thought it’d be scary. In fact it wasn’t really, but it still was a good Halloween read because the atmosphere is quite dark and somewhat gothic, and there are a few gruesome scenes, with lots of blood, which will make you cringe if you’re an active militant for animals’ rights. And even if you’re not a militant but just like animals.
Only one little thing bothered me in this book: the love triangle. Seriously, it wasn’t necessary at all. Well, it was a minor part of the story so it was okay, I could easily go over it. I’ve read much worse love triangles. But the fact is that I would have loved the book if Juliet wasn’t swooning alternatively over Montgomery and Edward all the time. Actually, it would have done very well without romance at all, period. Especially that I wasn’t a fan of either men: Edward was interesting as a character, because of the mysteries in his past, but I didn’t like him that much, and Montgomery lacked personality.
All in all, it was a really great book. I totally enjoyed the story and I liked that it was a retelling of an unusual story (I do love fairytales retelling, but these are very classic retellings). The ending was really surprising and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel. I think I will also read the original story by H.G. Wells because I got very curious about it.
I recommend this book to you if: you like books with kind of dark atmosphere, and you don’t mind a few bloody scenes.