The Madman’s Daughter is a retelling of The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. I’ve never read the original, but after finishing this story I might have to sometime. It’s being marketed as a Gothic thriller, but it could also be described as sci-fi, seeing as the story revolves around vivisection which is basically the dissection of living creatures. I know, SUPER CREEPY. One thing I have little tolerance for in books is disturbing violence against animals, but in this case Megan Shepherd didn’t go overboard with the gore, and it was there for a purpose. The author brings into question the morality of what Dr. Moreau does to animals in the name of scientific discovery. And while his experiments are the stuff of fantasy, the theme of ethics in science is something I’m very interested in, so this won me over.
One of this book’s strongest points is the character development. The characters are flawed enough to be believable, but not enough to make them unlikeable or irredeemable, a really important balance in my opinion. This excludes Juliet’s father, of course, seeing as he’s basically off his rocker and serves as the source for much of the conflict. The author creates secrets and suspicion surrounding all the characters—who they really are and what they’re capable of—even Juliet, as she must question her own morbid fascination with her father’s scientific experiments and the fact that her hunger for this sort of knowledge is something she inherited from a madman.
I enjoyed Juliet as a protagonist. She’s smart, capable, and isn’t intimidated by challenging circumstances. Her interest in science goes against the social norms for women of the Victorian Era, a trait that made her all the more interesting. I also enjoyed the contrast between Montgomery and Edward, the potential love interests in the story. While Juliet has a history with Montgomery and finds his familiarity comforting, the mystery surrounding Edward is also appealing. I found myself invested in both of these relationships.
Because much of the book takes place on a tropical island, there’s that feeling of having nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Everything happens in this microcosm that’s largely of Dr. Moreau’s making and to a degree, under his control. Scary, when you’re talking about a madman. I enjoyed the part of the story that took place in London as well, especially the Gothic feel of the medical school where Juliet worked.
In terms of plot, there were some crazy twists in this book, one of which I should have seen coming. In that case, I knew something was up but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. If there’s mystery in a book, I try my best to put the clues together, so I love it when an author blindsides me. When I started reading The Madman’s Daughter, I didn’t realize it was the first in a trilogy, so when I got to the end I was left totally gobsmacked and freaking out. This was in the middle of the night (because I couldn’t put the darn book down) and I was trying not to wake my family up by shrieking my head off. I’m almost wishing I hadn’t read it so soon after it was released, because now I have a whole year to wait for the sequel. I’m sure the wait will be worth it though!