Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Me on The Madman's Daughter

Title: The Madman's Daughter
Author: Megan Shepherd
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins imprint)

Juliet has built a life for herself in London: working as a maid, attending church, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one proved the rumours about her father's gruesome experiments, but when she learns he's still alive and continuing his work, she's determined to find out if the accusations are true. Accompanied by her father's assistant Montgomery and castaway Edward, both of whom Juliet is drawn to, she travels to the island only to discover the depths of her father's madness. His experiments live on, animals operated on until they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. What's worse is one of the creatures has gone wild, murdering the others. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father's experiments and escape her jungle prison before it's too late. Yet as the island descends into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father's genius, and madness, in her own blood.

The Madman's Daughter is a return to gothic horror with a twist on a piece of classic literature. This book is what one would expect, it's dark, dangerous, gruesome, and mysterious. On the island, Juliet is forced to confront with a number of terrifying things, such as her father's research and the fact it borders on insane and monstrous, the secrets surrounding the island and its inhabitants, and the truth that unknowingly lurks in her blood.

This book takes me back to proper gothic horror, horror in the vein of Dracula and Frankenstein. It is a new twist on The Island of Dr. Moreau, Wells' exploration of scientific ethics and gruesome experimentation, the struggle of one man to become God and have it all turn horrifically wrong. It's very faithful to the original, to the wild island setting, to the realization of danger and the wildness that lives in the hearts of those who walk not only on four legs but also on two. Wells is considered to be one of the co-founders of the science fiction genre. Here, Shepherd takes us back, back in time, back to the island, back to the howls and the screams that travel through the jungle's trees.

But retellings are complicated. A new story must be shaped from the existing, both must find a way to live together between the covers. Here, the original is everywhere, coating each and ever page, but so is the new. Juliet brings new life, new connections, and new complications that twist the story into something more. Juliet must be strong enough to stand on her own or else she runs the risk of being swallowed up, both by Wells and his creations and her own fear and dread.

I dreaded the love triangle between Juliet, Montgomery, and Edward, but Shepherd dealt with it well. She's drawn to both of them, yes, but it seems to be in different ways. Montgomery she knew before, Edward she just met. But she fears what might be inside her, in her blood, in the blood she got from her father, and so that complicated things. Until she learns the truth and must make a decision.

The idea that there will be two more books to follow, that this is a series, makes me both curious and intrigued. With this, Shepherd showed she could stay faithful to Wells' original, but the next two books will be a harder battle, I think. I'm sure more than one reader has wondered what would happen next after reading The Island of Dr. Moreau, and it's possible that with Juliet, we could see one interpretation of what could happen.

(I acquired an advance copy at ALA Midwinter.)


  1. Oh, awesome! I've heard such good things about this one but your review was written really well and gave me an idea of WHY it's so good. The gothic horror aspect is likely what draws me in the most, and I'm glad you pointed out that the love triangle doesn't kill the book (those evil little things can ruin so much).

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lindsay!

    Brenna from Esther's Ever After

  2. This one is coming up soon in my TBR pile and I am very excited for it. I love gothic stories. The love triangle makes me a little nervous but you say she handles it well so I will try to remain optimistic.