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#BrunchBC Review: The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd


madmans daughterIn the darkest places, even love is deadly.

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.

The Island of Dr. Moreau is probably one of my first truly scary classic reads. While I’d read Poe and Shelley and Stoker, H.G. Wells tapped into something in my psyche that truly terrified me – the realm of possibility. Keep in mind dear readers, that I’m a little more mature than your target audience for YA novels. When I was in high school, cloning was still a long way away (Hello, Dolly the Sheep in 1996!), and we routinely dissected animals (albeit dead ones) in high school science classes. High-end CGI graphics hadn’t arrived yet, and the use of imagination created more terror in our minds than anything else.

When I first heard about Shepherd’s adaptation, I thought it sounded intriguing. I quickly realized that parts of the adaptation were very faithful to the original: Edward is still shipwrecked and a part of the story, Montgomery rescues Edward and allows him to come to the island, where Edward is housed outside of the compound, and Dr. Moreau himself is  still a scary sociopath.

There’s a lovely dark and gothic feel to the story, and I thought Shepherd did a great job setting up the story with her descriptions of the College, of the Island and the attacks. The descriptions of the island villagers and their “modifications” are unsettling in the right kind of ways – in fact, a little more info about them and the ‘blends’ would have added even more nuance to the tale. However, I wasn’t entirely persuaded that Juliet contributed to the overall gothic feel of the book.

I think my biggest problem was with Juliet’s InstaLove (™) attraction to the young men in the story. She was originally set up as a smart and capable young woman who had managed to find her way to survive in a society that had condemned her for her father’s sins. However, as soon as she met up with Montgomery, and met Edward, she lost all independence and sassiness, becoming less interesting in the process. The two men were a little too one-dimensional for my taste as there wasn’t enough back story to make me root for one or the other to any degree, and therefore I couldn’t conceive of why on earth Juliet would be mooning over them. I loved Juliet when she showed her true spirit, as when she ventured out to brave the beast, and when she made the decision to find her own way back after a night in the jungle.  I wanted her to stand up to her father, to reveal what his actions had done to her (although, knowing that he was a complete sociopath, it really wouldn’t have made any difference in hindsight). She seemed more concerned about her potential romances than she was about the poor creatures on the island or the beast hunting everyone. It was frustrating to see her so confident and brave, then to have her melt into a puddle just because one of the hot men on the island came close to her. This is the same woman who snapped off a claw of the beast! Stay strong, woman!

I would have liked a little more back story about Moreau and his family, especially since this is the first of a trilogy.  Setting him up as Mr. Crazypants right off the bat was okay, but seeing how he descended into madness would have heightened the tension even more. I found that the ending was a little abrupt, and I suspect (keeping it carefully neutral here) that we have not seen the last of certain characters. Having said all this, I do think that I want to read the sequel, if only to see how well Juliet will adapt to her new situation and if she will miraculously recover her intelligence once she is away from the island. My ideal sequel? She will be one of the first female doctors and will champion the rights of women and animals, based on her experiences on the island.

The Madman’s Daughter is published by Balzar & Bray, and distributed by HarperCollins Canada. ISBN: 9780062128027, 432 pages. Did you read our December #BrunchBookClub pick this month? Be sure to link up your review over at Michele’s blog, Just a Lil’ Lost, and add your thoughts about the book in the comments below!

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Categorised in: Brunch Book Club, Reviews

2 Responses »

  1. I’m reading this right now – for your book club 😉 – and so far I 100% agree with all your comments. Shepherd writes beautifully but the insta-love makes me roll my eyes. We’ll see how the second half of the book fares for me…


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