Saturday, 4 May 2013

Review: The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

The Madman's Daughter (The Madman's Daughter #1) by Megan Shepherd
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Released: April 11th 2013
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

London, 1894. Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself-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 rumours about her father′s gruesome experiments. But when she learns her father is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations were true.

Juliet is accompanied by the doctor′s handsome young assistant and an enigmatic castaway, who both attract Juliet for very different reasons. They travel to the island only to discover the depths of her father′s madness: he has created animals that have been vivisected to resemble, speak, and behave as humans. Worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island′s inhabitants. Juliet knows she must end her father′s dangerous experiments and escape the island, even though her horror is mixed with her own scientific curiosity. As the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father′s genius-and madness-in her own blood.
 (from Goodreads)

I wanted to read The Madman’s Daughter because it sounded like it would be a creepy and disturbing tale of the search for the truth about Juliet’s father’s terrible experiments and their consequences...and creepy it was. I have not read The Island of Dr Moreau, which the book is a retelling of, but I do know the basic plot, so I was really interested to read a new take on the story. I do think some things let the book down, but overall, it was an enjoyable read, and I’m invested enough to want to find out what happens next in book two.

The beginning drew me in because there was a very ominous and creepy atmosphere that set the tone for the rest of the book. Juliet was working as a maid in the medical labs of a university, and was often watched by Dr Hastings, who was quite frankly a disgusting excuse for a human being and I’m glad Juliet did what she did, even if it meant losing her job. Losing her job however did mean that Juliet had no money and nowhere to go. If she hadn’t found Montgomery, an old assistant of her father, out of chance earlier, she would have been forced to the streets. Finding Montgomery also meant finding out that her disgraced father was still alive. She was determined to go with Montgomery to her father’s island to find out whether the rumours about his horrific experiments were true – she didn’t want to believe they were and she needed to see for herself. This is something that struck me as odd about Juliet. She was clearly an intelligent girl. She knew the rumours were likely true about her father. Her memories of her father never showed him as an especially caring or loving man – he was always consumed by work, and then he later abandoned her and her mother. Yet despite all of this, despite warnings from Montgomery not to go to the island, Juliet wanted to go to anyway. I didn’t understand what she expected – some sort of happy reunion? Despite this not fitting with anything she had heard about her father? It was only later when Juliet discovered the truth about her father that I begun to understand that she may have had another motive too – she was terrified that she would inherit her father’s madness, that the times when she often felt strange and too curious about morbid things were due to her father’s insanity. She was scared she would end up like him.

Juliet was not the most likeable of characters, but I could understand her for the most part. I felt she was often judgmental and slightly hypocritical – but she was raised a lady and was then forced into poverty after her mother died and she was left all alone so her cold and harsh attitude wasn’t surprising. What did annoy me about her was the way she flitted back and forth between Montgomery and Edward, the love interests in yes, the love triangle. Fair enough that she was attracted to and desired both of them. It’s not like she made any promises to either of them. But she kept changing her mind and it was so ugh. She claimed that she loved Montgomery, yet she never really showed it and spent half her time fantasising about Edward who she barely knew. She didn’t treat either of the boys well (though they had secrets of their own which were bad enough) and I was just kind of confused why any of them liked each other, to be honest. But the romance scenes were good (though oddly morbid in some ways...guess that suits the tone of the book), so I’m not too bothered.

Montgomery was a character who was hard not to like, despite all the things he had been manipulated into doing by Juliet’s father. He felt guilty about the things he had done, and thought he didn’t deserve someone like Juliet. He looked after those who had been experimented on, and in a way they were the only family he had. He knew what Juliet’s father was doing was wrong and yet he stayed because he did want to leave them behind. And he had been on the island so long, he really didn’t know how else to live life. I don’t know that I would have forgiven him so easily though, for lying to Juliet so many times. His attempts to protect her by shielding her from the truth reeeally didn’t work out so well. I have no idea what he was thinking, agreeing to take Juliet to the island in the first place. It must have been his desire to be with her showing, because I have no clue why else he would think it would be a good idea.

Edward was...okay. He got attached to Juliet too quickly in my opinion and it made me suspicious of him. He has secrets of his own and while he didn’t seem like a terrible person, he wasn’t exactly guilt-free either.

Plot-wise, I found the experiments to be disturbing and I think Juliet’s father’s obsession was depicted well – he refused to give up, refused the evidence in front of him, all so he could bask in the glory of his creations and go on to experiment further to create even “greater” things. He was so detached from the world and anything that didn’t involve his work that he’d lost all sense of how to interact with people and just deluded himself. He was just so heartless and sinister, I don’t know why Juliet put up with him for so long. His experiments weren’t really explained – there was no reason behind how they worked or what he did exactly, but then again, I’m not sure I would want to know. Some things were a bit repetitive at times but it wasn’t too bad. The mystery aspects I found a bit obvious – I guessed most of it, but I am curious to see how it will all be explored in the next book. I also hope we get to see more of Lucy, Juliet’s friend, who we only saw right at the start of the book before Juliet left England.

Overall, while The Madman’s Daughter was not without its flaws, it was engaging and worth reading. Recommended for fans of books with a creepy atmosphere and people who like retellings.

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  1. I wasn't really too impressed with the romance either, though I don't think that was too much of a surprise given my history with love triangles. I gave this 4 stars at the time, but, looking back, 3 is probably more accurate. Despite the problems you had, I'm glad to hear you're invested enough to want to check out the sequel. I'm looking forward to it, too. :) Lovely review, Liz!

  2. very interesting!! sounds a little frankenstein-ish!! too bad the romance wasn't more...

  3. I do love retellings, but I've never really been drawn to the Island of Dr. Moreau story. It does seem very disturbing and creepy...too bad about the romance, though, and the lack of explanations---although you're right, if things are too disturbing, sometimes it's better not to know!

  4. I do quite like the sound of this one (and the cover) but I'm not sure how I feel about the whole retellings thing.

    Cait x

  5. Hmmmm...I accepted a copy of this one for review, but having read a few reviews of it, I'm not sure it's for me. I'm a fan of creepy, but not so much a fan of retellings.

  6. I do like a good creepy novel so this sounds up my street although I am wary of whether I will like Juliet or not.


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