Juliet Moreau lived a life in the high society of London, until her father’s scandal and disappearance left she and her mother penniless. When her mother died from illness, Juliet was left on her own and found work as a maid in the university where her father had worked. While she cleans the laboratory where her father was rumored to conduct gruesome experiments, she becomes determined to discover if the accusations are true. She learns that her father is still alive and living on an isolated island off the coast of Australia. She travels to the island with her father’s assistant, Montgomery, and along the way they pick up a castaway named Edward. While Juliet is drawn to both men, she is forced to realize the extent of her father’s insanity. On the island, he has begun to experiment on animals, manipulating them so that they speak and walk like humans. Aside from her father’s madness, there is a creature killing people on the island–one of her father’s experiments gone wrong. Juliet realizes that she must not only stop her father’s experiments before they go any further, but she must try to escape the island with her life.
The Madman’s Daughter is one of my favorite books of this year so far. It is actually a retelling of The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells, which I haven’t read, so I can’t compare the two. The Madman’s Daughter, however, is both a gruesome and fascinating novel that I couldn’t put down. Juliet is a great character–though women aren’t allowed to become doctors during this time period in England, she studies her father’s books in secret and becomes almost as educated in anatomy and physiology as any doctor. She’s not only smart, but also determined and brave. Once she realizes what is happening on the island, she tries her best to stop her father before it is too late.
Juliet is torn between her father’s assistant, Montgomery, and the strange castaway they pick up in the middle of the ocean, Edward. She has always harbored feelings for Montgomery, but when she realizes how much of a hold her father has on him, she is upset that Montgomery allows her father to control him. Edward, on the other hand, seems like the ideal match for her according to her father. He claims to be from a well-to-do family and seems educated, while Montgomery is only an assistant. However, Juliet senses something off about Edward, and while she begins to have feelings for him, she has a suspicion that he is hiding something.
Dr. Moreau is such a complex character. At some points he really does seem to care about Juliet, but most of the time he seems to just be using and manipulating the people around him. He conducts gruesome experiments on animals in his labs without using anesthesia, so the poor animals suffer tremendously. He seems to be willing to do anything for the sake of what he considers to be “science” even if it destroys the lives of those around him. The scientist in me, like Juliet, found it fascinating that he was able to turn animals into humans, but his methods absolutely terrified and disgusted me. Sheperd’s writing made me feel like I was right in Juliet’s shoes, and I my heart was pounding as I read some of the terrifying scenes in the laboratory.
The ending was not what I expected, and I was mad until I realized that this is the first book in a trilogy! Thank goodness, because if that had been the true ending I would have been so upset. The ending was a great lead in to a sequel, and I’m excited to see what Sheperd has planned.
Overall, The Madman’s Daughter was a fascinating and gruesome story that will haunt and terrify many–but in a good way! I’m not sure if I would recommend reading it late at night though…
The Madman’s Daughter was released on January 29, 2013 and is the first in a trilogy. The sequel, Her Dark Curiosity, is set to be released on January 21, 2014.