Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd **Review**

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd
Series: The Madman's Daughter #1
Pages: 368
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Release date: 11th April 2013
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones

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Thanks to the publisher for my review copy

Goodreads synopsis:
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.

I know that The Madman's Daughter is based on H. G. Wells' classic novel, The Island of Dr Moreau, but I will put my hands up here and say that I've never once picked up the novel, let alone read it, so my thoughts on Megan Shepherd's retelling are entirely based on her book, and not on her ability to retell the original tale. I do know however, that her retelling is from a totally different character's point of view, the doctor's daughter, Juliet, and even though I'd not read the original, this sounds like a really interesting new take on a classic.

My first impression of the book was really good. I instantly felt a connection with Juliet, the protagonist. She's a headstrong, intelligent, feisty character who won't let anyone push her around, and although she's had her fair share of bad luck and bad situations, she refuses to let them get her down, and she makes the most out the situation she finds herself in.
So when she discovers that the father she thought was dead may still be alive, she is determined to uncover the truth, no matter how dreadful that truth may be. I really admired her determination, especially when she was faced with so much opposition, both from people around her, and from society in general (a society that was not very accepting of young women, particularly those in her position). It was great to see her achieve what she did, despite the odds, and despite the horrors that awaited her.

I will admit that, in the first half of the novel, and once the story had already gotten underway, I did find my mind drifting a little, and I wasn't as hooked by the story as I was hoping I would be all the way through. I didn't feel as though enough was happening, either in the story, or with Juliet, for me to remain entirely focused on the book, but I did want to continue reading to find out what Juliet would find once she arrived at the island and saw her father again. I wanted to know what monstrosities he had created, out from under the watchful eye of English society.
I think the story lagged here slightly because I was so desperate for Juliet to get to the island, so that I could see what was happening there, but also because (at the time), nothing much was happening. Yes, they were on a boat (they being Juliet, Montgomery - her parents' servant boy, who she'd grown up with - and Balthazar, a strange-looking, very large man who travelled with Montgomery and lived on the island with them), and yes they were travelling towards somewhere in a ship full of shady characters, and yes, they do find something interesting floating on the waves, but there wasn't quite enough danger and excitement in this part of the novel for me, but I did still want to read, and I read this section in one sitting, so that must say something positive for it!
Once Juliet arrived at the island though, I was immediately interested in the story again, and I couldn't wait to find out what would be around the next corner.

The second half of the novel was a lot better than the first. Obviously, as they'd already arrived at the island by this point, a lot more was happening, there was a lot more danger and a lot more at stake. And of course, a lot more for Juliet to unearth, now that she was in her father's company. I found her relationship with her father really interesting - even though she'd not known he was alive until recently, and a rocky relationship at best was to be expected, I still didn't expect the strange relationship that became apparent once she'd spent some time with him. He was warm and fatherly to her one moment, as though he really was welcoming his long-lost daughter to her new home, and at other times, it was as though she was barely better than the other creatures that inhabited his island, and she was just a nuisance - in his way, and therefore a problem.
Juliet had braced herself for something like this - there were, after all, the rumours of her father having been a criminal genius, but also a madman. Had her fears only been confirmed? That seemed to be the only explanation, and as further events unfolded, and the secrets that were being unearthed got darker, more frightening, and much closer to Juliet that she had imagined, this seemed to be the only explanation available.
Although I'd expected the atmosphere of the book to feel much creepier and darker than it actually turned out to be, it was still a very twisted, sinister and frightening tale, when you think about the reality of what is happening in the novel, and what the consequences would be for the world if they were to come true. I really enjoyed the way the book made me think about these things, and made me consider the possibilities of what was happening, beyond what we actually see in the book itself.

The ending was something that I had kind of anticipated, but not entirely. There is a huge twist in the plot at the end (as there is with any good book in this genre), which I had seen coming, but I wasn't 100% positive that that's what was going to happen, so in a way, I was entirely prepared for it to turn out to be true, and I hadn't expected it to happen in the way that it did.
The very ending of the novel, however, was totally unexpected, and it definitely makes me curious about what's going to happen in the next book - whose point of view it'll be told from, where it'll be set, and of course, where the story will go from there. I'm looking forward to being able to find out.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. It didn't have as much of a dark atmosphere to it as I'd originally thought it would, but it was still dark enough, and the ideas in the novel really made my imagination whirl.
This is a story of madness mingled with genius, science mixed with horror, and above all, a brave young woman who was willing to risk everything for a glimpse of the truth, no matter what it might hold. A truly unique, intriguing, mysterious and spellbinding story, and definitely one I'd recommend.


selkiereads said...

I've heard so many great things about this book and i'm really glad that you enjoyed it! And don't worry, I haven't read The Island of Dr. Moreau either ;)

- Ellie at The Selkie Reads Stories

Jess Hearts Books! said...

I'm really looking forward to reading this one this month. Little disappointed that you didn't find it too dark as that's something I was really hoping for with this story. I'm glad you enjoyed it though, brilliant review!

Coreena McBurnie said...

Sounds interesting. I've had my eye on this one, hoping it was dark, but I like that it made your imagination whirl.

Pen to Paper said...

Jess & Coreena: It was dark, just not as dark as I was hoping it would be :)

Bookworm1858 said...

Oh, I hadn't seen this cover-I like the red but not the heart. And there's no accounting for taste-I found this book way too dark for me (the vivisection parts killed me!)

Siobhán @ Totally Bookalicious said...

Oh I have to read this soon. I didn't know it was a retelling...may need to check out the library soon. Fab review.

Siobhan @ Totally Bookalicious

erin said...

thanks for the great review! I've been reading great things about this book : )

Mary Preston said...

I actually have a copy of this, but have not started it. Great to hear your thoughts thank you.

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