The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd.
Published: January 29, 2013.
Published by: Balzer & Bray.
Source: Won from Epic Reads. Thanks, Epic Reads!
In 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 Madman's Daughter is an engaging, dark and mysterious novel that captured my attention from the second I first read the synopsis and kept it right through the final page. Some minor notes aside, I was completely enthralled in the story. Some of the characters fell a little flat for me, but the ones I felt something for, I REALLY felt something for, which helped to make up for the less exciting ones.
Poor Juliet has experienced so much hardship in her life that I couldn't help but feel for her. She is one of the characters who occasionally fell a little flat, but I still sympathized and wanted to root for her. There were, however, characters who really elicited a strong reaction from me. One thing I loved about this book is that there were two characters I felt the most for and they were at complete opposite ends of every spectrum.
First was Juliet's father, the doctor. This is a man I hated with a passion. He is controlling, demeaning, and considers himself like God for creating the creatures he does. My most common emotions towards him were fury and disgust. The worst (or best, for the story?) part about him was that he knew exactly what he was doing and fully believed in it. It just felt so right to hate him, which also helps me sympathize with Juliet even more. On the other end of the spectrum is Balthazar. He is one of the doctor's creatures and for a while he is just a side character who goes unnoticed. When he begins to show readers his humanity, though... I was a mess. He is the character that made me cry. I honestly wept for him. What a beautiful, innocent, creature. I couldn't help but love him for his honest, child-like qualities in the middle of all the horror of the island. It was an incredible contrast that had my emotions all over the place.
Despite the fact that yes, there is a love triangle in the novel, I still enjoyed the relationships. I think the love triangle was handled better than many are in that each boy had a connection to Juliet that makes sense. Juliet had been crushing on Montgomery since she was a child, so it completely made sense to me that there were still feelings there for him. As for Edward, explaining their connection would be a spoiler but there is more to it than just a "love at first sight" type situation. I admit, I did find myself leaning towards Montgomery, even though like many of the other characters (including Edward), there is a dark secret revealed about him. This is a book where the characters are definitely not what they seem at first glance, which was enjoyable to read because there is always something new to discover. It helped keep me interested in characters that I might not necessarily have been connecting with emotionally.
One of my difficulties with the novel was the creatures on the island. The creatures were the doctor's creation and they are often described as combinations of different animals, yet somehow they somewhat resemble humans. This was extremely hard for me to picture and so, since I like to visualize as I read, I was occasionally brought out of the story as I tried to create a picture of some of these creatures in my mind (more often than not, I failed to do so). It is certainly not a deal-breaker for the novel, just something I found difficult to work out.
I think one of the most compelling aspects of this novel was the atmosphere created. There seems to be a constant feeling of unease, as if something is not quite right. This not only helped to envelop me in the story, but it also contributed to allowing the darkness in the characters to come across without feeling out of place. I also often felt like some of the characters were standing on their toes over a cliff... as if one little move could send things spiraling out of control. The tension created with this helped to make me react in the right places even when I may have had suspicions about what was coming. While there were some aspects that I was able to guess, there were others that did take me by surprise, so it was a good mix of feeling like I was understanding the story, but not being bored because I could see everything coming.
Overall, there is so much to say about this story, almost all of it in praise. This is one I hated to put down, so I read late into the night, which only resulted in a creepy scene coming up and scaring me into reading for even longer so I didn't have to turn out my light. It was a pretty vicious cycle, but I wouldn't have traded that reading experience because the story was completely worth it.
An excited 4 stars!
By the way, have you seen the cover yet for the sequel? It was just released on Monday the 10th on YA Books Central and it is gorgeous!