Friday, September 6, 2013

Book Review: The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Title: The Madman's Daughter
Author: Megan Shepherd
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Date of Publication: Jan. 29, 2013
Source: bought from Amazon, hardcover, 432 pages
Genre: young adult, horror, macabre, historical fiction
Challenge(s): 2013 Debut Author Challenge

Goodreads Synopsis:
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.

My Thoughts:
This was a seriously intense and vivid story that was able to capture my sense of chaos as it urged me to question the lengths humanity will go to for their darkest desires.  
I was a huge fan of The Island of Dr. Moreau even though it has been a long time since I have read it and I think The Madman's Daughter really makes Dr. Moreau accessible for this generation.  
I really loved this book.  Totally.  It took me all of two days to finish it and then I just wanted to start over and read it again and again.  I wasn't too keen on the ending though.  I understood the "why" of the ending but I still didn't like it.  But it doesn't take away from the story, it just makes it that more complex.  
The Madman's Daughter is filled with intense situations that all have this underlining dread but in Juliet's case, there is this underlining excitement as well.  These emotions start to really strain on Juliet because she believes she may have some of the "madness" that the world suspects of her father.  So in a way, I found this book to be self journey for Juliet as well as trying to find her father.  
We are pretty much propelled right in the first few chapters into the horrid and abnormal areas that Juliet finds among her and inside herself.  I think this book pushed the envelope and I loved that it did this too.  
Megan Shepherd is excellent at writing a disturbing, cold, and devious character when she created her version of Juliet's father.  Seriously, just thinking about him gives me the creeps.  He made my hair stand on end but I couldn't turn away from the book.  It kept me glued to the pages eager to find out what else could happen on the island.  
But even as Shepherd pens a chilling antagonist she also shows us how she can create the most complex characters that make you question yourself on your understanding of good vs. evil.   Life vs. Abomination.  There are a lot of grey areas in this story and I love that it makes us as a society question what we think evil looks like.  
There is a love interest in this story and there is a triangle aligned as well but don't let that turn you away from the book.  There are so many twists and turns in the plot that you will not be at all bothered by the small love triangle that appears.  

One of my favorite quotes is:

Dead flesh and sharpened scalpels didn't bother me.  I was my father's daughter, after all.  My nightmares were made of darker things.
page 1

This pretty much sums up Juliet's insight into the world and herself.  She finds her curiosity for the macabre fascinating and shameful at the same time.  Juliet Moreau is a great symbolism for the line that separates sanity from the disruptive chaos that is among the world.  

Another quote that really made me flinch and nervously gasp at the same time was:

He'd never said the accusations were untrue.  Just unfair.  
Page 170

That line just put the goosebumps on my flesh and made me realize I fell completely into Juliet's world.  

And of course there is humor in The Madman's Daughter, albeit dark humor, but it is still there.  Especially when it concerns the castaway, Edward Prince.  There was one particular quote that I laughed at and then kinda felt bad for laughing at but what's done is done.  The scene is Edward is making a spear out of wood as Juliet asks:

"How did you know you'd need one?""Your father tried to kill me five minutes after I arrived.  That was a pretty good indication."
page 205

So if you are a fan of the scary with a scientific perspective to it as well as a new twist on an old classic then I think you should give The Madman's Daughter a try.  I loved it for all of its eccentrics as well as the journey it takes us on as we explore the darkness that can be found in many hearts of men that believe themselves to be geniuses.  

I give it five hearts!

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