Wednesday, February 20, 2013

ARC Review: The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Publisher:  Balzer + Bray
Publication Date:  January 29th, 2013

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.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

If you looked up the definition of "Gothic Novel", you might find a picture of The Madman's Daughter, but while this book may be just that, it is so much more...  I will admit that when I decided I was interested in reading this book for review, I had no idea what it was about, or even which genre it fell into.  I liked the cover.  And I liked the little blurb on the cover, "In the darkest places, even love is deadly."  Between those two things I was pretty much sold.  It didn't matter that I'm not really into Gothic Thrillers or Historical Fiction.  It didn't really matter to me that it was inspired by The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells, a book I never really liked much.  I gave The Madman's Daughter a chance because I liked the cover.  That is something HarperCollins does so well; They lure me in with their gorgeous covers, making me want to read books I normally wouldn't pick up, and you know what?  I've yet to be disappointed, and this book is no exception.  The Madman's Daughter was phenomenal!  I could not put it down, and now I am chomping at the bit for the as-of-now unnamed, second book in the trilogy, which will be based upon The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (which I did quite enjoy).  So... What did I like so much about The Madman"s Daughter?  Let's see...

First off, the characters were great!  I really liked Juliet.  She was strong and independent, and she had a lot of spunk for a girl living in the era that she did.  As for the love interests, I adored everything about Montgomery.  It seemed like Megan wanted us to have mixed feelings about him, but I never did.  As for Edward, I just always knew there was something off about him, but I never expected him to be the man he turned out to be.  Juliet's father, Dr. Moreau was brilliantly written as well.  His descent into madness (well, further descent, as it becomes clear that he has always been a bit mad) was an awesome ride.  I would have to say that the "natives" of the island were the most interesting characters though.  They were so key in the unfolding of the mystery and the pace of the story, that collectively, they were a single character, in addition to their own individual stories.  Which brings me to the next reason I loved this book!  The story- it was creepy as hell.  The world building is so good, that even the parts in London had me feeling like there was something lurking in every shadow, but London was nothing compared to the island.  Then there was the fact that Megan Shepherd is really a master at writing suspense.  I spent much of the time reading this book with knots in my stomach, ready to jump at the turn of the page.  All that aside though, it was the story that made this book.  It starts out by painting a picture of what Juliet's life has been like since her father had been run off with accusations that he performed a number of unnamed medical atrocities.  First she lived with her mother, who out of necessity, became the mistress of a wealthy man- basically a high-class prostitute.  When Juliet's mother died, she was turned out onto the streets to fend for herself, as her extended family wanted nothing to do with the daughter of a madman.  She got a job cleaning at the university and a room at a boarding house, but things were far from easy for her.  While spending the evening out with some students at the university, she inadvertently comes across one of her father's drawings, and this sparks the hope in her that he is still alive.  She traces the drawing back to a pub where she finds not her father, but the now grown house boy from her childhood, Montgomery, who is in town getting supplies to take back to the island inhabited by her long-lost father.  After a situation occurs that puts Juliet on the run, Montgomery is forced to take her along with him, to the island in the Pacific, where her father is staying.  Well, the island is full of surprises and oddities, with the natives being the only a small fraction of it.  The story unfolds with surprising fluidity given the fact that this is Megan's debut, and I found that even the unbelievable ended up appearing completely plausible.  There was action, romance, mystery, and intrigue, and I could not stop turning the pages.  In the end, I was left, mouth agape, wondering what had just happened.  Then I experienced a bit of denial, looking for more pages that HAD to be there.  Then I was just heartbroken... I do hope for resolution in book number two, but something tells me it will take a totally different direction than I expect it to, and that I will be singing its praises because of it...

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  I think this book is fine for middle school and up, although I think older readers will appreciate it more.  For this reason, I say it's best suited for grades 8 and up (ages 13+). 


  1. Wow ~ I'm so glad you loved this! I've heard mixed reviews, but like you, that cover keeps calling my name, begging me to give it a shot.. After your high praises, I'm totally grabbing this one... Great review!

    Keely @ Realms of an Open Mind

  2. I think I would like this on audio.


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