And now for something completely different. Creepy, dark, grotesque, gothic, Victorian, crazy, twisted, The Madman’s Daughter is inspired by H.G. Wells’s sci-fi thriller, The Island of Doctor Moreau, and it is an entirely new take on the classic.
16 year old Juliet Moreau is barely keeping it together in 19th century London. She works as a maid cleaning up at King’s College Medical School at night, attends church, lives in a small boarding house with 20 other lonely girls, and does her best to survive. For the two years after her mother’s death, Juliet has been alone, trying to live down the scandal that has plagued her family since her father’s disappearance six years before. Her prospects are non-existent.
In desperation, she follows rumours to a coarse, dirty inn, hoping that her father still lives. She instead finds his assistant, and her family’s former stable boy, Montgomery, collecting supplies for the return trip to the tropical island her father now inhabits. She joins the excursion, and discovers the depths of her father’s madness, discovers that the rumours of scandal were not exaggerated, discovers an island of horrors, discovers that even if she can leave the island, there might be no escape.
Megan Shepherd has created a grisly gothic tale that will stay with you long after you close the cover. Juliet is a puzzle solver, thirsty for knowledge, a girl who has had to turn her back on her genteel upbringing and make it in conditions not many could dream of surviving. Montgomery is a young man caught between his desire for Juliet, his lifelong obedience to his master, and his scientific curiosity. Dr. Moreau is soulless. A madman convinced of his superiority.You will have to judge Edward for yourself.
There is a love triangle, which, if you have read this blog before, you know I am not the biggest fan of this device. While not needed, however, it actually works in this story. In fact, it adds a counterpoint of normalcy to a twisted dark story, and serves to highlight the terrors of the island, leading to the unexpected end.
You want great world building? Shepherd does an impeccable job with both Victorian London and the tropical island. Dark street corners, damp, badly lit basements, creepy jungles and echoing screams will set your teeth on edge. You’ll want to read this one with the lights on, doors locked, and not on a windy night when tree branches might hit the window.
I read this book as a stand alone a few years ago, and didn’t realize it was the first in a trilogy until just recently. The second and third are inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Given the strange nature of the plot, this book is probably better suited to teens, 14 and up. Make sure you have someone stand guard at the door. Just in case…
The Madman’s Daughter is published by Balzer + Bray