Summary: Following accusations that her scientist father gruesomely experimented on animals, sixteen-year-old Juliet watched as her family and her genteel life in London crumbled around her—and only recently has she managed to piece her world back together. But when Juliet learns her father is still alive and working on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the old accusations are true. Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward, Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s insanity. 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.
I want to preface this review by saying I have no idea why I decided to read this book, but I did and here we are. Let me start by getting two things out of the way 1.this book is basically a slightly different version of The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells 2. I love animals and I’m heavily involved with animal rescue. Naturally I hated that so many animals suffered in this book. Again, what was I thinking?
Now that those statements are out of the way, we can discuss this book. As I previously stated, The Madman’s Daughter book is a copy/rip off/similar plot of The Island of Dr. Moreau told through the eyes of Dr. Moreau’s 16 year old daughter Juliet, at least that’s what it was supposed to be. Instead, I think this book is one big psychological study into the mind of Juliet who seems to wavier between some sort of Stockholm Syndrome, not so cleverly disguised as twisted loyalty to her father who is more or less holding them all prisoner on the island, bipolar emotions, in addition to being immature. Juliet’s constant and rapid change between loyalty and disgust of all those on the island gets old fast. The novel is set during the Victorian era and the author did a decent job of setting the scene and throwing in some macabre to drawer the reader in–we find out Juliet is an orphan. Her mother died of consumption just two years before the book begins and her father either fled London or died after a medical scandal 6 years prior leaving Juliet and her mother destitute. Juliet has learned to survive in a pretty unforgiving and class conscious world.
I had a lot of hope for this book; the first 75 pages or so were great! The author immediately introduces the reader to a strong, determined, smart protagonist, who isn’t your typical Victorian lady. Juliet is well educated in medicine and biology, isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty (she’s a maid in a medical college cleaning up blood and dead bodies), and is ready to kick some ass when need be. Needless to say I was confident that Juliet wouldn’t be your typical Victorian lady and she showed a great deal of promise. Then one night after a terrible, bloody event in the medical college Juliet goes searching for a doctor at a local pub, believing the doctor is her father. Juliet begins to hope that her father isn’t dead as people say, but instead is alive and well…and I guess Juliet believes he will take her in. Instead once Juliet arrives at the pub, which is also a hotel, she finds Montgomery; the assistant and servant boy her parents employed before the scandal–the boy she was in love with as a child and thought so highly of– and possible beau number one.
From here, basically, Juliet and Montgomery get on a boat to Dr. Moreau’s island. Once they are within a few weeks of the island, Juliet and Montgomery spot something floating in the ocean which turns out to be a hansom man named Edward, possible beau number two. And now we have, of course, a love triangle. I don’t hate love triangles, but I’m certainly not excited when one pops up in a plot. But what I really can’t stand is when said love triangle because the main focus of the story, as it did in this book. Oh and by the way, the two men involved, Montgomery and Edward, are presented as opposites, one the wild man (Montgomery) and the other the gentleman (Edward), hmmmm where have we heard this before?
Earlier I stated Juliet has a bipolar attitude towards love, and I stand by this. I was amazed at how quickly Juliet would flip flop between Edward and Montgomery. Literally from the moment they pull Edward onto the ship Juliet begins having thoughts about both men. One minute she is thinking about how she’s always loved Montgomery and his kind ways and rough hands, then two seconds later she has moved on to Edward and how smooth his hands are. Umm does this seem just too unreal to me? Or is Juliet just boy crazy?
Shortly after their arrival on the island the book falls apart. There are so many pointless scenes and slow moving sections of daily activities, walking through the jungle and silent dinners because everyone is pissed off at the Dr. Wake me when the book gets good again. I was mulling this book over on my drive home from work and thought, maybe the book crashed and burned about half way through because the book should have been a short little 100 page novella. Shepherd tried to stretch out a weak plot and ended up with a story that is too thin and filled with pointless filler. Take out all the random jungle scenes and sections where it feels like Shepherd is writing because she’s being paid by the word and there is a decent novella hiding in there. I do want to add one quick reason why you should read this book and finish it, just skip the slow sections, there is a hell of a twist near that end that I didn’t see coming. I mean wow, would never have guessed this twist. Actually, I’d argue there are two, but man did I enjoy those twists.
One more thing, this book is a fairly quick read. I read it in two days. I don’t hate or regret reading the book by any means, but I do hate the way the story ended, however the twists gave the book a few redeeming points. The Madman’s Daughter is part of a trilogy and I’m toying with reading the other two in hopes the end of the first one makes more sense. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I’m really hoping certain characters do reappear and Juliet matures in the other books.