The Mad Man’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid and trying to forget 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’s alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she’s determined to find out if the accusations were true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward, Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the secret of her father’s new life: the experiments on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. 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. 1

Juliet Moreau is haunted by the name Moreau and what that says about her.  Juliet and her mother were left scandalized and penniless after her father fled London and the terrible rumours about his experiments.  Although her friend Lucy, a wealthy bankers daughter and Juliet’s best friend, has remainder friends with her Juliet can’t help but feel cut off from the rest of society and the life she once had.  When her mother dies, Juliet only has herself to rely on and her job as a maid at Kings College.  Once her fathers school, the memory of him and his experiments linger and draw out feelings from within Juliet that both scare her and entice her.  When she stumbles upon her old family servant, Montgomery, she discovers her father is still alive.  After a situation arises while at work, she must flee London, and there seems to be no better place than to go with Montgomery and his strange companion named Balthazar to the island where her father has been living in secret.

The journey is long but when she finally arrives on the tropical island, the sight of her father sends her spiralling into a wash of memories and horrors.  Juliet wants answers more than anything, but the answers to what her father has been doing on the island and if what they had said in London was true could tear her world apart.  Her father has been experimenting on animals, creating creatures that can walk, talk and think.  She has grown up with the talk of her fathers madness and the terrible things he has done, but part of Juliet can’t help but be amazed by the accomplishments he has made.  The blood that flows through her veins passed down from her father create a darkness within Juliet and a desire to follow in his footsteps.  When the creatures of the island threaten to regress from her father’s experiments, Juliet can’t help but to wish for nothing more than the creatures destruction. Not all the creatures on the island appear as monsters, and perhaps the true monster on the island is her own father.

When characters bounce all over the place struggling with their identity and who they are, what they want to become can sometimes become tiresome.  Juliet lives in the shadow of her father, and as a young lady who should only be concerned about marrying a wealthy young man can’t help but be troubled by her curiosity and intrigue by the dark and dangerous work of her father.  Thankfully Juliet’s character has a strength that keeps her on the path of interesting, rather than stumbling headlong into annoying and tiresome.  Her old family servant, Montgomery, has grown into a handsome young man showing both braun as well as brains when she discovers that the training he has had with her father has paid off.  Readers can’t help but root for Montgomery, especially when the handsome Edward Prince is found stranded at sea and instantly smitten with Juliet.

Juliet goes on a whirlwind adventure from the height of society in London, down to scrubbing floors as a maid and onto a secluded island full of monsters.  For those familiar with the tale of The Island of Doctor Moreau, you may have picked up on the similarities and the connection between some of the characters.  The story picks up and follows many of the same elements creating a sort of updated retelling of the story from the point of view of Juliet.  I would not completely write off the story as a retelling with nothing new.  The Mad Man’s Daughter is only the beginning of an adventure through creation, madness and destruction.

I was intrigued by the story, not really making the connection to the Island of Doctor Moreau, having never read the story and only seeing brief moments of a film adaptation.  After reading the summary of the original story it is apparent how many similarities there are between the events and character names.  Perhaps it would have been best to have read the original story first before staring the books by Shepherd but I wouldn’t say it is a necessity.  The book summary clearly states the connection and inspiration of the story, but my ignorance comes from not reading the summary at all but only the first few lines and relying on the cover.  From previous reviews you may remember how I believe that reading the summaries can sometimes do more harm than good.  Perhaps in this case it may have done some good, but would have only resulted in holding off on The Mad Man’s Daughter and attempting The Island of Doctor Moreau.  This would have either led to not reading Shepherd’s story, making the story less exciting, or the positive of having so many connections to the original.  I guess we will never know. Shepherd’s tale easily stands on it’s own as a solo novel with the happy addition of more stories to follow.  I’m looking forward to see where the story takes us and if the story follows any other famous novels that I may not have picked up on.

  1.  Book summary courtesy of Megan Shepherd’s webpage.

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