Rummanah Aasi
  I'm really enjoying the Classics Double Challenge hosted by One's Librarian Book Reviews. The object of this challenge is to read a classic (the term is used loosely to include fairy tales, mythologies, classics, any kind of original story) and couple it with a retelling (the original and the newer book have to relate in some way that you can define; it doesn't have to be a straight-forward retelling). My objective with this challenge is to read some classics and discover new authors that I've haven't read yet.

Description (from book's panel): 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.

Review: The Madman's Daughter is a retelling of H.G. Wells's often overlooked science fiction/horror novel The Island of Dr. Moreau and is told from the point of view of the mad doctor's teenage daughter. While Shepherd takes many liberties with the original story, this dark novel blends the basic premise of the original with new insights, characters, and terror. despite some flaws, it succeeds as a horror novel. 
   In an excellent rendition of the dark, desolate Victorian England, we meet Juliet who has a taint on her reputation. Her father, Dr. Moreau, an infamous scientist who has been banished out of London due to his outlandish and shocking experiments, has left his wife and daughter destitute. When her mother dies, Juliet has just enough money to survive until she is fired from her hospital cleaning job for rebuffing the advances of one of the doctors. Terrified that she has to resort to prostitution as a means for survival, she runs into her old friend, childhood crush, and her father's assistant, Montgomery, and learns that her father is actually alive on an remote island. Montgomery fails to deter Juliet from seeing her father after several logical explanations, Juliet convinces Montgomery to take her to her father's island. The perilous trip on a pirate ship and the rescue of Edward, a castaway, naturally foreshadows the dangers and horrors that they will all see once they reach to their destination.
  I liked how Shepherd tries to give contexts to a very bizarre story. Dr. Moreau, while thoroughly detestable and selfish, comes off as a charismatic madman who in his twisted ways make his horrific experiments of mixing genes of animals and human a rather brilliant experiment. By making him a father (both literally and figuratively) to his subservient human-like creatures who obey him as if he was god, we get to see Dr. Moreau as a human which cleverly touches upon the colonial mindset of the times and brings up a really interesting issue of religion. Unlike her father, Juliet comes off as a character who is inconsistent; her mannerisms are thoroughly Victorian though her dialogue seems to be too forthright to be a Victorian girl. She is incredibly uptight and prissy, but I did welcome her take charge personality though her indecisiveness and impulsive nature irritated me, it didn't deter me from enjoying the disturbing aspects of the story. 
  The pace of the story reflects upon the traditional Gothic horror stories by always having something lurking in the background. The tapping of windows, the screams coming far away yet somehow close to the characters all build suspense quite well. I even liked the slow discovery of the Moreau's experiments. Though we are horrified to see what these creatures are, we do grow a relationship to some of them and sympathize with them.
   While Shepherd does a good job in evoking the settings and giving a new spin of the characters, the love triangle in The Madman's Daughter is the weakest point of the story and drags the book down. While Montgomery and Juliet have a natural chemistry that has been built over time, Juliet's attraction to Edward is just too convenient and contrived. Though we are expected to pit our affections for Montgomery and Edward against each other, only one of them comes out as a clear winner and makes us wonder if the other love interest was a superfluous invention. Though Montgomery and Edward are equally charismatic characters, I would have liked to learn more about them as individuals without Juliet swooning about their good looks. I do, however, have a theory about Edward and I'm waiting to see if I'm right or wrong in the next book of this series. 
 Though I read The Island of Dr. Moreau before reading this book, there were a few surprises that were a welcoming addition to the story such as how the book ends. While knowledge of Wells's novel would perhaps lead to a more satisfying reading experience, The Madman's Daughter whets the appetite for the original story and tackles some of the essential themes with some good old fashion scares. I'm looking forward to where Shepherd takes her characters next as the series continues.

 Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is a scene of attempted rape, some gore, and violence which mostly takes place off the page. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells, His Dark Endeavors series by Kenneth Oppel, The Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
6 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    I agree with you on the love triangle Rummanah! I liked Edward as a character and am definitely curious about him moving forward, but I didn't need him to enter the romantic picture at all, I think the relationship between Juliet and Montgomery was complex enough to carry the story without anything else added in. I so enjoyed this one though, it was dark and creepy and horrifyingly fascinating and I can't wait to see where book 2 takes us! Fantastic review:)


  2. Excellent review! I really enjoyed the story, having never read the original. Looking forward to the sequel. Thanks!


  3. I agree that the love triangle in this one was horrible, and what made it even worse was that I was unable to form a definite opinion on Juliet. As you pointed out, she was entirely too inconsistent as a character, which I didn't appreciate in the least.
    This was somewhat of a disappointment. I was recently offered an arc of book 2, but I didn't accept.


  4. Candace Says:

    I never really had an urge to read this one and some mixed reviews haven't changed my mind. But I think your review has me slightly more curious. The gothic vibe certainly appeals to me anyway.


  5. Jess Says:

    Yeah, the love triangle in this book did seem to hold it down, apart from that this book did have a lot of good moving pieces. I also enjoyed the way Shepherd wrote the historical speech


  6. Small Review Says:

    Oh no! It sounds like a great book tainted by the dreaded love triangle and an iffy main character. I liked the original story, but I don't think I loved it enough to put up with those drawbacks in this retelling. Thanks for the warning! I'd been going back and forth on this book for a while.


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