The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Final Ruling: 5/5 stars

Oh my sweet goodness I absolutely loved this book! I am such a sucker for a good gothic Victorian story, à la Edgar Allan Poe or H.G. Wells, which is exactly what this book was. It was haunting, mysterious, sweepingly romantic, and precisely what I was looking for. This lovely retelling of H.G. Wells’ “The Island of Dr. Moreau” is gorgeous and unexpected, I didn’t even know I was looking for this book until I picked it up on a whim and fell in love completely.

Juliet is the heroine I have always wanted to read about. She is gorgeous, strong, spunky, and absolutely phenomenal. She completely defies all of the preconceived notions society, and more specifically her father, have about the role of women. She repeatedly states that, regardless of what everybody thinks, she can do anything a man can do; and not only does she say it, she shows it with her dedication to the pursuit of knowledge and her unwillingness to depend on anybody other than herself. In the end, she chooses the object of her affection based purely on feeling,  not on whether or not they could provide for her. In addition to all of this, she is not necessarily a good person. She has this morbid fascination with all things medical, and unlike even the male medical students around her, she does not shy from killing, from death, or even from blood. She is remarkably brave and unapologetic in her dark interests, refusing to hide who she is for anybody else’s benefit. Ugh, her list of attributes is absolutely  endless, I could seriously go on forever about how much I love Juliet Moreau. She is compassionate, she is remarkably brave, and she is wonderful in such a beautifully twisted way. I identify very greatly with Juliet, and it is so refreshing and comforting to read a heroine who isn’t sweet and perky, who instead is dark, intelligent, introverted, and does not apologize for any of it. She is quite possibly my new favorite when it comes to book characters. Words cannot properly express how much I adore her.

Okay, enough about Juliet. Now for my second favorite character: Montgomery *cue heart eyes*. He is absolutely positively perfectly imperfect. So, he does help Dr. Moreau with his grotesque surgeries, which makes me cringe. However, he has such a big heart; he cares impossibly deeply for the animals around him as well as the creatures of the island. He diligently takes care of the horses and the stables (which makes me happy, being a horse person myself), loving them and brushing them and speaking to them and taking care of them like nobody else on the island would. He acts the same way towards the island creatures, treating them like the actual people they were designed as, which touches my heart. He looks after them and understands them and cares for them as if they were his children (some of them he actually did create, like sweet shy Alice). It astounds me that he actually partakes in Dr. Moreau’s procedures, which obviously harms the animals being worked on. Montgomery is my everything, I love him just as much as I love Juliet, and more than either of them, I love them being together (then again, I am such a sucker for a childhood sweetheart story).

The entire premise is so amazingly cool and twisted, I can’t even handle it. Now, I know that it is based upon another story written by another man in another time, but still. My sweet goodness, I love love love all of the island’s creatures, even the ones that aren’t the kindest. Of course, I hated Dr. Moreau from the beginning, but his twisted experiments made him irredeemable in my eyes, no matter the fact that the results were something to be cherished. Now, this book did get creepy, so much so that I had to put it down and shudder quite a few times. The creatures devolved rapidly, morphing into rage-fueled monsters, rebelling against their creator and those who allied themselves with him. For example, my heart broke when the village creatures mutilated their devolved elk-hybrid priest, gouging at his eyes, cutting out his tongue, and ripping his antlers from his head, as his hands curled and hardened into something akin to hooves and he had to waste away, every day slipping farther and farther away from humanity.

That was another really really interesting part of this book, the humanity combined with animal instincts, which Dr. Moreau believed to be the recipe for an ideal and violence-free person. His creatures were kind and intelligent (for the most part), and I thought them to be precious and absolutely worth taking care of. However, the mad Dr. Moreau believes otherwise, and even when one of the creatures goes rogue and starts killing creatures and endangering the camp itself. Now, here comes the absolutely crazy plot twist. (if you haven’t read it all yet, please skip the following paragraph, in italics)

OH MY SWEET GOODNESS. Okay, so from the beginning I thought that Edward was a little quirky, a little strange, but I truly did think that he cared for and understood Juliet (even though I was rooting for her to end up with Montgomery, which she technically did). However, I knew that there was something wrong with him, something that didn’t quite add up. I thought he was connected to the attacks in some way, but until the reveal, I had absolutely no idea what. The fact that he was one of Dr. Moreau’s creatures completely blindsided me, the fact that he was the three-toed monster responsible for all of the murders blindsided me even more. Like what. And the fact that Juliet still contemplated forgiving him was a huge huge huge testament to her character, because what he did was truly awful, but somehow his love for her overcame. Now, of course, he is presumed dead, as is Juliet’s father, but still. If he had lived, perhaps I would have favored him over Montgomery. The ending also just broke my heart, with Montgomery in all of his kindness, takes it upon himself to stay on the island instead of leaving with Juliet like he said he would in order to look after the island creatures. Even then he felt some kinship and almost paternal concern for them, it was actually really sweet, that he cared enough about his creatures and enough about Juliet to stay with them and let her leave. It was heartbreaking; I LOVED ITI am beyond stoked to read the second book in the series, fingers crossed that it is even half as good as this one.

I would recommend this book to anybody who is a fan of feminism, Edgar Allan Poe, and/or a good spine-tingling scare; as well as pretty much anybody else, this book was absolutely breathtaking in its composition.