Thursday, April 11, 2013

Book Review: The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Title: The Madman's Daughter
Author: Megan Shepherd
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Rating: 2/5

Cover Impressions:
The cover lends well to the gothic mystery feel of this book.  I like the billowing white dress but the bare shoulder is a little distracting and doesn't fit with the time period when the bare ankle would be scandalous enough.  I'm not quite wowed by the font choice or color.  It doesn't seem to mesh with the washed out colors of the background. 

The Gist:
Juliet Moreau has grown up in the shadow of her father's gruesome experiments.  When she discovers that he is alive and continuing his work on a remote island, she sets out to discover whether the rumors are true and, in turn, whether or not the blood of madness runs through her own veins. 


I had very high hopes for The Madman's Daughter.  I have never read The Island of Dr. Moreau, but I love re/alternative tellings of classic novels and this book falls squarely into that category.  At first, I was thrilled with the main character.  Juliet was strong and independent.  She could hold her own with the young men she encountered and could best them in the most gruesome of circumstances.  Upon venturing out of London however, Juliet reverted to a simpering child who, all too often, relied on the men around her for protection.  The change reminds me Ismae in Grave Mercy and Celaena in Throne of Glass.  All of these characters started off so strong, and then seemed to give up their spunk the minute a man entered the picture.  Speaking of men, I despised the way that Juliet flitted between two men.  Even before leaving London, she entertained the idea of a relationship with a student that she had just met.  Is every young man a potential match?  Both romances were contrived and cliched (bad boy vs the gentlemen *eyeroll).  I was much more interested in Juliet's inner turmoil and her struggle with her own dark curiosity than with her desire to be kissed.  Had that aspect been more developed than the "romance" that took over the plot, I would have felt very differently at the end.

I loved the way that Megan Shepherd created a very gothic feel and dark atmosphere for this novel.  This was enhanced by a real sense of danger created through the setting and the way that Dr. Moreau teetered between mad and methodical.  I did find the references to time rather forced and awkward.  Each time that she mentioned the clothing (particularly the corset), sense of decorum or scientific advancements (like Darwin's research) I found it rather jarring and couldn't help but roll my eyes.  It was almost as if the author was concerned that we would forget the time frame and needed to be reminded one or twice a chapter.  I also found it rather difficult to picture the different beasts, particularly "The Monster".

The major problem that I had with The Madman's Daughter was the pacing.  There were long stretches of little action that dampened the sense of urgency and made me frustrated.  I lost count of how many times someone was "lost" on the island and either had to be rescued or find their own way back to the compound.  Once in a while, there were flashes of the "old" Juliet, the one we left behind in London, and these made the plot a slightly more bearable.  The ending was unexpected, but left me feeling annoyed more than anything else.

To be honest, I was quite surprised to discover that this is the beginning of a series as it had the feel of a stand alone right up until the ending.  I don't think I will be checking out the second installment without a kick-ass blurb and awesome reviews.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

16 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Violence towards animals, gunplay, knifeplay, graphic descriptions of surgery
Inappropriate Language: Piss, Bastard, Whore
Substance Use/Abuse:  Alcohol use


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