Inspired by The Island of Dr Moreau, The Madman’s Daughter follows Juliet as she lives a life of poverty in London after her father had left in disgrace and her mother had died. She finds Montgomery, an old friend and servant boy, from her more privileged days and convinces him to take her with him back to the island where her father is. He is hesitant but eventually agrees to it, to Juliet’s delight at being reunited with her father but not knowing what lies ahead on the island.
Holy hormones. I was so excited to read this reworking of The Island of Dr. Moreau that everyone was hyping up to be so awesome. The cover is gorgeous and gave me the impression it would be a mysterious Victorian historical fiction tale. Little did I realize it would be more like a lovesick teenager not knowing which boy she likes more. Forget all the dangerous circumstances she finds herself in, what’s important is whether she likes the boy that kissed her by the waterfalls more or the one that kisses her in the barn. Give me a break. That’s fine if that’s what the book is promoted as and, truth be told the suspenseful moments with the island and the “monsters” were pretty creepy, but I did not realize I was signing up to read over 400 pages of fickle love triangle inner monologues.
Much of the characters’ motivations didn’t seem to flow or make sense. Perhaps all the misogynistic comments from the father was because of the time period, but Juliet certainly didn’t act differently to prove him otherwise. Her character was so frustratingly useless and hormonally motivated that I didn’t necessarily blame the father for questioning her choices. She scoffs at Alice, who is only 3-4 years younger than her, for seemingly being so consumed over first kisses and true love when she does the same thing.
In all fairness, I did start off really liking where it was headed. Juliet started off a smart and tough young woman… until a boy was introduced into the story. And like I said, the creepy parts were creepy. Shepherd does a great job at building the detail of the eerie mysterious island. I did find some instances to have unusually strange emphasis for tension building though, like so much focus on the hammering of nails or the piano’s notes. For me, I felt that the story could have been shorter and more focused on the island rather than the boys but there were a few twists thrown in there that I hadn’t seen coming. Oh, I debated on what to rate this book throughout the whole thing. I’d say it was riding between a 2.5 and a 3 for the most part until the end, which solidified it for me as a 2.5. That being said, I am slightly curious where the sequel takes the story, let alone a trilogy. I wanted to enjoy this book so much more, and perhaps I may have if I wasn’t expecting something else. For those going into it wanting a love story set in a Jurassic Park/Planet of the Apes type adventure, then you’ll probably enjoy this.
Rating: ★ ★ ☆ (2.5 /5 stars)
Available: January 29, 2013
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Read as part of Brunch Book Club with Lost in a Great Book.
Wrap up discussion to come in the coming week.