Author: Megan Shepherd (Twitter)
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Publish Date: January 29, 2013
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Sixteen-year-old 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.
There is an inherent beauty to gothic novels that lies within the dark and brooding madness; because it's in that twisted maze of darkness that lies a faint glimmer of hope - and truth - that leads the story and the reader in the right direction throughout. The Madman's Daughter stood out for me from the young adult crowd because it's a rarity in which we see an author truly commit to a rather gruesome idea and take a no-holds-barred approach to the nature of the genre. Megan Shepherd has crafted a stunning novel that's powerful in its darkness, vivid in its intensity and wholeheartedly, unsettlingly incredible.
The Madman's Daughter reads much like the title implies. The story is a maze of intrigue and mystery and, at times, the complexity of it seems rather mad. We're given the story of a daughter that is trying to understand the true nature of her father who, for all intents and purposes, is a mad scientist and, in doing so, we're unwittingly swept up into the same whirlwind that Juliet lives everyday. It's an eerie concept to live in a world in which your father is the sole nature of your ruin, and Juliet's quiet resolve to uncover the truth was heartening and truly believable. She was a source of light in an eerie and subtly bleak novel.
The way in which the settings were presented to the reader within The Madman's Daughter is arguably one of the foremost strengths of the novel. The island is a brooding and horrific place, plagued by deformed creatures borne of a brilliantly mad mind. Time seems to stand still on the island, setting it vastly apart from Juliet's life in London and leaving us feeling incredibly isolated and trapped in the lair of a madman. With each twist and turn, I was left with more questions and, inevitably, more shocked by each revelation. The plot was so incredibly layered that, at times, some of the relationships in the novel seemed rather irrelevant.
That, unfortunately, leads me to my one qualm with the novel. The Madman's Daughter errs on the edge of perfection. In fact, it is precariously close to it, but the subtle love triangle between Juliet, Montgomery and Edward felt a bit out of place in such a stellar example of a gothic novel. Overall, the triangle wasn't overbearing, but I felt that it was almost an afterthought in terms of complexity since the rest of the story was so rich and layered. The tension was tangible at times, but there were hints of an instant connection that left a bit of bitter taste in my mouth.
Despite that singular flaw though, I found The Madman's Daughter to be a rich and utterly engrossing read. I think it's safe to say that gothic novels like this might just be my cup of tea, and I can't wait to read what's next to come in this story. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I highly recommend it fans of YA, especially those who enjoy historical fiction and gothic novels.