My interest in The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd was peaked at the Harper Teen BEA party event. Basically they held the event at this really cool bar and we got to learn all kinds of cool things. One of those things being the evolution of the book cover design for The Madman’s Daughter and the various iterations it went through. You guys, I am a total cover whore, I can’t pretend like I don’t pick what I read based off the cover. And of course, this is such a me cover — from the red color of the font, to the dreary landscape to that awesome dress to the brunette (holla brown haired girls), I love this cover. And so, OMFG, I could absolutely not wait to read The Madman’s Daughter. Y’all, this debut was TOTALLY worth the wait. TOTALLY.
SPOILER ALERT: Juliet’s father is a madman. Shocking, right? I bet you never would have guessed that. Anyways, he basically does somethings that society is not cool with (he’s a doctor of sorts) including vivisection, and so, a once prominent figure, he ends up falling from grace. He then ends up kind of disappearing, thus leaving Juliet and her mother with NOTHING, because he is a douchebag. Unfortunately, Juliet’s mom dies and well, she has to go into service, but it’s hard because of her dad’s reputation. When a blast from the past (her family’s old servant) crosses Juliet’s path, she discovers her dad is well and alive on an island. As Juliet’s life totally sucks in London, she decides to go to the Island of Doctor Moreau. And yes, it’s just as creepy as the original.
Juliet definitely deserves to be narrator. Like, she compelled me. Plus, she wasn’t boring or simpering. Nor was she a total weirdo despite her dad. AND OMG YOU GUYS THE FEELS. I totally had these emotions for Juliet because she’s been dealt an awful card in life, and seriously how much does it suck to have a parent who totally does not have their shit together and also a dead parent. YET. She is strong. She faces her problems head on, instead of taking the easy way out. You know me, I love a headstrong character and Juliet is totally one of those — whether she’s living impoverished in London, on the sketchiest boat journey ever or dealing with her misogynist dad, she has this well of inner strength.
I absolutely loved Megan Shepherd’s descriptions of the worlds that Juliet inhabits. Like, not just the island, but London. She describes a London that’s just getting electricity and kind of straddling the modern era while also there’s one foot firmly on the side of tradition — especially when it comes to society. I was dismayed at how society treated Juliet after all her family had been through, but I suppose scandal leaves no one untouched. I also really loved how the island was described. As a reader, I was feeling a scary sinister sort of undercurrent the whole entire time. And also, claustrophobic to be honest. I may call myself a hermit, but I could never survive on Moreau’s island where there’s only like 5 human residents. Forget that you guys. Anyways, it’s lush and so, so well done and easy to imagine the compound.
Fair warning, there is a love triangle in The Madman’s Daughter and it’s not really my favorite ever. I mean, okay okay I did have trouble deciding which team I was on. There’s Montgomery who is basically Juliet’s past. He knows so much about her and they really do have a shared history. However, he seems kind of distant on the island, yet also a bit valiant too so that makes him appealing. Then there is the mysterious Edward Prince, whom ultimately, I could take or leave. He’s got sort of a weird back story and just didn’t really bring the swoons. You’ll get why when you read the book.
I feel like The Madman’s Daughter starts off kind of slow, but honestly once you get on the sketchy ship that’s when the pacing truly picks up and when I felt utterly engaged. So, just putting that out there for those of you who need an immediate fast pace. Along those lines, Megan Shepherd’s word choice is actually pretty awesome because it gives this proper historical sort of feel to the book, but at the same time is totally accessible, so you aren’t reading it going uh can someone translate this for me. I really like it enhanced the feel of the book and engaged me as a reader. There’s a certain amount of buy in needed to really love this book — I mean buying into the concept of a madman who fuses people and animals, but for me that wasn’t so hard to do.
Friends, I’d actually really recommend The Madman’s Daughter to most of you. I mean, obviously if you hate historical fiction and love triangles, this is probably not going to be added to your favorites list. However if you like unique spins on old classics, lush backgrounds, strong world building and intriguing characters and social dynamics, chances are you’ll fall as hard for Megan Shepherd’s debut as I did.
Disclosure: Received for review
Other reviews of The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd:
Hobbitsies – “a delightfully creepy and horrific debut”
Makeshift Bookmark – “Can we please pause to raise the roof for a snarky badass of a heroine?”
The Perpetual Page Turner – “What a compelling story!”