Review + Giveaway: The Madman’s Daughter

I received this book for free from YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review + Giveaway: The Madman’s DaughterThe Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd
Series: The Madman's Daughter #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on January 29, 2013
Genres: Gothic, Historical, Horror, Mystery, Retelling, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central

In the darkest places, even love is deadly.

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.

Inspired by H. G. Wells's classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman's Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we'll do anything to know and the truths we'll go to any lengths to protect.

First Sentence: “The basement hallways in King’s College of Medical Research were dark, even in daytime.”

My review style is, and always will be, to write up my review right after I complete the book, and I do mean right after. If I can’t write the review, I will save the last chapter until I have time. Doing otherwise would allow me to slack off, and I would never get anything reviewed, as well as giving me time to forget the book. The downside of this reviewing method, one I just have to accept, is that occasionally I have to try to compose a meaningful, coherent review while shell-shocked by what I’ve just read. Bear with me, as The Madman’s Daughter definitely left me feeling a bit dazed.

On a lot of levels, I’m really not entirely sure just how I felt about this novel. One thing that I do know quite for sure is that Shepherd writes well. Her syntax and diction dovetail with the historical setting, and never once threw me out of the book. Though much of the novel consists more of suspense than outright action, Shepherd kept the story tense and me on the edge of my couch.

Littered throughout The Madman’s Daughter are literary references. Of course, the novel itself retells H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, which I have not read. However, my perusal of the Wikipedia article convinces me that Shepherd reworked the story with a deft hand. In addition to this, she sprinkled in numerous references to Shakespeare, including The Tempest, a very apt work to be brought up in this instance. There is even a reference to X-Men, though not, obviously, so overt of one, since it didn’t exist back then.

What I found myself utterly unprepared for was how utterly dark, gruesome, creepy and horrifying this book is. Had I read Wells’ work, I would have been better informed of the coming experience, but I knew nothing. Yes, the cover hints at creepiness, but this turned out to be one of the scariest books I have ever read. Of course, suspense has always been my weak point, as well as some other issues that I’ll tackle next. Shepherd hits most of the staple varieties of horror: not knowing who to trust, fearing darkness with in oneself, mad science, gore, suspense, chases and more. Were I a big reader of horror, I do not know that I would have marked this as a must-read, but, let me tell you guys, you want this.

However, I know a lot of people, myself included, have a big issue with animal death in novels. For me, kill a human and I’m rarely bothered; kill a furry, adorable creature and I will ugly cry. An animal dies in an awful way in chapter two, and over the last half of the novel focuses on just vicious, awful things done to animals in the name of science. Again, were I familiar with Dr. Moreau, I would have known, but… If you’re seriously concerned, my recommendation would be to read Wells’ novel or a summary of it online, because I suspect Shepherd’s is darker than the original, based on my sole Wells experience.

Juliet Moreau has a lot of sass and she made a delightful main character. I rooted for her along the way, which only made the horror that much more terrifying. Juliet’s father, the infamous Dr. Moreau died, and, eventually, her mother did as well, leaving her to the charity of family. Unfortunately, her extended family turns out not to be at all charitable. Pulling on an old connection of her father’s, she manages to obtain work at King’s College as a maid, sunk low in prospects and station. At the college, Juliet is sexually harassed in the first chapter. I worried about whether she would have enough spunk to be an interesting main character, but, believe me, this girl holds her own once she is not trying to keep her job anymore.

Shepherd also excelled at Dr. Moreau, who fits the mad scientist role to a T. Not really a spoiler because obviously: he’s actually alive. He also very much comes across as a man of the time period. So many historical novels depict most of the characters as rather modern with regards to women’s rights, particularly those appealing to female readers. Dr. Moreau has no such conceptions, believing women are to be married to the men their fathers say, and that they should do nothing but needlework and piano playing until that time comes. Juliet, feisty and clever, struggles against how he wishes her to behave.

Sadly, I was not so fond of her love interests, Montgomery and Edward. Yup, a love triangle strikes again, though not one of the most annoying ones. I will credit Shepherd with not making it insanely obvious which man would be her choice, and with making both of them very obviously flawed, though neither one ranked as swoon-worthy for me. The love triangle reminded me somewhat of that in Griffin’s Masque of the Red Death, though I felt a bit more sure in The Madman’s Daughter which guy would win in the end. However, the ending did surprise me, so bonus points for that.

Do not let the lovely cover fool you: The Madman’s Daughter is horror through and through. Though not for the faint of heart, Shepherd has constructed a well-written and clever retelling, sure to delight fans of creepy tales.

Favorite Quote:

“‘Are you feeling—?’ Montgomery said, but I cut him off.
‘To hell with how I’m feeling.’ I folded my arms, staring at Father. ‘I want an explanation.'”

I am offering up my ARC to one of my readers. Simply fill out THIS FORM (name and email only) and leave a comment on my review by December 26. US/CAN only, as I will be shipping this myself. And, of course, following is always a good idea if you don’t want to miss any giveaways. 😉

51 responses to “Review + Giveaway: The Madman’s Daughter”

  1. Ohhh… 3.5 is good! And I’m not usually a horror fan, but you have me very interested in this one. Of course, I had already added it to my TBR list, but I was a bit unsure of how scary it is. Is it scarier that Anna and GIrl? I’ll still read it, but it’s good to know I should probably do so with the lights on.

    Also, I am totally now going to do the same as you when it comes to writing reviews. I have three reviews to write at the moment. I am sooooo behind!

    • Christina says:

      I haven’t read Anna and Girl… <_< Other than the romance, I really thought this was quite well done. Ha, this is the only method I could ever use or I would never write a thing!

  2. thebookwurrm says:

    New reader here! (Hello!) And yes, I’m not too fond of love triangles either. My reviewing style is very different from yours – perhaps the complete opposite. I wait for a bit for things to get settled before I write mine because I inevitably feel different about the book a few days after I read it than immediately after. I appreciate the review.

  3. Nooo! Love triangle :(. But I am looking for a good creepy tale, and it’s always refreshing, I think, to have a villain who’s worthy to be fought. Plus, yay for the writing!

    (Sorry about the animal deaths :(.)

  4. Babel says:

    Oh, what a pity! I would love to read this book. Great review 🙂
    Kisses from Spain.

  5. I hate animal death, but I really want to read this one. I love me some horror.

  6. Not a huge fan of horror either, but I’ve been making grabby hands at this for months. Me want! But thank you for the warning about animal death. I will make sure my cuddly kitten is nearby so I can snuggle her and feel better. Dodo Bird (actually Shadow, but she’s earned her nickname) cures everything small!

  7. This is on my wishlist and I love horror, while you didn’t flip over it I am glad it was well done and dark!

  8. *flails all over the place* This is officially a must-acquire read for me. I was afraid, as evidenced by my WoW, that this book wouldn’t be as creepy as the cover and synopsis would imply, but now that I know it is creepy and horrifying I am looking forward to this now more than ever! Eeeeeek! A creepy YA book! A creepy YA book!

    And while I definitely don’t enjoy animal deaths, I am generally able to accept them if they somehow are relevant to the progression of the plot. It is still in no way acceptable and will always make me change, but for me there’s a difference in killing animals solely for the purpose of adding to the plot and killing animals as a way to say, “FUCK YOU, ANIMALS!” So yeah.

    And as for the love triangle, eh… Though if I really isn’t predictable and annoying, I might not have a problem with it at all. Right now, in Taken, there is a love triangle, but I am actually really, really satisfied with it because I’m pretty sure that the two love interests and girls as opposed to boys. And one of those girls is kick-ass! And none of the relationships are insta-love! Hooraaaay! (Watch the person I think is going to be a love interest not be a love interest, and the love triangle ends up being two boys one girl. Just watch.)

    I absolutely can’t wait to get my hands on this one, and the fact that it was so horrifying and creepy and you enjoyed it nonetheless, you being the non-horror fan that you are, definitely bodes well for how I will feel about this, given my extreme love for horror. Amazing review, Christina!

    • This comment has been removed by the author.

    • **will always make me CRINGE, not change

      **there’s a difference BETWEEN, not in.

      **though if IT, not I.

      **the two love interests ARE, not and.

      This is what I get for not proof-reading my comments.

    • Christina says:

      Bahahaha, oh Blythe, You crack me up.

      Anyway, I hope this one lives up to your expectations, because I’m not a big horror reader aside from post-apocalyptic/dystopian stuff.

      The animal deaths are definitely necessary to the plot and not just to shock and appall innocent animal lovers, which is why I was able to get through it. Animal death just for funsies makes me SO UPSET.

      Well, at times it felt really predictable and annoying, but the ending was interesting for sure, and there were some twists in it that were new. So.

      I think you should find it interesting at the very least, but I never know with you, Blythe!

  9. I don’t know if I can read this one now. I completely abhor animal deaths. AGH, ORIGIN. Sometimes, though, they are necessary for the plotline, and as long as they have a point, I can deal. I will just prepare myself for this one. Like Ashley says above, I will hug my doggy close.

  10. Aly says:

    I heard about this one during Epic Reads Tea Time & I wanted it then, but your favorite quote makes me want it, a million times more. “To Hell with with what I’m feeling” lol. Love it.

  11. Kayla Beck says:

    I so cannot wait for this book! I luuuuurve H.G. Wells, and I always look forward to being disappointed in the attempts to follow in his footsteps. Oh… Wait… I was thinking about movies. Anywho, I really hope that I like this. (Not that I’ll be surprised if I don’t, picky bitchy that I am.) The animal cruelty may get me though. It bothers me a lot in horror novels (I won’t read about it in any other genre, Old Yeller included), but writing style can get me past nearly anything. Your 3.5 stars gives me a bit of hope. 🙂

  12. Anita Yancey says:

    I loved your review on this book. It sounds wonderful and I’d love to know how the rest of the story goes. Thanks for having the giveaway.

  13. Nori says:

    Love this review! I totally get why you didn’t love it. But, I love the creep factor and love H.G. Wells! Bring on the YA retellings!

  14. GillyB says:

    Horror isn’t mainly my thing, but this book sounds intriguing (I HAVE read Dr. Moreau, so I know what I’m getting into, even if I, too, burst into tears when animals are even slightly injured). I also don’t automatically detest love triangles, so long as they are done right. Your comparison to Masque of the Red Death worries me, since I had a lot of issues with that book, but the writing in this one sounds lovely. I’ll check it out.

    • Christina says:

      Oh hey, well, if you know Moreau, then you are so ready for this. The book itself isn’t like Masque, nor are the characters particularly, but in terms of the love triangle it’s the best comparison I have. Just the love triangle.

  15. becca fowler says:

    Ah! ive been dying to read this book!!! now i want to read it even more! The end of January is tooooooo far away! 🙁

  16. Kirsten! says:

    I’ve been wanting to read this for months! I’m so jealous you got to early 😛
    This sounds really good- the fact that it’s gruesome and creepy just makes me want to read it even more 😀

  17. Erika says:

    This sounds very interesting! I’m glad to hear you enjoy the author’s writing style. This has been on my list to read for awhile. Hope to read it soon. Thanks for your thoughts!

  18. Sandra says:

    I soooo want to read this book! I love YA horror. Yours is actually the first review I’ve seen for this book. Thanks for your review/giveaway.

  19. Jen says:

    I’m not usually a fan of this kind of novel, but sounds really interesting! Thanks for the review.

  20. Jessica R says:

    I’ve been really excited for this one for a while, and even though it doesn’t seem quite as amazing as I had hoped, I’m still looking forward to reading it. I totally get what you mean though about not being really sure how you feel about the book. I’m in the same situation right now with Everneath! Thank you for sharing the review though, it’s good to have an idea going into the book what to expect 🙂

  21. I love retellings and this one sounds rather creepy! Will totally give it a try 🙂 Great review!!

  22. ohdamnbooks says:

    I can’t wait for The Madman’s Daughter to come out. I’m obsessed with books relating to anything close to serial killers and the title The Madman’s Daughter itself caught my attention asap.
    Also, thanks for the giveaway! (:

  23. Brandy says:

    I am so excited about this book!!!

  24. Tia Dalley says:

    I love me some horror and scary moments. I love me some H.G. Wells too, so why am I not reading this right now? I Must….get my hands on it!!

  25. nrlymrtl says:

    I enjoy novels that can maintain a high level of suspense and don’t necessarily rely on action to carry the story along. The fact that this is a reworking of Dr. Moreau makes all the more alluring.

  26. LisaILJ says:

    It sounds really good.

  27. Bea Tejano says:

    I’m not really that into this genre, but I’ve been seeing great reviews about this;)

  28. I used to write review after I read the book but then it happened that sometimes I’m just blabbing, cause my emotions are all over the place. Still that’s good idea cause I have like 10 review to finish.
    Anyway i’ve heard and good and bad things for this one. I think I’ll give it a try 🙂

    • Christina says:

      Ha, this method doesn’t work for everyone, and I know that it weakens my reviews. However, if I waited, I’d drop out of the blogging world for want of motivation. Do what you’ve gotta do, right?

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