Review: The Madman's Daughter / Author: Megan Shepherd / Publisher: Harper Voyager / Release Date: Out Now
The Madman's Daughter is Megan Shepherd's debut novel. Aimed at young adults, it's the first in a trilogy of stories inspired by Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Frankenstein and, in this case, The Island of Doctor Moreau.
Juliet Moreau is born into a privileged family, and with the highly regraded Doctor Moreau as a father she leads a carefree life. But her world is shattered when rumours of unethical operations and strange vivisection taint her father's reputation. Soon he is hounded out of London, leaving Juliet and her mother to fend for themselves, and when her mother passes away, Juliet is left alone and friendless. Gone is her life of high fashion and elegance; her new life involves sleeping in a room with a number of other girls and cleaning the medical theatres of Kings College to pay her way.
One night she comes across some students conducting a horrendous vivisection and there she finds paperwork that she knows for certain comes from her father. She follows the paper trail that leads back to a childhood friend she thought was dead, who holds the secrets of her father's whereabouts.
A long and treacherous boat ride later and Juliet finds her father alive and well, living on his own island. The strange, Neanderthal natives that live there leave her unnerved but not scared. Only when she finds out the truth about her father does she really know what fear is. But his blood runs in her veins, so can she really be sure that the madness that pushes him, isn't also alive and well in her?
This modern retelling of The Island of Doctor Moreau is aimed at young adults looking for some very lighthearted entertainment. The plot jumps along at engrossing pace and there are some brilliantly tense scenes on the island when Juliet is being hunted. The first half of the book does suffer from some jarring repetition along the 'I wanted to rip off my corset' lines and there are a few sentences that readers will struggle to find any meaning in. For example 'The thrill made my blood flow backward' – er, is that good or bad? And, while most young adult novels pride themselves on incredibly strong female characters, Juliet is a tad lacking. At one point she is literally running for her life, only to bump into one of her love interests and be instantly overcome with girlish flirting. This novel will appeal to younger teens but does not quite manage to cross over into adult territory.