The Madman's Daughter is based on the novel The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. This main character in this version is the young Juliet Moreau, daughter of the aforementioned 'madman'. I confess, I have never read the original, but having seen the two most recent movie adaptations, I am passingly familiar with the story and the setting so was looking forward to this book.
Juliet Moreau is a young girl living in Victorian England. Juliet has been forced to live a life of drudgery ever since the scandal of her father's inhumane and cruel experiments forced him to flee England, never to return. Juliet does not know what happened to her father, only hearing vague rumours of his demise. Juliet has been living a meagre existence, trying to survive amidst the scorn and contempt of her former peers, the only legacy her father has left her with. Only one step away from selling her body on the streets of London, Juliet's life is a miserable one, one she despairs of ever escaping from.
One night though, everything changes for Juliet. After sneaking after hours into the University where she works as a cleaner, Juliet stumbles into a brutal experiment being conducted by some of the medical students. Recognising her father's telltale handiwork, she follows a set of clues which eventually lead her to Montgomery James, her childhood friend and former servant. Realising that Montgomery knows where her father is, Juliet convinces Montgomery to take her with him, back to her father, who has been living on an Island on the other side of the world. Juliet travel with Montgomery by ship but before they reach the Island they come across a young man called Edward, a survivor from a shipwreck who has been floating on a dinghy, lost at sea since his ship went down.
It is when they reach this Island that the story really starts to pick up. What has her father being doing on this Island out in the middle of nowhere - is there any truth to the vile accusations against him back in London? Just what are the strange and somewhat deformed Islanders? Who is the mysterious Edward and what secret is he keeping? And just who or what is responsible for the string of vicious murders that have started happening? Juliet is determined to find the answers to these questions, all the while contending with her fractious relationship with her father, and fighting her attraction to two very different young men.
I really enjoyed this book. Juliet was an interesting main character, one who was easy to relate to despite the doubts she held about herself. Juliet shares some of her father's fascination for science, and she is constantly at war with herself over it. She feels that she should not have this draw to his inhumane practices but her logical and analytical side finds what he is undertaking fascinating. However, she also feels a sense of horror as well, which sets up an interesting dichotomy.
I liked the character of Montgomery quite a bit and could see why Juliet was drawn to him but I have to admit, the love triangle element was a bit wearing. It seems to be the staple of a lot of ya fiction, but I am starting to find love triangles irritating and an unnecessary addition. Although both Montgomery and Edward were interesting characters, I would have preferred to not have them pitted against each other as possible love interests for Juliet. The story really didn't need it and I hate it when a main character spends far too much time waffling being one potential suitor to the other. It diminished Juliet's character slightly for me, which was a shame because I really think she was a strong and capable heroine in her own right.
Apart from the dreaded love triangle though, this was a strong debut from Megan Shepherd. Creepy and atmospheric, this gothic tale of the macabre was an engrossing read. The Island itself was suitably horrific, and there was an ever-present feeling of dread and tension throughout, even when things seemed to be normal.
The book was bogged down slightly by some slow parts but when it got going it didn't halt to let me catch my breath and the ending...well let's just say there were some major twists and turns and the ending itself was jaw-droppingly good. Suffice it to say I cannot wait to read the next instalment.
Overall, the story was sufficiently creepy and tense. The characters, especially Juliet, were well drawn and interesting. The only thing that is stopping me from giving this book five stars is the inclusion of the love triangle. However, I have high hopes for book two!