Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd [Review]

Juliet's father was accused of Butchery.  They found the family dog (that really belonged to the servant boy, Montgomery) all cut up and resewn together.  The police decided that her father was a criminal and hunted him.  What had been a life as the daughter of the best surgeon in England quickly upheaved into being a daughter of a mistress, then after the death of her mother, further devolved into work as a scullery maid at King's College.  Juliet handled her fall from grace well until one night, she finds some medical students performing a vivsection of a rabbit... which gives her a lead to perhaps find her father, Henri Moreau, who she had assumed dead.  The chase takes her on an ocean voyage to a remote island full of creatures she has never before encountered, to the once-servant boy she knew as a child, and to a new and exciting gentleman who barely survived a shipwreck.

If you're familiar with H.G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau, (or one of it's movie incarnations) you will figure out many of the plot surprises and twists. If you're not, and this whole concept is new to you, you will probably thoroughly enjoy the plot.  Shepherd gets kudos from me on the embarkation of a stupid fun concept and a decent execution.  My biggest beef with the novel is with the characters (and one specific plot flaw, which I'll point out after the graphic so as not to spoil for those of you who haven't read it).  I couldn't help but feel like many of the relationships were completely contrived and I kept getting frustrated with Juliet and her choices and thought processes.  I enjoyed the pacing, the action, the setting.  I enjoyed the story.  I just couldn't help but feel like the relationships were convenient and manipulated for the accommodation of the plot.  Still.  A fun read and one that you'll probably enjoy if only for the quirkiness of the approach.  

You'll like this one if you're a sci-fi fan.  Think Trekkies, Whovians, and Buffsters.  You'll hate it if you're a lit snob, if you go to a pretentious school and fit in, or if you are currently stuck in the middle of a love triangle.  Also, members of PETA need not apply. Animal cruelty abounds. Those with weak stomachs who can't read about surgery and/or blood?  Not for you.  

Also, this book would be a great pick for a book group.  There is a lot to discuss, both conceptually and linearly, and opinions are bound to differ.
The Madman's Daughter is part of our Summer Reading List:

(Spoilers Inside) The plot beef: Here's the deal.  Dr. Moreau makes Edward while Montgomery is off getting supplies and Juliet in London.  He makes Edward using his new process that doesn't involve animal cruelty, vivisection, or pain. And he's successful.  Yet, when Montgomery gets back, he goes back to his old tried-and-failed method of bone breaking and slicing.  He made a better being than Alice in Edward with the new method.  Wouldn't he keep working on that method with the new animals rather than return to the tried-and-failed method?  It just doesn't jive unless it's a convenient way to show what a villain and heinous person Dr. Moreau is.  It seems like a plot flaw for the sake of character development, and doesn't work either way.  Explain it to me. Tell me what I'm missing.  Please.