The Madman’s Daughter – Megan Shepherd

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The Madman’s Daughter (The Madman’s Daughter #1) by Megan Shepherd is a terrific re-telling of the HG Wells classic, The Island of Dr. Moreau. Shepherd has infused the tale with a young female protagonist whose journey of discovery and horror is central to the telling of this tale.

“…When I cleaned those rooms, late at night after the medical students had gone home to their warm beds, the sound of my hard-bristle brush echoed in the operating theater, down the twisting halls, into the storage spaces where they kept the things of nightmares. Other people’s nightmares, that is. Dead flesh and sharpened scalpels didn’t bother me. I was my father’s daughter, after all. My nightmares were made of darker things…”

Juliet Moreau, once the daughter of London’s premier surgeon, now spends her days as a maid cleaning the dark rooms of the surgical theater. The very rooms were her father once ruled supreme. Ashamed and abandoned by her father’s scandal, Juliet struggles to survive. Her mother dead from poverty and disease, Juliet must find her own way in the world at the age of sixteen. When a happenstance finds her holding a surgical notebook once owned by her father, she begins to follow the providence of the notebook to find the man who abandoned her as a child.

The rumors that her father was performing horrifying experiments involving animals and humans was never proved but the insinuation alone was enough to destroy her life. She is able to track her father to a secluded island and with the help of a childhood friend and her father’s assistant, she is re-united with her father. Only the happiness is short lived as the truth on the island cannot be hidden away and the reality of who her father is comes to light.

“…My stomach threatened to bring up supper. I blinked back angry, frightened tears. Frightened for the beast, and frightened for myself-for inheriting my father’s sick curiosity. I should have run back to my room and forgotten all of it. It wasn’t the blood or the flesh that made me sick, but what he was doing. Evil. He was what they said he was. A madman. A demon.
A monster…”

With the help of her childhood friend, Montgomery and a mysterious castaway, Edward; Juliet searches for a way off the island and away from her father. But now, the situation is even worse than she first thought. For now, one of the creatures her father created is changing and beginning to murder the inhabitants of the island. Soon, it will set it sights on the daughter of the madman that created it.

For fans of the original classic Sci-Fi thriller, The Island of Dr. Moreau, this story itself will hold few surprises in the plot itself. With the exception at the end of who the identity of the murderer is. Shepherd has done a terrific job of presenting Juliet as a woman of her times and not of a modern woman, with a modern woman’s sensibilities and sense of self. Instead we get a true glimpse of the difficulties of Juliet and her life early on. From her ruined reputation and having to witness her mother turning to the only means of feeding herself and her daughter after the scandal and family disgrace. It is the fear of needing to resort to the measure of selling her body that sends a desperate and hopeful Juliet in search of Dr. Moreau.

The Madman’s Daughter is written with the audience of the young adult market in mind as the relationship of burgeoning romance builds between the triangle of Juliet, Montgomery and Edward. But that is all that lands it in this genre as Shepherd keeps true to the original horror of the classic novel. This is still the story of hubris and science ran amok.

A terrific addition to the realm of Wells and the classic, gothic, science fiction novel.

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