The Island of Dr. Moreau was the first HG Wells novel that I read. It was some years ago and, appropriately, I finished it on Halloween. It was a creepy read and at that time, it was the closest that I could get to a sci-fi read. It fascinated me how in 1896, Mr. Wells had thought of those ideas and presented them in a way that felt so modern even if read today.
Now, you can still choose to read that book and/or pick this one up. The Madman’s Daughter is a retelling of sorts of The Island of Dr. Moreau but told in the point of view of Dr. Moreau’s daughter, Juliet. You don’t have to have read the source material to get on with the book; this one is pretty dark enough.
After the scandal that destroyed Mr. Moreau’s career, he disappeared, leaving his colleagues and family to believe that he had died. His wife wasted away while his daughter, Juliet struggled to make ends meet as a maid at King’s College of Medical Research. At 16, it was the only employment that she could get, one step above selling herself on the street. Being a doctor’s daughter and working at a hospital, it wasn’t hard for Juliet to pick up on medical terms and procedures. But being a doctor was viewed as a man’s job, no place for a penniless girl.
Her father’s scandal pretty much destroyed all prospects. But she never gave up. She knew in her heart that her father was not dead, only in hiding from his malicious colleagues. Until one day, she comes across someone from her past. Montgomery, someone from the original HG Wells work, used to be one of the Moreau’s servants and Juliet’s friend from childhood. With nothing left for her in the city, she goes with Montgomery to a remote island where she realizes that her father is still alive. Along the way, the encounter Edward, a survivor from another shipwreck.
On the island, Juliet is reunited with her father but nothing was the same. Except the secrecy that shrouds his experiments. The people of the island don’t seem normal either. It was like the abnormals of the world were all placed on that one island to serve Dr. Moreau. Juliet, as much as she loves her father, knows that he is not a saint. He had done things that led to his disgrace. Soon, Juliet realizes that she needs to get off the island even if it meant leaving her father for good.
There are so many things done right in this book. First, the love triangle. The thing between Juliet, Montgomery, and Edward had tension, angst, and hostility. I thought it was predictable but that was just my jaded view of this trope talking. There was something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on until the very end of the book where it all came together. The author successfully mislead me up to the very end. A lot of these darker, gothic YA novels try to look smart and trick you that there was more than what is already written but a reader’s instincts are better than that. But this one… oh man, it kept me guessing at every turn. I absolutely LOVED the twist.
Even the character-naming was genius. Although if I tell you how it was done, I might give important stuff away. Her method of naming the characters was crucial to the story as a whole. It’s so complex yet simple if you make sense of it.
It also did the “strong female character” so well. One might think, “Oh, Katniss,” but at times, Katniss Everdeen was an emotionless and naive bag of rocks. Juliet is super smart, full of emotion, practical, and passionate. Katniss is driven by a revolution while Juliet is spurred on by the sheer will to survive and to find the truth. I really loved her.
This reminded me of Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. Both books have the same no nonsense female characters who took control of the whole book just by themselves and the men in the book actually took after her. I cannot wait to read the next one.