Based generally on the story of The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells, The Madman's Daughter introduces a new character into the mix, Dr. Moreau’s daughter Juliet, and tells the entire story from her point of view. Abandoned by her father when he fled London in disgrace, Juliet’s privileged life quickly crumbles, especially after the death of her mother. Several years later, she discovers that her father is not dead, as she had thought, but now lives on a remote island. Through sheer force of will, Juliet secures passage to the island, there to discover that her father has continued and expanded on the experiments that forced him out of England.
Megan Shepherd’s The Madman’s Daughter is a remarkable debut novel. The prose is beautifully constructed and executed. The settings and characters are vividly described without being overdone. The customs, technology, and language all appear to have been carefully researched, and are presented as part of the natural flow of the text, without excessive elaboration that would detract from the story. The plot contains both major and subtle twists that keep the reader engaged and trying to guess what might come next.
For me, the only thing I found overdone was Juliet’s repeated introspection over her fluctuating romantic feelings. But then, I have never been a fan of romance; I can easily see others enjoying those elements as well.
The Madman’s Daughter is the first of a trilogy, but is complete in itself, and while it leaves the reader wanting more, it did not create for me any feeling of being cheated by leaving too many questions hanging.
Overall, an excellent book and highly recommended.