When Juliet Moreau learns that her father, a scientist who has been banished from London after charges of performing unethical experiments, is alive and carrying on his work on a remote island in the South Pacific, she sets off to join him. It is not, however, the happy reunion she would have liked. Her father’s work is still shrouded in mystery and the island is populated by many unusual inhabitants. After a series of violent attacks on the residents of the island, Juliet becomes deeply suspicious of the exact nature of her father’s experiments.
Inspired by H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Madman’s Daughter has an excellent gothic-horror atmosphere. In addition, Shepherd stays true to the feel of early works of science fiction such as Wells’ novels and even Frankenstein. Although the book takes place at the end of the 19th century and the experiments described are quite fantastical, the discussion of ethics versus scientific progress is still incredibly relevant.
It was interesting to try to piece together what is actually happening on the island, and there are several truly scary moments in the novel. The Madman’s Daughter does feature the typical YA love triangle; Juliet tries to choose between her lifelong friend Montgomery, and Edward, a castaway she encounters on the way to the island. This was not my favorite aspect of the story, but overall it did not detract too much from the true strength of the novel: Shepherd’s skill in constructing a suspenseful gothic mystery. The ending will definitely leave the reader eager to begin the sequels, Her Dark Curiosity, and Her Cold Legacy, which are just as compelling.