Balzer + Bray
January 29, 2013
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Presumed dead, Juliet's father disappeared never standing trial for his crimes. Filled with her childhood memories of a caring father, Juliet has never entirely believed the tales of his crimes. Despite his absence and the hardship it has caused her, when possible evidence of not only the doctor's mortality, but nearness appears, Juliet has no choice to follow-up.
Who and what she finds is more than shocking.
More than a little timely, as well.
When the meager life Juliet has managed to scrape together for herself threatens to fall apart, knocking her even farther down the social ladder, there is an option for her.
To find her answers, Juliet will travel to a remote island and learn more about herself, her father, his supposed crimes, and the actual island than she ever could have expected.
I did not know all of what The Madman's Daughter was about before I started reading. I knew it was a Gothic set in the nineteenth century. Then it started with these two lines:
"The basement hallways in King's College of Medical Research were dark, even in the daytime.
At night they were like a grave."
While I'm sure you can find better opening lines, I'm particularly fond of these. Pair them with the title and the cover and knowing that Juliet is the daughter of a man who used to be England's top surgeon and now, presumed dead, is accused of horrible crimes -- and she's a cleaning the Medical College?
It makes for a story that I really, really enjoyed discovering as I read it. I loved not knowing the twists and turns as they came. Even not knowing the big plot points ahead of time was really fantastic. (Which is why there are less in my synopsis than the publisher one, but it is available on Goodreads.)
One of the things that made this such an absolute stand-out novel for me was the way author Megan Shepherd is able to transport a reader to the world she has created. Yes, a lot of novels do use more descriptors, are more elaborate in the way they set up scenes, but not for a better end result.
It has been a long, long, long time (if ever) since I have read something that so fully draws you into the story that when you stop reading, it's a surprise to see your own surroundings and not those of which you were just reading. It feels like you should look up and see the island all around you.
Not only that, other scenes between characters feel so real, so charged that it draws you in and you can picture it -- a bunch of adjectives or no.
It's also great that the 'Victorian sensibilities' aren't forgotten. Little things come up at different points i the story that seem to keep it in the time period and not only because of their clothing and lack of electricity. I really appreciated the way the era effected the story and characters.
While some of the revelations towards the end were not wholly unexpected, others were more surprising and they, along with the character development, character interactions and tension made the last third of the book my favorite.
I'm excited to read numbers two and three in this series. (I am also now interested in The Island of Dr Moreau by H.G. Wells which inspired this novel, a story I hadn't given much thought to before, honestly.)
review copy received from publisher -- thank you