Rating – Did Not Finish
Dead flesh and sharpened scalpels didn’t bother me. I was my father’s daughter, after all. My nightmares were made of darker things.
Megan Shepherd’ The Madman’ Daughter holds an interesting premise. Its the thought that made me want to pick it up and give it a shot. Inspired from H. G. Wells’ classic The Island of Dr. Moreau ( which I haven’t read so far) the book is a gothic dark thriller. Or so the blurb mentions.
The book begins so well, its first chapters are promising and the writing is quite engaging. The way the surroundings are written for each scene, is almost chilling and gives an eerie feeling to the whole thing. Your interest level is also aroused as Juliet’ the book’ female protagonist narrates her tale.
Fallen from privilege as she works as a cleaning maid in a university while trying to constantly ward off a lecherous professor you want to get to know Juliet. Her Story. The scandal that resulted in the downfall of her once prestigious family and the dark secrets held – by her as well as her past unknown to her.
Historical fiction always has held a charm for me. There is a certain enchanting quality, the old world charm as it’s called that fascinates me when I read about the times gone by. It is easy to imagine things in a modern world scenario, and sometimes that’ what takes away certain elements from the story for me. After all in the age of the world-wide web, smses, constant facebooking, skype and what-not things aren’t hard to happen. The world seems shrunken as if truly in an oyster. All of this has become the norm off course. You don’t wonder how to stay in touch with anyone anymore – chats, skype, Facebook all are just a click away. The journey across the world doesn’t take months, you can book a ticket and catch the next possible flight if you want to the most remotest destination of the world. There is certainly no end to what technology holds for us in the future.
But to imagine a world where none of this could happen is riveting.
So take this scenario and throw in the elements – a world without the modern technology as we know it today, an island far-off from civilization, imagine the natives as deformed grotesque creatures. Imagine a girl who doesn’t know the horrors that are in the waiting for her as she reunited with her estranged father. Add an old friend to the mix, spice up the plot with a lucky castaway and you have the perfect dark fantasy in the making. Or so it seems.
Like I said – the premise is interesting, the execution unfortunately after a few chapters slipping.
It doesn’t take a genius to decipher the meaning of the title. Juliet, the heroine as is clear from the title is the daughter of a madman. Once regarded as the best physiologist in London, Dr. Moreau is now an absconding criminal. He has fled England owing to the arrest warrants issued against him and is not interested in returning ever again. His wife and daughter – Evelyn and Juliet, become unfortunate victims of the circumstances that arise out of the situation. They are driven to poverty owing to the scandal as well. Her mother, who was a lady in every sense of the word becomes a mistress to a wealthy old man to sustain their livelihood but unfortunately leaves Juliet orphaned at the age of 14.
As a 10 year old she was too young to understand what caused the downfall of her family exactly, though she perfectly remembers her father and his ways. His choice of tobacco, drinks, the way he dressed or put her to bed and the way he smelled. But most of all she remembers his lab and the screams that emitted from it late at night. As well as sneaking in to learn all that her father prohibits.
In a time considered as too weak to take up science, women were shunned in the medicinal world. Dr. Moreau is no different from the rest of the men, as he keeps his daughter away from his lab however takes his servant – Montgomery under his wing to teach the young boy all he can. It is from Montgomery that Juliet learns what she cannot overhear or see her father teach in biology to the boy.
Now as a 16-year-old Juliet works hard as a maid for a living thinking her father is dead as well, but hoping for the contrary in some part of her mind. And to her surprise and horror her wishes are granted. She finds a piece of evidence that leads her to Montgomery, who went missing all those years ago along with her father and is led straight to her father across the world.
You would think this is where things finally get interesting but you couldn’t be any more wrong.
The book becomes focused on the love triangle more than it does on the horror part. Though it does spring up every now and then but it becomes clear even in the midst of living with monsters and a father who is clearly in need of help, Juliet is more attentive of her love life.
Clearly the focus was shifted on trying to create a romance in midst of all the horror when it should have rather been on the characters trying to I don’t know – stay alive and get the hell away while at it. And maybe fall in love somewhere around that time.
More than the struggle to stay sane and/or alive the characters, well those involved in the love triangle at least, seemed more focused on the conflict of their feelings here. With Juliet getting drawn to Edward’ golden eyes – nope not starting on that one. This will all be sidetracked if I began on that rant; while once again, she is attracted to Montgomery, whom she had a crush on as a little girl. And the boys feeling jealous of each other and trying their best to win the affections of their lady-love.
It is more important for them to win the girl than to stay alive or maintain their sanity. After all what is it but insanity when a man who has been shipwrecked for almost twenty days finally is rescued and instead of trying to thank his lucky stars and not waste their job walks into a tropical island full of horrors to protect an unknown girl just because she appeared to be more beautiful when he was dying. And he knew – even before she did what she was heading into and wanted to save her. Clearly the man knocked loose a few screws when he survived while he had the chance to do so.
The insta-love really doesn’t help the plot as per me and after a while where all I read was about ripped corsets, roaming hands and warm bodies I gave up on the book.
I would have mentioned the bits about the vivisection of this book but it seems in the next parts of this trilogy even the author will conveniently use them only as and when necessary – the gothic part is only a plot device here, not the focus of the book as it should be.
This is in a way a Twilight where there are no vampires and werewolves but creatures out of the norm – and where the hero named Edward, will get the gal in the end even when he doesn’t have fangs, sparkle or can jump across trees or read minds or do anything that is extraordinary except be a hopeless loverboy. Though Montgomery does have a penchant for taking his shirt off as and when he can just like Jacob.