The Madman’s Daughter, by Megan Shepherd, is one crazy book. It’s based on H.G. Wells’ classic novel The Island of Doctor Moreau, which was written in 1896 and is about an insane surgeon who does strange medical experiments on a remote island. In this book Shephard imagines what it would have been like if Dr. Moreau had a daughter. The book opens with 16-year-old Juliet Moreau in London. She has been an orphan since her mother died of consumption; her father abandoned the family years before and is presumed dead. When Juliet was a child her family held a high status due to her father’s reputation as a respected surgeon. Then rumors started to spread about her father doing appalling experiments and amid the growing scandal he and his assistant, Montgomery, disappeared. Juliet has been earning a living by cleaning the operating rooms in the hospital where her father used to work. One night she happens upon some medical students performing experiments on a live rabbit on an operating table, a practice called vivisection. Amid her horror she spots some papers with diagrams in her father’s writing and the students tell her they got them from a doctor staying at a neighboring inn. Juliet travels to the inn and finds Montgomery staying there with a strange beastly-looking man named Balthazar and learns that they are living on an island off the coast of Australia with Juliet’s father and are just in town to get supplies. Juliet convinces the men to take her with them.
Juliet realizes that their “supplies” mostly consist of animals as she meets the men the next morning to board a cargo ship bound for the island. During the voyage Juliet remembers the crush she had on handsome Montgomery when they were children and also becomes drawn to Edward, a mysterious castaway. When they reach the island Juliet finds that her father is much more egotistical and domineering than she remembers and seems to be the leader of an island of very odd beings who seem to be half-human and half-animal. All of these creatures seem to worship her father and he seems to hold sway over the entire island.
Juliet’s journey on this astonishing island is amazing, intriguing, wild, scary, sometimes horrific, with some romance thrown in for good measure. There is so much in this book, but it never feels overstuffed. I can’t believe this is Shepherd’s first novel; I think she is an absolutely brilliant writer. The Madman’s Daughter is the first in a trilogy and the other two books will based on classics as well. I can’t wait to see what Megan Shepherd has in store for us next!