Juliet Moreau must make a meagre living scrubbing the halls of King’s College. She was once part of a respectable family until the scandal broke. Her father, a doctor, was suspected of horrific experiments on animals and fled the city. Juliet had long suspected him dead. The discovery of her childhood friend and servant, Montgomery, in a London inn, brings with it news of her father’s fate; living on a tropical island with no desire to reconnect with his daughter. When desperate times call for desperate measures, she begs Montgomery to take her back to the island.

The Madman’s Daughter is a retelling of The Island of Doctor Moreau from the perspective of his daughter and brings the story to a new audience. The narrative voice is perfectly balanced to reflect both the story’s gothic heritage and the tone of a young, yet modern for her time, lady. I’ve not read H.G. Wells’ novel but I have seen the 70s film a few times. Despite its derivative nature, I didn’t find it predictable in the slightest. Where one mystery is solved, another creeps into view and it’s a compelling and atmospheric read right to the very end.

For those not familiar with the original, I don’t want to spoil it too much. The questions of the ethics of medical research are still ones that are asked of today. In true science fiction fashion, both tellings ask the question, “How far is too far?” Juliet is not an objective observer; she truly wants to see the good in her father, to know that the blood of a madman isn’t in her veins. Whilst she is often afraid, she sees good in people, but she also is horrified by cruelty. Nothing is black and white in this world.

There an awful lot of to-ing and thro-ing between the two love interests, however we have to remember it’s set in a time when unmarried women just weren’t allowed to be friends with the opposite sex. So of course she has to consider marriage potential every time she meets a man she likes the company of. However there were also some lovely moments of friendship between herself and the island inhabitants. Overcoming her instinctual fear and trying to decide what’s right, can become a very difficult thing indeed.

I did spy somewhere that this was the first in a series. It’s perfectly complete as a standalone novel and I’d be hesitant to drag the story out. However I would love to revisit the island some time, so I will keep my beady eyes out for a second book if it happens.

The Madman’s Daughter is published by Harper Voyager and will be available in paperback and ebook editions from 11th April 2013. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ Book Nerd Reviews | No More Grumpy Bookseller
Birth of a New Witch

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.