Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Readers, I have to say I'm always a bit worried whenever I have a string of fabulous reads. It makes me fearful there will be a string of stinkers to follow! Happily, that has so far not been the case. Today is the release date for Megan Shepherd's debut, The Madman's Daughter, a new teen twist on the 1896 H.G. Wells science fiction classic, The Island of Doctor Moreau.

Believe it or not, I have actually read The Island of Doctor Moreau. My non-required classics reading is definitely lacking in some areas but in 1996 a new film adaptation starring Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando was released and I did a compare/contrast paper between the book and the movie. I honestly can't recall the quality of the film (Mike says it was creepy) and while I'm sure my MTI version of the book is lurking around here somewhere, I can't lay my hands on it at the moment. My point is that I have more than a passing familiarity with the story and was super stoked about the The Madman's Daughter. 

Juliet Moreau's father was once a noted and respected surgeon. Their family was in the upper-crust of respected London society and they wanted for nothing. All of that changed when rumors of the doctor's research started surfacing. With his reputation ruined and his career in tatters, Doctor Moreau abandoned his wife and daughter. That was six years ago. Since then, Juliet's mother has passed, leaving the sixteen-year-old responsible for supporting herself. She's able to find work cleaning at the local university, but is barely scraping by. Juliet's long believed that her father must have died as well. After all, she can't imagine that he would have left them - her - to suffer so. But when some local medical students show up with Doctor Moreau's notes in hand, Juliet is no longer so certain. She tracks the notes to a local inn but instead of her father, she finds his assistant, Montgomery, who admits that Doctor Moreau is in fact alive and well. He insists that it's impossible to bring her to him, but an accident at the university leaves them no choice. Juliet finds herself aboard a ship bound for a remote island off the coast of Australia and while she's always wondered about the truth behind the rumors that ruined her father's career, she is ill prepared for what will be revealed.

Shepherd's debut is a clever and exciting take on Wells's classic and I'd be surprised if it didn't turn a few new readers onto his work.

This is another spectacular cross over for teens and adults -- and for readers who are familiar with The Island of Doctor Moreau. But you don't have to be at all. The Madman's Daughter stands on its own two feet and will still be a fabulous read for anyone who's not read Wells.

I loved the atmosphere of the book - from the dark and dreary corridors of the university to the lush and exotic but dangerous island, it all came to life in Shepherd's rich description. What's more, I really enjoyed how dark The Madman's Daughter is. In terms of subject, it's to be expected, but I wasn't really prepared for how far Shepherd would take it. It was a pleasant surprise and again makes this (in my opinion) appealing to a much broader audience. I always wanted books like this when I was a teen and appreciate it in the reads I enjoy today. I think it's a perfect realization of the story and am so glad that it didn't feel as though the author was holding anything back.

I'd not realized that this was to be the first in a trilogy. The Madman's Daughter does have and ending that can go either way and since I'd not expected any additional books until I started writing this post, I have to say that I thought the ending worked quite well as a stand alone, which makes sense considering it was originally meant to be just that. Given how much I enjoyed this one, I have to say I am definitely excited that there will be two more installments to Juliet's tale.

Shepherd has since been contracted for another trilogy and movie rights have been optioned for The Madman's Daughter as well. With this debut she's definitely made my list of must reads and I can't wait for more!


Elizabeth said...

Very nice review...thanks.

I want to read this book.

NEW BLOG FOLLOWER...nice blog.

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Becky LeJeune said...

Thanks, Elizabeth!

Christina said...

Oooh, I've been wanting to see a review from the perspective of someone that's actually read Moreau. I read the Wikipedia summary afterwards, but that was it. The one Wells book I read I was not a huge fan of. His writing style was, for me, needlessly dense and I didn't find it compelling. His ideas are awesome though, so retell all of his things, authors!

From the summary, it seemed like she did a marvelous job retelling the original, and it seems like you approve as well. She remained true to the source material, while also adding her own magic on top. Very nice!

Apparently the next one is a retelling of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which is interesting. I'll be curious to see how she integrates that.

Becky LeJeune said...

There actually was a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde scenario in MADMAN, Christina. I'm curious to see how it will play out in the sequel as well.