The Madman's Daughter

The Madman's Daughter - Megan Shepherd

4.25 stars

Their bodies blocked the table, but the metallic smell of fresh blood reached me, making my head spin…Memories of my father flooded me. As a surgeon, blood had been his medium like ink to a writer. Our fortune had been built on blood, the acrid odor infused into the very bricks of our house, the clothes that we wore.
To me, blood smelled like home.

I'm not going to go very in-depth in this review, I feel that plenty of people have already successfully done that. So if you are wanting something that is less quotey and more about the actual plot, I suggest looking at
Khanh’s review
who, as usual, does an excellent job. This is also pretty spoilery, although it's not really detailed.

There are certainly elements of horror strewn throughout this book.

The swinging kerosene lamp above the table lit up the tool in his hand. A dented old bone saw, rusted and flaking. A butcher’s tool, not a surgeon’s. I noted this calmly, wondering what a bone saw was doing in my father’s old laboratory.

It is at once both horrific and beautiful.

Beneath the steel dress I was naked, and I covered myself with my hands, still trembling with the feeling of air and freedom and something else, earthy and corporeal. It was as if I’d woken from a harsh London night into an Italian painting, where the world was lush and warm and passionate.

This is not a book for the faint of heart. This is bloody, gory, and quite descriptive in its imaginings and the inventive creations of Juliet’s father.

It wasn’t just my curiosity, or my fascination with anatomy, or how I could unhesitatingly chop a rabbit’s head off with an ax when a roomful of boys couldn’t. Those things were all symptoms of the same sickness–a kind of madness inherited from my father. It was a dangerous pull in my gut drawing me toward the dark possibilities of science, toward the thin line between life and death, toward the animal impulses hidden behind a corset and a smile.

Have no doubt, vivisection is a very prevalent part of the story, but the true horror runs deeper than that.

I closed my eyes and replayed the scene from the laboratory. The twisted limbs, just like Balthazar and the rest of the islanders. All the caged animals. My head had suspected the connection, even though my heart didn’t want to believe it: Father might be creating things–creatures–out of vivisected animals.

Juliet is pulled in many directions throughout the course of the book, one of which being how she is both terrified of and yet drawn toward her father's work.

I had so many questions, but the rush of them caught in my throat. How long did the grafting take to set? Why did he choose the human form? What did a heart split open and sewn back together look like? I shocked myself with my hunger to know.

Through time, the mystery of the island and her father's experiments unfold, showing her the truth behind the islanders

“Treatments?” I asked.
“Yes, treatments…We give them a serum to keep the tissue from rejecting its new form. Without it they revert to their original state…”

and hinting at her own dark past

“It’s more than that,” I said. “I feel odd sometimes. Like there’s something not entirely right about me, as if I’ve inherited some of Father’s madness. Only now I wonder if it’s something more….”

This book has plenty of adventure and action, countless moments that show Juliet to be smart and calculating, a strong heroine who does not allow her fear to overpower her.

Panic would get me nowhere. I needed my head...Strike something essential but soft, easy to damage with the shears. His abdomen. No–his eyes. I could get away easier from a blind attacker.
Somewhere beneath the fear, there was a thrill. I could almost taste it, like a chimney ash. In the next minute, I might blind a man with my own hands. It made me feel savage and powerful.

The developing romance Juliet experiences, love triangle that it is, forms just slowly enough to feel it is real. It is a tangible thing, oh so tangible, and yet despite how present the romance is, Edward on one side

I smiled. The scar down his face was now only a whisper of pain, reminding me of the first time I’d seen [Edward], sunburned and beaten by waves and straddling the line between the living and the dead. I hadn’t thought him handsome at the time, and yet the way he wore the bruises had intrigued me. Not complaining, not vain, but like they were an inescapable part of him.

and Montgomery on the other,

Edward had every right to feel hurt, but hadn’t I also a right to care about Montgomery? He’d been with me forever, tucked into the hollows of my heart, lodged like a precious secret they’d have to cut out of me.

the romance is definitely not the only factor driving the plot of the book. Undeniably there and impossible to miss, but Shepherd is always quick to remind you of the horrific island and the mystery that shrouds them all.

I had an overwhelming feeling that the island wanted to sink its thorns into us, to bind us to this place.

Overall this was a good read, especially for the month of October.

For a breath, the world seemed to freeze. And then the clouds rolled again, the wind howled again. I realized that he had charmed me, just like he charmed everyone. I’d thought I was so clever. I thought I could see past his manipulations. But I’d only heard what I wanted to.
He’d never said the accusations were untrue. Just unfair.