It is very rare that a second novel, let alone a middle novel in a trilogy, can surpass the first. In this case, not only has Shepherd done it, she’s surpassed an incredibly well written debut novel with an even more creative, intense and harrowing follow-up. It is NOT a place holder as many middle books are in trilogies and I was incredibly impressed.
Whereas H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau inspired The Madman’s Daughter, took her inspiration for this novel from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and I CANNOT wait for the third novel, thankfully it give me time to read the book it’s based on, but I won’t tell you in case you want to read it as it’s revealed in the final pages of this novel.
As with, The Madman’s Daughter, the reader follows Juliet Moreau on her journey of self discovery and potential descent into madness. She’s survived the end of the first book (I won’t say how or what, but yeah) and is now in London with a friend of the family. However, trouble in London begins and Juliet quickly realizes that what’s happening revolves around her! The scandal and chaos of the novel are incredibly well written and go so far as to mask some cheesy dialogue making it more palatable. (Keeping in mind this is a young adult novel.)
I think the main thing I’ve taken away from these stories so far are quotes directly from the main character,
“I’d gone too far, I realized. He’d hurt me, and so I had hurt him. But love wasn’t about swapping wounds, tearing each other apart. We weren’t animals.” (228)
Which is revelatory of all characters’ natures throughout the novel, not just the creations of Dr. Moreau. From the humans to the not so humans every character changes and becomes more or less animal throughout and Shepherd really forces you to question what is right and what is wrong. Shepherd then goes on to say,
“There was still beauty in the world, still innocence.” (386)
Which is a large factor in Juliet’s numerous decisions, both good and bad, throughout the novel. Even though this could come across as trite, it came across as essential. It did so because Juliet is still a young woman (not even 20) and discovering herself and the world.
Aside from this, I was impressed with Shepherd’s not shying away from controversial young adult topics like murder and sexuality. Having a strong female protagonist is one thing, but having a strong female protagonist who is comfortable with (embracing/discovering?) her sexuality/femininity and who is as smart as, if not smarter than, most of the male characters was refreshing.
Recommendation: I would HIGHLY recommend this series. I’m so glad Lizzie recommended the first novel and even happier I read the follow up. Seriously, I can’t WAIT for the final novel and will keep an eye out for it in early 2015 as they’ve been released in early 2013 and 2014.
Opening Line: “The air in my crumbling attic chamber smelled of roses and formaldehyde.”
Closing Line: “To a place where I might lose myself to the same dark madness that had claimed my father.” (Whited out.)