A Cold Legacy: The Madman's Daughter, Book 3

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
A Cold Legacy: The Madman's Daughter, Book 3 Book Poster Image
High body count, low believability in Frankenstein homage.

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age 15+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The first two books in the series were homages to H.G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau and Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A few characters and themes from books 1 and 2 carry through. A Cold Legacy is an homage to Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein and often references Dr. Frankenstein, his creature, and his work. There are a number of medical procedures faintly described that, of course, weren't possible back then (shortly before the 20th century) and are still not possible now. 

Positive Messages

Carried over from the first two novels are some science-vs.-ethics questions: Can science go too far? When does it cross a line into playing God? Also, what knowledge is dangerous in the wrong hands? Most important to this sequel: How much do blood ties matter, and how much should we let them shape our identities?

Positive Role Models & Representations

Juliet continues to be a woman in the man's world of England before the 20th century who craves scientific knowledge and medical skill. And when she decides to pursue her passion for it, she's relentless, often disregarding her moral compass entirely. She makes a decision to bring someone back to life half because it's someone she and her friend Lucy care about and half because she's dying of curiosity about Frankenstein's work. 


Three people close to Juliet die painful deaths: through fire, gunshot, and getting a heart ripped out. Crisp bodies and blood loss described. A surgery to bring someone back to life is described in some gory detail -- mostly the part about another head that has to be sawed off, then opened; pus-filled tissue being pulled out; and a heart needing to be reattached. Other humans and horses die from a carriage accident, gunshots, electrocution, and the plague (a bunch of bodies are left in the cellar until the spring, when the ground will be soft enough to bury them). A lightning rod is pushed through a man's chest. Juliet has thoughts of suicide by slitting her wrists. A girl describes losing both her hands in a wood-chipping accident before she gets new hands. We find out later she cut her hands off on purpose. Another girl loses an eye and gets a new one. Many mentions that Juliet's responsible for the bloody deaths of three people in London in Book 2. Some mutilation of dead bodies in the name of scientific study. A reminder that Frankenstein killed his bride-to-be on his wedding night. 


Wedding-night sex not described, plus a few kisses. Talk of Juliet's mother not being faithful to her father.


Rare and not stronger than "hell," "blast," and "damn."


Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Elizabeth, an adult, is always drinking gin. Juliet -- not quite of age by modern standards -- drinks gin and brandy. A girl smokes at a bonfire where cider's passed around. Talk that the vicar can't perform the marriage ceremony because he's had too much to drink.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Cold Legacy, the last book in the Madman's Daughter trilogy, is part of a horror-heavy sci-fi series. Each book pays homage to classic sci-fi books. Here the characters move into Dr. Frankenstein's old manor a few generations later. Of course the main character, Juliet, is tempted to bring people back from the dead -- making this a great opportunity for mature readers to contemplate medical ethics. A few gory scenes describe sawing off the head of a corpse before sawing it open, pulling out a pus-filled organ, and reattaching a heart. Plenty more people die, including three close to Juliet, through fire, gunshot, and a heart getting ripped out. Other characters are shot, electrocuted, and killed by the plague. Other mature content includes wedding-night sex that isn't described and the drinking of gin and brandy.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byvictorianmermaid August 6, 2015

Loved it

I loved this series. It was very interesting how Shepherd tried in Frankenstein. Some violence and some mild romance. Great read.

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What's the story?

After the murders of cruel scientists in London, Juliet needed to disappear in a hurry. The police and some very powerful men who consider themselves above the law will be after her in no time -- especially when they see she's protecting Edward, a creation of her late father, Dr. Moreau, whose diseased brain made him into a notorious serial killer in London. The carriage races away from London with Edward, sick and chained up for everyone's safety; Juliet's fiancé, Montgomery; her friend Lucy; and Balthazar, Juliet's half-animal servant. It's no wonder when they arrive at their friend Elizabeth's isolated manor with a legitimate letter of introduction that the staff is still reluctant to take them in. It's a bad time for introductions anyway: Some villagers just died of the plague, and the staff is hosting the mass funeral in the cellar. And that's not the strangest thing to happen in Juliet's new refuge: Only girls attend school, a boy with one all-white eye roams the secret passageways with a rat on his shoulder, and high up in the locked tower Juliet's friend Elizabeth protects the secrets of her ancestor, one Victor Frankenstein.

Is it any good?

The scope and ambition of the Madman's Daughter trilogy is quite impressive. Author Megan Shepherd had the burden of stringing the heart and soul of three sci-fi classics together using the same main characters. And she had to make those characters meld into each literary world. In A COLD LEGACY, Shepherd introduces the world of Frankenstein's old digs wonderfully. The manor, the flooded moors, all the secret passageways, and the strange people who live there will make the reader dive right into the story. 

The problem lies in how the characters from the other two Madman books fit in here. The love story between Juliet and Montgomery already feels played out, making Montgomery add little to the story. Then Juliet sneaks around him to toy with secret experiments (ones she completes so quickly -- heart and brain surgery and a transplant in only a few hours, whoa!) and seems suddenly fanatical again just because she has a crazy-scientist father. She doesn't care what her mentor or her future husband will think at all. Not only is three-hour massive surgery rather unbelievable, so is Juliet's moral recovery. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about medical ethics. If you had the tools, would you want to bring someone back from the dead? Would that person want to come back?

  • Juliet learns a family secret near the end of the book. How does it change her perspective on who she really is? How much do you think your parents shape whom you'll become?

  • Have you read Frankenstein? If so, how does A Cold Legacy compare? If not, does this book make you want to read it?

Book details

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For kids who love sci-fi and horror

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