Her Dark Curiosity: The Madman's Daughter, Book 2

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Her Dark Curiosity: The Madman's Daughter, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Horror-heavy sequel adds Jekyll and Hyde homage.

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age 15+
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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Some characters and themes from The Madman's Daughter that borrow from H.G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau continue here. Added is an homage to Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a novella written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886. Juliet Moreau attempts many scientific experiments, with details of chemical processes mixed in. The science of combining animals with human traits is borrowed from H.G. Wells' original ideas from 1896, so it's pretty flawed. The way she grafts rosebushes as a side job, however, is really used. The story explores a woman's place (and highly restrictive clothing) in the Victorian era; the many London neighborhoods mentioned could easily be​ found on a map.

Positive Messages

Carried over from the first novel 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? New to this sequel: a look at sensationalistic news as a serial killer rampages through London.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Juliet spends a lot of the book feeling guilty, first for stealing from and deceiving her guardian, then for being caught in a love triangle. She's also guilty of harboring someone -- Edward -- who can and will kill. But in the end she does find a way to protect others without regard for her own safety.

Violence

A bloody climactic scene involves gunshots and gory animal maulings that injure and kill; one character burns alive. A serial killer claws bodies of victims and leaves a bloody flower as a calling card. Juliet sees the aftermaths of two murders and visits a morgue secretly to examine the bodies, noticing on one victim "gaping tears in her chest, almost perfectly slicing her in the middle." Edward mentions trying to take his own life many times to stop his animal half from emerging and killing. Juliet imagines in detail how she'd slice up her beloved dog so she could use his pancreas in a serum.  A couple of characters close to Juliet are killed, and one is gravely injured. Juliet stitches up cuts with only whiskey as anesthesia. There's a kidnapping and an escape, talk of gruesome animal experiments, and a view of a lab with live experimental creatures suspended in liquid. Many flashbacks to Juliet aiding in the killing of her father.

Sex

Juliet has sex with one suitor, but the description sticks to undressing and bare skin. She falls asleep with another suitor after kissing him. It's mentioned that Juliet's mother "pleased men for money" when Juliet was little.

Language

"Blowhards," blasted," and "damn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Plenty of wine drinking at dinner and afterward by older adults and Juliet, who's still a teen. Partygoers consume champagne. Elizabeth, an adult, laces tea with gin and drinks the gin straight when stressed. Older men smoke cigars socially.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Her Dark Curiosity, the sequel to The Madman's Daughter, is part of a horror-heavy sci-fi series. Continuing some of Book 1's themes of animal-human experimentation based on the H.G. Wells classic The Island of Doctor Moreau, it adds an homage to the Robert Louis Stevenson novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Now a serial killer -- one of Juliet's father's creations -- is rampaging through the city of London. He claws his victims to death; Juliet visits a morgue secretly for a closer look at the damage. The climax is gorier than the first book's, with wild animals ripping apart some humans, gunshots fired, and one man burning alive. So, yes, this is heavy on the horror like the first novel is. Also similar to the first, this has compelling themes of ethics in science. For example, when does scientific discovery cross a line? Characters drink and smoke, with mentions of hard liquor; Juliet, a teen, seems to stick to wine with dinner. The sexual content is more mature than it is in Book 1: Juliet sleeps with one suitor, though it's barely described, and kisses another before falling asleep with him. 

User Reviews

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Adult Written byvictorianmermaid August 6, 2015

Love this book series

If you have a mature teen reader who is interested in reading something creepy and filled with horror, along with heavy romance, the book series for them. It do... Continue reading

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What's the story?

After Juliet is jilted by Montgomery and set adrift in the Pacific, she starts her life afresh in London as the charge of Professor Von Stein, an old colleague of Juliet's father, the very one who supposedly turned Dr. Moreau in for his unethical animal experimentation. But though Juliet is a proper Victorian lady out in society again, she's still a girl with a big secret: The animal organs that saved her life as a baby are failing, and the serum she's taken her whole life now barely keeps the shaking and fainting spells at bay. So she finds a low-rent apartment, buys a chemistry set and fresh animal organs from the market, and starts to work on fixing the serum. She's so caught up in her work that it isn't until she's at the butcher one day that she sees her bloody organs wrapped in an even bloodier newspaper story: A serial killer is on the loose in London. The Wolf of Whitechapel, they call him. Not only does the Wolf claw his victims to death in a way Juliet remembers vividly, she also knows the names of the victims. Each had wronged her in some way. Was Juliet really the only one who escaped the island?

Is it any good?

What a great set-up: Juliet's back in London, but she's not alone; and Edward's not alone in his body -- Mr. Jekyll is what he calls himself in polite society. Ha. Even better, absolutely no one is who he or she seems to be, except probably Juliet's guardian and her friend Lucy.

The first two-thirds of HER DARK CURIOSITY keep the surprises coming. The last third -- well, except for a rousing, gory climax, there's a lot weighing it down. Too much talk about experiments and codes that sound pretty far-fetched; too much of Juliet brooding, feeling guilty about her love life, and hating her darker nature; and too much detail about the secret, sinister organization she's fighting against. And to end it, there's a pretty hasty set-up for the third book, which seems like a big departure from the first two. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the classic novels the Madman's Daughter series references. What did you know about The Island of Doctor Moreau before reading the series? What about Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? 

  • How does Victorian London react to having a serial killer in its midst? How does the press handle it?

  • What do you think of the series so far? Will you keep reading? 

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