The Madman's Daughter

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Madman's Daughter Book Poster Image
Extra horror, romance in "Island of Dr. Moreau" update.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Much of The Madman's Daughter is based on The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, written in 1896. The science of combining animals with humans is pretty flawed, as it is in the original novel, but it's mixed with some facts about human and animal anatomy. There's also a connection to Shakespeare's plays.

Positive Messages

As in The Island of Doctor Moreau, this book ponders many tough questions. Can scientific knowledge cross a line into playing God? What makes a human human? What instincts cannot be driven out of humans and animals? How does cruelty and pain change a victim?

Positive Role Models & Representations

Everyone in The Madman's Daughter is under the thumb of a madman and handles it differently. Juliet lashes out and defies her father. Montgomery makes up for his hand in the experiments by caring for the island's inhabitants. Edward plans his escape.


A few rather gruesome moments: Juliet gets a through-a-keyhole view of a vivisection where no anesthesia is used, and creatures are murdered around the island -- Juliet sees one with its jaw ripped off. A couple key characters die. A near-rape ends in Juliet cutting her attacker, and there's a near-drowning after someone is pushed into the water, a creature's tongue is ripped out, a building catches fire, and Juliet is hit by her father, and there's a mention that Juliet's mother died of consumption, a raging storm at sea, and constant descriptions of malformed animal-human creatures. Talk of the pain inflicted on Dr. Moreau's test subjects and how they scream through the night during procedures; Dr. Moreau says the pain makes them more docile in the end.


Some passionate kisses and undressing in front of the opposite sex. Talk of Montgomery visiting a prostitute twice while in London and Juliet seeing whores on the street. Juliet's mother sleeps with a benefactor to pay the bills when her husband disappears.


Handfuls of "damn," "hell," and "goddamn," plus one "goddamned bastard."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Hard liquor is consumed by students in London and Juliet on the island. Dr. Moreau smokes tobacco. A ship captain is always drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Madman's Daughter is the first in a sci-fi series that's heavy on the horror. Based somewhat on the 1896 H.G. Wells classic The Island of Doctor Moreau, this book supposes the mad doctor who plays God by creating more human-like animals has a teen daughter who leaves London to find his isolated island to see if the rumors of his madness are true. They are, of course, leading to some gruesome moments such as a keyhole-view of a vivisection (the creature isn't anesthetized and screams all night) and discoveries of murders around the island; one islander has her jaw ripped away. There are many other tense moments, especially as Juliet feels hunted by the mystery creature behind the killings. All other content is consistently mature. Juliet drinks brandy in one scene and exchanges some passionate kisses with a bit of undressing mixed in. Language only gets as bad as calling Dr. Moreau a "goddamned bastard." Readers can't help but ponder some of The Madman's Daughter's themes, the same as in the H.G. Wells classic: Can scientific knowledge cross a line into playing God? What makes a human human? What instincts cannot be driven out of humans and animals? How does cruelty and pain change a victim?

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bydragon.elf July 6, 2016

Gripping horror with questions about humanity

Based on The Island of Dr. Moreau...a mad scientist who experiments with dissections and organ transplants. I have to admit that although the idea is terribly d... Continue reading
Adult Written bycaitlind218 June 6, 2016
It was a great book if you have a big imagination, like me. Although the author could have put more detail into scenes and characters, visualizing what the char... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bySmartyOwl January 21, 2020


This book is amazing. Even through there are inappropriate parts, mature 11 and 12 year olds will enjoy the book. It holds your breath till the last second.

What's the story?

Juliet Moreau is desperate to leave London. Abandoned years ago by her father after he was maligned by the medical community, then by her mother when she succumbed to consumption, Juliet works scrubbing blood off medical building floors. Late one night she catches some medical students conducting a secret vivisection with one of her father's stolen papers, then traces its origins to a shady London inn. There she's shocked to find her childhood servant Montgomery. He's brought a giant malformed attendant with him to pick up supplies before heading back to the Pacific and back to her father. She begs to go along. Maybe she can dispel the rumors of his madness once and for all. But, after a harrowing journey, she arrives on her father's island, and his crimes and madness are worse than she could have imagined. But for her strong connection to Montgomery and Edward, a handsome and mysterious shipwreck survivor, Juliet would be going mad herself.

Is it any good?

Even if readers are not huge fans of gothic horror or the H.G. Wells sci-fi classic THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER borrows from, it's hard to put this book down. Sure, author Megan Shepherd keeps the science of making humans out of animals sound kind of hokey. (Hey, why not introduce the idea of DNA as in the 1996 movie version of The Island of Doctor Moreau?) Plus, Juliet Moreau's mood swings may grate on readers after a while. (Who really likes her: Edward? Montgomery? Is she going mad like her father? When will she have another fit, hit her father, and break things?)

Hokey science aside -- man, can this story take a surprising turn. And then another. The suspense ratchets up early and doesn't let up; there are plenty of dark mysteries to uncover as the story moves forward. For starters, who or what is hunting them in the jungle, creeping into the doctor's compound? Shepherd throws together some fantastic nail-biter scenes, making The Madman's Daughter well worth another trip to H.G. Wells' bizarre and creepy island.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the H.G. Wells' classic The Island of Doctor Moreau (find a good synopsis online if needed). What did author Megan Shepherd keep the same? What did she change?

  • The ethical questions from the H.G. Wells book remain the same, especially in this age of DNA mapping and cloning. Do you think there are times that science crosses a line?

  • One thing this book adds in heavy doses: romance. Which suitor of Juliet's were you rooting for? Why? Where do you think the series -- and the romance -- go from here? Will you read the next book?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love horror and science fiction

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