Her Dark Curiosity
Author: Megan Shepherd
Release: January 28th 2014
Genre: Historical, Mystery, Horror, YA
#2 in the Madman's Daughter trilogy
To defeat the darkness, she must first embrace it.
Months have passed since Juliet Moreau returned to civilization after escaping her father's island—and the secrets she left behind. Now, back in London once more, she is rebuilding the life she once knew and trying to forget Dr. Moreau’s horrific legacy—though someone, or something, hasn’t forgotten her.
As people close to Juliet fall victim one by one to a murderer who leaves a macabre calling card of three clawlike slashes, Juliet fears one of her father’s creations may have also escaped the island. She is determined to find the killer before Scotland Yard does, though it means awakening sides of herself she had thought long banished, and facing loves from her past she never expected to see again.
As Juliet strives to stop a killer while searching for a serum to cure her own worsening illness, she finds herself once more in the midst of a world of scandal and danger. Her heart torn in two, past bubbling to the surface, life threatened by an obsessive killer—Juliet will be lucky to escape alive.
With inspiration from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this is a tantalizing mystery about the hidden natures of those we love and how far we’ll go to save them from themselves.
I honestly have no clue how to begin this review. I have my points of criticism that I need to address, but I still haven't really made up my mind about it all in all. So, I'll just skip the opener and just dive straight into the review.
First of all, I thought the writing improved tenfold. Shepherd now created the perfect atmosphere and setting for this type of book, and while I did enjoy the island setting in the first one too, it never felt as well-rounded as this Victorian Era London she invited us into in this sequel. The descriptions were vivid and while there could have been more of an eye to detail, I am still very satisfied with the writing style.
Now, there are two things in this book that are problematic. First up, the main character, Juliet. I really did not like her all that much in the first novel, she seemed like an insipid, starstruck and terrified little girl back then. She was naive and innocent, but always pretended to be stronger than she was, which, in the end, was simply laughable. I am so thankful this changed in the sequel and that she truly has grown into that determined, focused and hard-working woman she only played at back then after all, however, she annoyed the shit out of me sometimes. And that is because her thoughts and feelings are repetitive as fuck. I can't tell you how many times she reflects on how dark she really is, and how like her father she is becoming, that there is a monster lurking somewhere deep inside her, too ... etc perge perge. The rambling and pity parties were endless and her monologues weren't ever about something new, they grew tiresome very quickly.
However, I did think that, overall, the characters were quite well written. I especially really loved the new character of Elizabeth, an independent, successful woman who went for what she wanted and got it, who stands up for what she thinks and doesn't take any shit at all. She was fierce. Similarly, I liked what Shepherd had in mind for Lucy, too — for her to stand up to her father's schemes and not put up with it, to be selfless about it and expose him even if that does mean her family losing reputation and social standing. But, and this is why I phrased it as "liking the idea of Lucy", the fact of the matter is that, while she does play integral parts here and there, she is never truly active. She is a passive bystander most of the time who gets stuff for Juliet or covers for her or sits in the kitchen and deciphers codes while Juliet is out and about scheming, experimenting and so on. Not only that, but Lucy is a fucking crybaby all the time. On more occasions than not was she in tears over some thing or another, mostly concerning Edward's deteriorating state. Yes, she stayed strong and wasn't all too fazed by most of what happened, but still; this nagged at me. And it's not like crying is a sign of weakness or that she can't be strong and cry, but that this, coupled with her passiveness, wasn't too convincing.
Still, I also have to mention that I nevertheless really, really loved Edward's characterization as well. I have to keep in mind that I don't remember many actual scenes or dialogues from the first novel and thus, can't remember any actual behavior as well, I only know what my impression was that I am still carrying in my mind, but back then, Edward, to me, seemed a lot like Juliet — star-struck, naive and silly. In this installment, on the other hand, he as himself finally got more substance and felt like a real person, a gentle and innocent man. His struggle with the Beast was as realistic as it could have been, and especially the Beast itself was hella interesting as well. Its characterization as being intense and seductive, obsessed with Juliet was all extremely intriguing and added another layer to the story.
The second problematic thing about the novel, you already guessed it: the love triangle. In my review of the first novel, I said I could see a reason behind it, but I don't know what ever possessed me to write that. Or maybe I did see one back then, but when I started this book and looking back the entire time, I couldn't find one for the life of me. Nonetheless, in Her Dark Curiosity, I could finally catch glimpses of a reason why. It does create the basis for a lot of what the novel is based upon, if it wasn't there, this whole plot probably wouldn't exist, yes, but I still think it rips this book apart. Approximately 85% of all the frustrations I had with this book, 85% of the reasons I pulled at my hair while reading it, were because of the triangle.
And, honestly, its execution is questionable at best. I think it's saying a lot when I think the man who literally turns into an animal and goes around killing people is the better fit for the heroine than the normal man. Montgomery is a sexist, semi-controlling jerk who can't see Juliet for what she truly is, can't really accept her for it and chooses to turn a blind eye to that then. He demands she tell him her secrets and plans, tells her she needs to trust him, but isn't willing to return that trust. He tells her to stay behind, that she couldn't possibly understand and/or would be horrified; he doesn't treat her like his equal at all:
“Absolutely not,” Montgomery said, interrupting our scheming. He reached out and grabbed the keys. “It's far too dangerous. I'll go alone.”
(...) “You've never operated on one of these things. You've only seen it happen, and as I recall it was enough to send you running into the jungle in horror.”
Some might call it protective and worried, but to be honest, I just thought that he was coddling and underestimating her the whole time, not thinking she would be capable of standing on her own and getting shit done. He had his moments where he was more inclined to treat her as his equal, but most of the time, he was passive-aggressively trying to suppress her and he didn't even notice it himself. In the end, he doesn't even know Juliet as well as he thinks, and I couldn't have said it better than Edward:
“You always knew I loved him. I never lied about that.”
“Yes, but it isn't you he loves in return. It's the idea of you. A fantasy.”
Montgomery his this twisted perception that he can "cure" Juliet, and then she'll be his perfect, devoted and loving wife who won't ever disagree with him. And it's so, so wrong.
I'm not saying Edward is a particularly good love interest, either. No doubt the Beast is even worse than Montgomery in terms of controlling, and Edward too seems quite obsessed with Juliet, however, he at least also seems completely selfless in his love. He is willing and ready to destruct himself to keep her safe, but keeping her safe never includes keeping her sheltered or not allowing her to go somewhere. He accepts her decisions and feelings, which is admirable and I'll applaud him at least for that. Neither of the boys are an optimal or perfect fit, but if Juliet had to make a choice, I'd much rather she pick Edward.
Ultimately, I found I quite enjoyed this book. It was a solid sequel, and Shepherd did improve a lot since the first one, and I am very excited to see what the final installment is going to bring to the table.