Thursday, July 21, 2022

Review: The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia


The Daughter of Doctor Moreau
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 28th, 2022
Hardcover. 288 pages.

About The Daughter of Doctor Moreau:

"Carlota Moreau: a young woman, growing up in a distant and luxuriant estate, safe from the conflict and strife of the Yucat√°n peninsula. The only daughter of either a genius, or a madman. 

Montgomery Laughton: a melancholic overseer with a tragic past and a propensity for alcohol. An outcast who assists Dr. Moreau with his scientific experiments, which are financed by the Lizaldes, owners of magnificent haciendas and plentiful coffers. 

The hybrids: the fruits of the Doctor’s labor, destined to blindly obey their creator and remain in the shadows. A motley group of part human, part animal monstrosities. 

All of them living in a perfectly balanced and static world, which is jolted by the abrupt arrival of Eduardo Lizalde, the charming and careless son of Doctor Moreau’s patron, who will unwittingly begin a dangerous chain reaction. 

For Moreau keeps secrets, Carlota has questions, and in the sweltering heat of the jungle, passions may ignite. 

THE DAUGHTER OF DOCTOR MOREAU is both a dazzling historical novel and a daring science fiction journey."

This was one of my most anticipated books coming out this summer and it’s hard to say just how excited I was for it. H.G. Well’s The Island of Dr. Moreau is one of my favorite classics and I have really loved some other stories I’ve read inspired by it (The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd, Dr. Franklin’s Island by Ann Halam). I knew that it would do great things in the hands of the incredibly talented Silvia Moreno-Garcia... and that’s why it's incredibly difficult for me to say that I did not enjoy this nearly as much as I’d hoped I would. 

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau follows Carlota, the daughter of the eccentric Dr. Moreau himself, and Montgomery, majordomo of the hacienda. Carlota has lived in seclusion on the hacienda, only really knowing those around her and lacking any real understanding of the world around her apart from everything that she has read in books. Montgomery arrives at the hacienda after some difficult life events when Carlota is a girl and takes on his role as majordomo, as well as essentially assistant and overseer of Carlota. Dr. Moreau, meanwhile, is attempting to discover the key to creating his hybrid human-animals in order to use them as workers in order to find cheaper labor for his patron, Eduardo Lizalde.

This book had a very promising start that immediately piqued my interest. I loved meeting Carlota, Montgomery, the doctor, and the main hybrid characters. Everything was off to a great start, and then… well, what seemed like nothing happened. I knew going into The Daughter of Doctor Moreau that Moreno-Garcia had said this wasn’t a horror and not to expect that, so I didn’t and set my expectations accordingly. However, I also didn't expect this to have a such weird romantic focus in regards to Carlota's potential marriage prospects. There really wasn't much of a focus on the hybrids themselves until near the end of the story, something I felt a bit disappointed by. While the hybrids remain a central theme and overall plot point of the story, they really felt as if they were just a backdrop for everything else happening in the story most of the time. 

I found Carlota to be a very frustrating protagonist and ended up with some mixed feelings about her. I understood that a lot of her actions and perceptions of the world around her due to her very unique and secluded upbringing–everything she knows about the world she’s basically learned from her father, Montgomery, and the books she reads. With this in mind, I still found myself struggling to follow her decisions and stubbornness at so many different moments throughout the book. Because of my lack of interest in Carlota, I found that I didn't really care about her romance and/or marriage prospects, and since that became a pretty big plot point, it felt like a bit of a slog throughout the most of the book. 

The rest of the characters had a lot of promise, but I found many of them lacked the depth I would've liked to see. Montgomery has a more complex backstory and does show quite a range of emotions, but I found many of his actions didn't quite match how his personality was often described. Similarly, many of the supporting characters, such as Dr. Moreau, Eduardo, and a few others felt lacking in development as well and had more of a one-note personality. I did enjoy getting to know Ramona and the hybrids, but those were a bit more limited in scope. 

One thing I really did love about this book was the historical nineteenth-century Mexico setting and how Moreno-Garcia managed to interweave some real history and culture into the story as a result. Moreno-Garcia's descriptions of the jungle and hacienda are vivid and absolutely bring this location to life. I could feel the heat and humidity of this setting and the lush images of the nature and land around them. I also think the ending was a bit predictable, but still strong and actually did more of what I expected from this story. I appreciated a few surprised and plenty of more fast-paced moments to bring it all home.

Overall, I've given The Daughter of Doctor Moreau three stars! This was a hard book to review because of how frustrated I felt while reading it, but it wasn't a bad book by any means, just one that wasn't quite what I expected and didn't work as well for me. If you're a Dr. Moreau fan, Silvia Moreno-Garcia fan, or simply interesting in a historical sci-fi (with some romance!), then definitely give it a read.

*I received a copy of The Daughter of Doctor Moreau courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Bookshop.org

4 comments:

  1. Oh, what a bummer! I'm still interested in reading this, but I was expecting to add this to my fall TBR and now it seems like it won't really fit the vibe there well! Will temper my expectations!

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  2. Oh I'm sorry to hear this was a bit disappointing. I do think I would expect the hybrids to play a larger role, as well. It does sound like she really nails the setting, though. I'm thinking of reading this after reading the classic (I never have) so if I do I'll definitely keep this in mind for expectations.

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  3. I've just started this, in fact I'm just starting part 2, and so far it's good. But now I'll temper my expectations a bit based on your review. It's so tough when a highly anticipated book does work for you!

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  4. This was such a thorough and fair review!

    I haven’t read this book yet, but I have read other reviews that mentioned some of the same criticisms you had of it. :)

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