January 30, 2024

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

I saw this book at my local bookstore and loved the cover with all the vibrant colors. After purchasing it, it sat in my office for a while before I finally picked it up and started reading it. Only a few pages in, I broke down and purchased the Kindle version. As much as I love and want to enjoy print books, the printing on my copy was particularly light, and I had a hard time deciphering the thin little letters. So I read the majority of this book in my comforting fat font with large text on my backlit Kindle, which didn’t require me to turn on a lamp and wake my husband when I wanted to read at 4 am.

I know this is supposed to be a book review and not an ad for the Kindle Paperwhite, and I’ll get to that, but first, I need to complain about a specific feature on Kindle called “Word Wise.” Whenever I get to a word I don’t recognize, I can poke it, and the Kindle will bring up the definition, Wikipedia entry, or character profile, depending on the word. The Daughter of Doctor Moreau had enough Spanish words and ancient Mayan terms that I often used the feature. After a few definitions, my Kindle asked if I wanted to turn on the Word Wise feature, which would automatically define challenging words for “young readers and new English speakers.” Needless to say, I was quite upset with my electronic book device for the clear slight on my intelligence.

I’m a writer, damnit! I know words!

All right, onto the review:

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau reimagines H.G. Well’s The Island of Doctor Moreau set in 19th-century Mexico. I adored the setting for this story and all the fun historical details. They added a lot of beautiful texture to behind a reasonably engaging story.

Carlota Moreau is Doctor Moreau’s daughter and only child. They live on an isolated estate where the Doctor can conduct his research in secret. He creates animal-human hybrids which serve as workers on the farm. Outside of the estate, everyone believes the Doctor runs a sanatorium.

Montgomery oversees the estate, and the story is told from both his and Carlota’s perspective. He has a troubled past, which he escapes by working at the isolated estate, and he slowly develops feelings for the doctor’s daughter.

The pacing of this book is slower than I’m accustomed to, so I feel like the story doesn’t cover a lot of ground, but I really enjoyed reading it. Moreno-Garcia tackles a few themes: what makes a monster, their physicality or actions; can one truly escape their past; and where’s the line between human and animal? Some of the characters have attitudes toward slavery that I found truly repulsive, but it was closer to the end of the book, so at that point, I was too invested to stop reading.

I enjoyed a reveal that happens halfway through the book—I can’t think of a way to hint at it without ruining it, but I’ll just say it’s sort of unexpected and totally satisfying.

I didn’t like Doctor Moreau’s motivation for creating his hybrids. His true driving force was never revealed, and it seems like his research doesn’t make much progress throughout the book. The reader is left wondering what he’s trying to accomplish and what steps he’s taking to achieve that goal.

Overall, I’d say this book is much more historical than sci-fi. I wish there were more romantic elements, but I understand that wasn’t the focus of the story Moreno-Garcia wanted to tell. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and wants a thoughtful examination of remarkable characters.

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