The Daughter of Doctor Moreau

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is officially an auto-buy author for me. Since my introduction to her with Gods of Jade and Shadow in 2019, I’ve read three more of her novels and her recent short story, The Tiger Came to the Mountains. I’ve loved everything so far, and I could hardly wait for her newest book, The Daughter of Doctor Moreau. I was ecstatic when I was approved for an ARC of it on NetGalley, and now I’m thinking it may be my favorite book from her yet! It comes out on July 19th, and it’s one you don’t want to miss!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine for providing me with an ARC of this book!

Summary

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau reimagines the H. G. Wells classic, The Island of Doctor Moreau. While the original takes place on an island, here the setting is moved to the Yucatán Peninsula of southeastern Mexico. Here we meet the eccentric Doctor Moreau, his daughter Carlota, the many “hybrids” he’s created by crossing dissimilar animals, and his newly hired mayordomo, Montgomery Laughton. This unlikely group is isolated from society, and thus protected from danger – especially to the hybrids. That is, until a pair of young men decide to spend time in the Moreaus’ home, one of them hoping to woo Carlota. No one is safe as the time starts ticking down to probable catastrophe.

Review

I admittedly went into The Daughter of Doctor Moreau more or less blind. I haven’t read The Island of Doctor Moreau, and I didn’t even reread this novel’s summary before starting it. Silvia Moreno-Garcia has become an auto-buy author for me, and I trust her, no matter the book’s genre or subject matter. Though even this book’s genre is a bit outside of my knowledge and comfort zone. I’ve only read a handful of science fiction books (some classics like Frankenstein and Brave New World; some newer ones like The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson). It’s a genre I’m pickier with, but sometimes a novel will surprise me. This is one of them: I absolutely loved it!

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a master of writing atmosphere, and that’s on display here. The Daughter of Doctor Moreau is evocative and immersive, situating readers in a landscape that may feel idyllic to Carlota, but can also feel unsettling for the reader. It’s not quite a horror novel, but it offers just enough reflection and mystery to give it a haunting quality in its quieter moments. This is contrasted with a brightness in other scenes: flashes of humor and arrogance, romance and bravery. Together, it makes for a dynamic, fast-paced novel that will hold your attention from start to end.

The hybrids are a highlight here. Moreau has expanded on Darwin to grow creatures that combine features of disparate animals. Sometimes it’s big cats, sometimes it’s reptiles, sometimes humans play a role. The hybrids are richly described, alighting the reader’s imagination. However, I appreciate that they’re depicted in a more “human” way rather than as monstrous or beastly. They’re characters with very real thoughts and feelings; they are intelligent and caring individuals, and they’re part of the family. While some characters here (like Carlota and Montgomery) show respect and love for the hybrids, others treat them as less than or as fearsome. I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between the negative treatment of hybrids and the kind of racism, homophobia, and other discrimination we see to this day.

The characterization is also top-notch, and as flawed as they can be, I loved our main characters. Carlota is complex and intriguing. Though she starts off as a naive, fanciful girl, she grows more fierce and capable as time wears on. Montgomery has a sad history and is a functioning alcoholic, yet despite his melancholy, I particularly liked him. He may not be so honorable and brave at first, but he improves greatly throughout the novel. He and Carlota were perfect leads here. Cachito and Lupe were also charming, Doctor Moreau was complicated, and the intruders (ahem, guests) were… well… fun to hate!

After starting off in 1871, most of the novel takes place in 1877, when Carlota is 20. Some romance is thrown in, maybe a bit of a love triangle, but this is also when the stakes start to rise. Are the hybrids still safe here? Are the Moreaus in trouble? What about Montgomery and his debts? Following a suspenseful climb, The Daughter of Doctor Moreau reaches a thrilling final act. There’s danger, fighting, maybe some death. It’s action-packed and will get your adrenaline going, but it will also fill your heart with emotion, too.

By its end, there’s a lot to contend with. Personally, I wouldn’t mind a sequel to this. I would love to see what happens next with our surviving characters, and I secretly hope a certain relationship can finally bloom.

Final Thoughts

Silvia Moreno-Garcia has such precise and engaging language, full of feeling and the right tone for each unique story. The Daughter of Doctor Moreau is a beautiful, thoughtful, exciting novel that will appeal to a wide range of readers. Even if you’re not a big sci-fi reader, it’s a stunning and delightful book. I’ve loved every novel from her so far, but this may have just became my favorite yet.

Mark me: I will read ALL of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s books. I have Certain Dark Things (reprinted last year) on my shelf. A reprinting of Signal to Noise is coming in a few months, and I’ll be buying that on release day. I also still intend to get her 2020 noir novel Untamed Shore. Then there are her novellas and short stories – I have a lot to look forward to! As such, expect many more reviews of her work here in the future.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Get the Book

You can pre-order The Daughter of Doctor Moreau here – on July 19, 2022 it will be available as a hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

Please note that the above link is an Amazon affiliate link and I may earn a commission on any purchases you make.

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Retelling Of…The Island of Doctor Moreau
AudienceAdult
GenreScience Fiction; Historical Fiction
SettingMexico
Number of Pages320
Format I ReadeBook (NetGalley)
Original Publication DateJuly 19, 2022

Official Summary

From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic and Velvet Was the Night comes a dreamy reimagining of The Island of Doctor Moreau set against the backdrop of nineteenth-century Mexico.

Carlota Moreau: a young woman, growing up in a distant and luxuriant estate, safe from the conflict and strife of the Yucatán 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.

About the Author

Silvia Moreno-Garcia - credit Martin Dee

Credit: Martin Dee

Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of a number of critically acclaimed novels, including Gods of Jade and Shadow (Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, Ignyte Award), Mexican Gothic (Locus Award, Pacific Northwest Book Award, Goodreads Award), and others.

She has edited several anthologies, including She Walks in Shadows (World Fantasy Award winner, published in the USA as Cthulhu’s Daughters). Silvia is the publisher of Innsmouth Free Press. She co-edited the horror magazine The Dark with Sean Wallace from 2017 to 2020. She’s a columnist for The Washington Post.

She has an MA in Science and Technology Studies from the University of British Columbia. Her thesis can be read online and is titled “Magna Mater: Women and Eugenic Thought in the Work of H.P. Lovecraft.” She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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