Hardcover, 368 pages
Expected publication: January 28th 2014 by Balzer+Bray
One of my top ten wishes for the kinds of books and characters I want to read included morally ambiguous protagonists. I spoke at length about this in my review of Cruel Beauty and I was very pleasantly surprised to find that Juliet has become a deeply complex and morally ambiguous character in the follow up to 2012’s The Mad Man’s Daughter. I did not hate The Mad Man’s Daughter but I did not love it either. I was mostly apathetic to it though I did enjoy the ending of that novel enough that I decided to read its sequel. And I am so glad I did.
Juliet in the first novel was very typically YA heroine-ish. She was interesting but she didn’t grab my interest all that much. She wasn’t very fleshed out as a character and while her motivations were relatable, she didn’t resonate with me. In Her Dark Curiosity however, Juliet becomes so much more interesting and complex. Her evolution as a protagonist and person is fascinating. As she evolves, or as some would argue, devolves, the novel begins to discourse on the meaning of being human, being good and being evil. We learned in the first novel that Juliet, too, had been experimented on by her father. He had spliced animal DNA into her when she was a child to save her life but now the seizures are getting worse and her search to find a cure is leading nowhere. She has found a place to live in the home of her father’s former who has embraced her as though she were his own daughter but Juliet no longer feels like she belongs in this straitlaced society. She feels the wilderness of the island inside of her and is not sure she will be able to contain it for long.
Then people begin to die. People who did her wrong and people she had held grudges against. They seem to be specially targeted and Juliet has a sneaking suspicion that someone from her past is going to reappear in her present. And once he does, her life is going to go from complicated to impossible.
The novel is lush, layered and complex. The writing is beautiful and compelling, immersing the reader into the world Shepherd has created. The characters are all individuated and the romance is handled especially well. Even though there is a love triangle, I thought it played out in a manner that added to the story instead of detracting from it. The novel succeeded in convincing me about the multiple facets of human nature inclusive of non-humanness. I must also say that I appreciated the care shown in developing and maintaining the friendship between the two girls. Let’s hope the friendship does not degenerate into a fight over a man. If you have been wondering whether to continue the series, I urge you to do so. Shepherd’s growth as a writer is clearly evident in Her Dark Curiosity. I’m looking forward to the next book.