Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
Published: January 29th 2013
Publisher: Angry Robot
Paperback, 400 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository
The Mad Scientist’s Daughter takes place over the course of many years. At the beginning, Cat, the daughter of two accomplished scientist, is only eight years old. Her father brings home a strange man, Finn, to live with them and be Cat’s tutor. At first, Cat doesn’t understand what this man is, his reactions and behavior unlike anything she’d ever seen before. As she grows up, what he is no longer matters as Finn becomes her anchor, that one immutable thing that holds together her very chaotic, directionless life.
Cat spends most of the book in utter denial, running from her feelings toward Finn and convincing herself that, as an android, he can’t possibly feel the same. We see her in different stages of her life and thus get to meet many sides of her. She struggles for most of her life, doing everything she deems normal and acceptable, all the while punishing herself for loving something unnatural, an abomination. While running from herself and from Finn, Cat makes a series of selfish choices and ends up hurting the only person who’s ever shown her a modicum of respect.
As a character, Cat is a hive of conflicting emotions, ranging from guilt and self-disgust to love and acceptance. Try as she might, she can’t quite hide her emotions from the world, especially when someone threatens or insults Finn. Her fierce protectiveness and the readiness with which she jumps to his defense give her away each and every time.
Beneath everything Cat does is a deep self-hatred and desperate need for approval. At its very core, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is a romance, but a desperate, torturous one that can be very hard to read.
Finn isn’t much of a hero, but not through any fault of his own. Not quite an android and not quite a man, one of a kind in every way, he is everybody’s victim, even those who love him the most. His emotional awakening comes at a very high price because it leads him to realize that everyone who was ever supposed to care for him and protect him either abandoned him or used him in the worst possible way.
It’s clear by now that Cat is no heroine either. Quite the contrary, I’m afraid. One bad choice after another and one train wreck of a marriage do not a heroine make. Even when she supposedly turned a new leaf, some of her choices deeply troubled me and I’m surprised Clarke never addressed them.
Overall, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is by no means a light-hearted, fun book, and it’s certainly not young adult. Had I known how complicated and angst-filled it was, I doubt I would have picked it up, but now I’m glad I did.