The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is the heartbreaking story of the journey from childhood to adulthood, with an intriguing science fictional twist.
There’s never been anyone – or anything – quite like Finn.
He looks, and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task is to tutor Cat.
When the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Finn struggles to find his place in the world.
While I have a growing appreciation for YA fantasy and speculative fiction, particularly those liberally sprinkled with romance, I have to admit that I am more than a little intimidated by the thought of reading these genre’s within the adult category. So while the synopsis for The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, sparked my interest with its originality, my main reason for request to review The Mad Scientist daughter was my love of the authors YA debut novel, The Assassin’s Curse (read my review here).
Commencing The Mad Scientist’s Daughter I had high expectations of the quality of the characterisation and storytelling and just a touch of apprehension of reading outside my comfort zone. The synopsis led me to expect a book about personal growth and character development, which dealt with discrimination within a futuristic (speculative fiction) setting. This is exactly what I got, but rather than, as the synopsis suggests, the focus on Finn struggling to find his place in the fast changing world, it was in fact Cat’s (the afore mentioned Scientist’s daughter) third person perspective which guided the story.
While I found the synopsis misleading, it didn’t effect my enjoyment. If anything the story, within the pages of The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, was much more my usual kind of read.
What I discovered with each compulsively turned page was a beautiful character driven, heart aching, love story. The books tag line: “a tale of love, loss and robots”, rather than the synopsis is a much more accurate description of this gorgeous book.
In Clarke’s post apocalyptic world, robotics and artificial intelligence has been utilized to rebuild and repopulate. As a result technology has developed exponentially, the existence of sentient machines, undeniably helpful to humanity’s recovery from disaster, have thrown up issues concerning servitude, discrimination and rights of freedom. It is against this backdrop of challenge and change that our protagonists attempt to define and nurture their unusual relationship. Clarke’s world building was beautifully subtle and as a result felt completely plausible.
I adored the author’s ability to believably portray Cat over a significant portion of her lifespan. From the wonder and imagination of childhood, through the awkwardness of adolescence and in to an unhappy adulthood, Clarke maintained the essential elements of Cat’s character but realistically allowed for the changes brought by age and life experiences.
At time Cat is frustrating, full of contradictions and not altogether likeable. She makes some seriously questionable decisions, callously hurts those she claims to love most and those who love her. Despite these obvious flaws I remained on her side throughout, hoping that she would untangle the mess she had made of her life and rooting for her happy ending. By introducing Cat from childhood the author inspired my loyalty. Having witnessed her mentally absent, neglectful father, her desire for the approval of her frustrated mother and her need to be normal, I was able to understand her decisions even if I couldn’t condone them.
Finn is a complex robot, completely unique in his believable human like appearance and sophistication of movement, speech and behaviour. Yet, Clarke’s writing ensures that you are constantly aware that he is not human. The big question for Cat, and for the reader is, if by the nature of his complex programming and wiring he is capable of conscious thought, would the same quirks also allow him to be capable of feeling?
Verdict: If you are looking for hearts, flowers and candle lit dinners you won’t find it here but if you are in the mood for a tear inducing, head shaking, heartbreaking, but ultimately uplifting love story, within an unusual setting and with a unique love interest, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is for you.
Note: Cassandra Rose Clarke is fast becoming an author whose work I will automatically preorder. I can’t wait for The Pirate’s Wish, the sequel to her YA debut, The Assassin’s Curse. In the meantime, Cassandra has recently released The Witch’s Betrayal, a prequel novella featuring our favorite strong and silent assassin.
Reviewed by Caroline