title: The Mad Scientist's Daughter
author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
format: Kindle ARC
buy it: Amazon Goodreads B&N
rating: 5/5 [in the genre] or 8/10 [all books I’ve ever read].
recommended for: Fans of Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, Nicholas Sparks (I'd imagine), and light science-fiction. Mature teens or adults who are okay with sexual scenes.
My Ratings Explained
the basicsThe blurb is misleading. Finn is a key player in this book, but it's much more about Cat. She's more complex than your average leading lady--selfish, petulant, feisty, resigned, a dreamer, afraid. She reminds me very much of Catherine in Wuthering Heights, making Finn a quieter, obedient version of Heathcliff. Their story is a love story but I wouldn't call it a romance. Much more of the plot is absorbed with Cat growing from a carefree little girl into a wayward teenager into a deeply unhappy adult. Her evolving relationship with Finn is a constant thread throughout, pulling and pushing but not defining her. With hints of Bret Easton Ellis' tragedy of middle class malaise, this novel fully explores what it means to love and be loved in a heartless and changing world. All of this is bolstered by Clarke's staggeringly gorgeous prose. I knew her whimsical side from The Assassin's Curse, but this novel shows a different side, rife with poetry and heartbreaking beauty. Though the sprawling timeline was not what I expected, I ended up losing myself in this book and coming out on the other side touched.
plot . 4/5My main contention with the plot was the timeline. What the blurb doesn't tell you is that Cat is a mere thirteen when Finn begins to tutor her. By the book's end, she's middle aged. It's a generation style I've grown used to in Victorian literature, but I didn't expect to find it here. So it jarred me at first. It means that you get a more sweeping view of Cat, rather than an in-depth exploration of one age, and as a result the style has to be a little more distant and storytelling. If you don't mind that, it works. Tracing the threads of Cat's life is fascinating, from her first romance to her attempts at independence to her ill-defined marriage, with tragedies along the way. There isn't a huge adventure here or a dystopian exploration of android rights (although Clarke certainly touches on that). Much of the plot frustrated me because of Cat's impulsive choices. Other parts nearly brought me to tears. It's the story of Cat learning to be Cat--and clumsily figuring out where her interminable love for Finn fits in, whether it means calling to space or traveling to the restricted desert beyond America's borders.
concept . 5/5This is a sort of Wuthering Heights more than I realized when I was reading it. Cat reminds me so much of Catherine, and also plays the privileged daughter role. Finn, like Heathcliff, is orphaned and different, and thus reviled by many. What makes him different isn't his unusual skin, but the fact that most of his body is metal. The key to the difficulty of their love story is Finn's differentness. He's metal. He's unchanging. He may or may not be capable of human emotions. Cat struggles for a long time with whether she's in love with a man or a projection of her own desire. Not to mention loving an android is madness in a society where androids are property, not people. This problem adds layers to this love story. Perhaps the science-fiction aspect could have been explored more, but it's really more of a given here. The story isn't androids; it's Cat and Finn coexisting.
characters . 5/5The characters were compelling enough to sweep aside any bothers of the plot for me. Cat is a multifaceted, ever-evolving human. She feels completely real every step of the way and reacts to her environment realistically, not just to create an interesting story. She's capable of great coldness and also great love, depending on who's asking. Her friends could have been better explored, but the real key players here are Finn, her boyfriend, and her parents. With all of them, her relationships are a mix of sweet and sour. There's nothing clearcut about this book. Finn himself is complex in his foreignness. Finn struggles with his personhood just as much as the world seems to. Does he deserve freedom? Is he capable of love? Is he Cat's to be used, or does he deserve something more than her fickleness? He's also incredibly attractive by all description, not least because he has that quiet sarcasm going on. Then there's Cat's boyfriend. Did I mention what a colossal jerk he is? But not in an obvious way. He's the kind of guy you can imagine a wayward girl being drawn to. Confident, successful, almost puppy-like. The fatal vulnerabilities come later. It's a rich main cast ripped straight from life.
style . 6/5Yes, six is larger than five. A five just doesn't encompass it. I'm a sucker for beautiful prose, and Clarke sucked me right in. Her writing has all the best qualities of literary writing without the obscurity that people criticize it for. It's poetic and deeply emotional. It's precise and full of concrete descriptions and carefully placed metaphors. It's rich where it needs to be and skims where it needs to. I ended up highlighting half the pages because Clarke nailed something so perfectly. Good prose is what can take a good book to a great book, and Clarke's is great.
mechanics . 5/5Like I said, the pacing is pretty sprawling. You have to be prepared to live a lot of life in one book. There are also slow moments where we drift too much into Cat's head, or perhaps some of that is my impatience. I can't really complain much, though. This is the definition of polished.
take home messageA haunting drama of life, love, and what it means to be human--even if, physically, you aren't.
Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.