STARRED REVIEW
August 2022

2 brilliant SFF books retell familiar tales

Silvia Moreno-Garcia takes on The Island of Doctor Moreau, and the witch from "Rapunzel" gets a haunting origin story.
STARRED REVIEW

2 brilliant SFF books retell familiar tales

August 2022
Silvia Moreno-Garcia takes on The Island of Doctor Moreau, and the witch from "Rapunzel" gets a haunting origin story.
STARRED REVIEW
August 2022

2 brilliant SFF books retell familiar tales

August 2022
Silvia Moreno-Garcia takes on The Island of Doctor Moreau, and the witch from "Rapunzel" gets a haunting origin story.
STARRED REVIEW
August 2022

2 brilliant SFF books retell familiar tales

Silvia Moreno-Garcia takes on The Island of Doctor Moreau, and the witch from "Rapunzel" gets a haunting origin story.
STARRED REVIEW
August 2022

2 brilliant SFF books retell familiar tales

Silvia Moreno-Garcia takes on The Island of Doctor Moreau, and the witch from "Rapunzel" gets a haunting origin story.
August 2022

2 brilliant SFF books retell familiar tales

Silvia Moreno-Garcia takes on The Island of Doctor Moreau, and the witch from "Rapunzel" gets a haunting origin story.
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These superbly crafted retellings present an opportunity to revel in tales we might think we know well but that still have the ability to surprise. 

The Book of Gothel

Framed as a medieval text found in a German woman's attic, The Book of Gothel centers on the woman who became the witch who imprisoned Rapunzel in her tower. As a young girl, however, Haelewise is neither powerful nor a witch. She is merely an outsider, marked by both her intermittent fainting spells and her deep, black eyes. Her mother, Hedda, is the respected local midwife, but most in their village believe that Haelewise's fainting spells are of demonic origin. After her mother dies and her father remarries, Haelewise takes refuge in a secluded tower called Gothel, where she becomes an apprentice to a wise woman. But despite her existence on the margins of her world, Haelewise is soon pulled into intrigue, from princesses fleeing cruel fiancés to princes with wicked spells cast upon them. With secrets behind every whisper, Haelewise must tread carefully if she is to survive. 

Mary McMyne's debut novel is dark and moody, full of distrust, doubt and more than a little bit of drama. Far from being a simple villain origin story, it explores Haelewise's family, her epilepsy and the stark world of 12th-century Germania. Despite the bleak nature of the era, McMyne's prose is full of vivid color, whether it's the mysterious golden fruit that Haelewise finds growing in Hedda's garden or the madder-red gown given to Haelewise by a childhood friend turned would-be lover. It's a world where Christianity and older religions and traditions coexist but where even a hint of witchcraft could put herbalists and midwives in danger of being stoned. This atmosphere, combined with the deep longings and confusion of a girl just entering womanhood and the fact that readers have a good idea of the fate that awaits her, shadows The Book of Gothel with an overwhelming sense of dread—but will also compel readers to keep going to the very end. 

★ The Daughter of Doctor Moreau

Silvia Moreno-Garcia's latest novel, The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, starts in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula in the 19th century, as the titular doctor is looking for an assistant. He finds one in Montgomery Laughton, an Englishman with alcoholism and a mountain of debt. Montgomery helps the aging doctor create human-animal hybrids, which are destined to work the plantations of Dr. Moreau's wealthy benefactor. Carlota Moreau, the doctor's daughter, leads a relatively carefree life on the estate, with plenty of hybrid companions and her studies to keep her company. The only thing marring her life is a lingering childhood illness that requires her to have weekly injections of one of her father's mysterious serums. When the handsome son of Dr. Moreau's benefactor, Eduardo Lizalde, unexpectedly visits, the sheltered estate is thrown first into discord and then into total disarray as the Moreaus' secrets are pulled slowly into the light. 

Moreno-Garcia (Mexican Gothic, Gods of Jade and Shadow) is a master of dramatic tension. Her decision to reimagine H.G. Wells' visionary 1896 novel on an isolated estate instead of an island creates a sense of furtiveness, a constant fear of discovery. The insertion of Carlota, who is not a character from the original book, gives a human face to an inhuman (or, at the very least, inhumane) story, adding something precious that could be lost if the delicate equilibrium of Moreau's estate is unbalanced. 

Moreno-Garcia revels in her setting's tropical color palette, which is reflected in the rich green of Eduardo's eyes and the bold colors of Carlota's dresses. Moreno-Garcia also includes small, down-to-earth details of pastoral life on the estate, resulting in a world that feels immediate enough to slip into. The Daughter of Doctor Moreau will pull readers in even as a pit grows in their stomachs, given all the things they know can—and likely will—go wrong.

Get the Books

The Book of Gothel

The Book of Gothel

By Mary McMyne
Redhook
ISBN 9780316393119
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Del Rey
ISBN 9780593355336

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