Book Review: The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

View from the window seat:
Caterina Novak has an unusual life. Growing up with her scientist father, who spends most of his time in his laboratory, and her distant mother, Cat doesn’t have a “normal” childhood. She runs free in the woods, and her tutor, brought by her father into their home mysteriously, is an android named Finn. Finn looks and acts like a human, a one-of-a-kind design in artificial intelligence. As Cat grows up, she becomes closer and closer with Finn.

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is not what I expected. I saw others commenting on this on Goodreads when I scanned the reviews, and I agree: the summary on Goodreads is really misleading. I tried to write a different one above, because I think what the blurb describes and what the story actually is about are two different things. The blurb makes it sound like the story is Finn’s, but it’s very much the chronicle of Cat growing and changing as she moves from childhood into adulthood.

The heart of the novel is a romance, and in many ways I felt this wasn’t enough for me story-wise. It’s a quieter story, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I love character pieces; sometimes I don’t want a lot of action. Not much happens here, but I wanted more to happen. The story touches on some really interesting things, like robot rights and artificial consciousness, that could’ve been delved into with really fascinating results. But like I said, the story merely touches upon these issues. So while I think this novel is being billed as a science-fiction story, I would say that it’s a romance with some sci-fi touches. 

The romance itself I found to be this weird dichotomy between uncomfortable and natural. There is the obvious dilemma of appropriateness, stemming from both the fact that Cat has known Finn since she was five and the fact that he’s a computer. At times, I couldn’t get over the fundamental truth that he is a machine, even if he acts and thinks as a human. Then at other times, the romance felt really natural. I forgot Finn was made of wires and circuits and he felt like a man, struggling to acknowledge feelings he never expected.

Cat isn’t easy to like as a character. She’s selfish and so focused on herself that she damages the people around her. I’m not actually sure I ever really liked her, even in the end. She does realize her mistakes, and acknowledges them, but I don’t think she actually changes because of it.

Even though I found the main character unlikeable, I will say that the writing is beautiful. The descriptions are stunning, even just simple ones like the weather or Cat’s childhood home. The strength of the writing really carried me through to the end of the novel, even without much action.

Overall impression:
The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is a romance, but I was really hoping for more science-fiction.


Note: I received this e-ARC from the publisher  via NetGalley.


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