Moreno-Garcia strikes again, with a quirky book that is a bit more in line with Mexican Gothic in ~vibe~ but all on its own in tenor and plot.
Set against the backdrop of the original tale of Dr. Moreau, a H.G. Wells invention who took one look at Dr. Frankenstein and said “hold my drink,” Moreno-Garcia invents for Dr. Moreau a daughter and a hacienda and more of a backstory, setting the tale of eerie hybrid animal inventions in a world of capitalism and greed and all the usual trappings of our horrific modern society.
Carlota is young, pretty, and in full knowledge of what it is her father does on the isolated estate, lives amongst a series of hybrids that all have various ‘quirks.’ Far off (but not that far off, and creeping closer and closer) is the ongoing battle between the indigenous Mayan people and the Mexican invaders, which serves as a particularly on-the-nose metaphor for the hybrids as well. When the clearly-the-villain son of Dr. Moreau’s financial sponsor shows up, after years of money poured into the Project without the stream of hearty workers that was promised, an already tenuous situation becomes downright volatile.
Some of my favorite bits in this book involve Carlota and Montgomery, the hired hand/overseer who originally starts working simply to pay off his debt but soon grows to love the land and the hybrids as Carlota does. You’re conditioned to think that the secretly soft hearted dude is going to be the other protagonist (and likely romantic lead) but Moreno-Garcia gives their relationship much more nuance than that.