Published by Harlequin on October 1st 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
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From New York Times bestselling author Rachel Vincent comes a richly imagined, provocative new series set in the dark mythology of the Menagerie…
When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger's Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus black-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she's forced to "perform" in town after town.
But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other "attractions"—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she'll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed.
Renowned author Rachel Vincent weaves an intoxicating blend of carnival magic and startling humanity in this intricately woven and powerful tale.
If monsters could look like humans, and humans could look like monsters, how could anyone ever really be sure that the right people stood on the outside of all those cages?
If it wasn’t for the slightly messy and rushed ending, this would be a solid four teacups. One thing is sure about Ms Vincent – she knows how to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Menagerie presents a paranormal alternate reality that is unlike anything I’ve ever read. It’s creative, it’s fantastical, but the most notable thing about it is just how convincing it is. Vincent is skilled at taking the unbelievable and making you believe in it. And that makes for a story that is compelling, infuriating and scary.
In this world, a wide variety of supernatural creatures all known as cryptids have no fundamental rights. They are imprisoned, collected for private use, exploited and mistreated. They cannot own property or hire a lawyer. In the eyes of the law, they are less than animals. And Metzger’s Menagerie is a travelling carnival where you can go and look upon these caged creatures.
When Delilah Marlow visits the carnival, she witnesses the injustices suffered by the cryptids (everything from mermaids to minotaurs). The cruel treatment sparks a rage that brings out a monster lurking under the surface of Delilah’s human appearance – a monster even she didn’t know existed. Suddenly accused of being a cryptid living in hiding, Delilah begins to lose everything.
“People think they are masters of the universe because they’vre conquered the skies, and the seas, and the heavens. Because they can kill with the press of a button and speak to anyone else on the planet, any time they like. But there are things older and wiser than humanity. Things more powerful and significant. Love, and loss, and birth. Pain, and bliss. Vengeance.
Vincent builds up the story excellently. It is creepy and awful. Imagine one day discovering you were something “else”, a something that stripped you of all human rights and property. In Menagerie, it is completely believable. And it is frightening to realise how helpless Delilah is.
From then on, Delilah’s life gets worse. We meet an array of fascinating characters and some of the most despicable. Delilah must try to salvage some dignity, stay alive, and figure out exactly what she is before it’s too late.
I have to issue a warning – there is violence and rape in this book. The latter is not graphic, but still may be upsetting. The violence, on the other hand, does get quite graphic and gory. While I think older teens may be able to enjoy Menagerie, it is clearly aimed at adults.
But I really enjoyed it. It’s a fast-paced, engrossing and thrilling book.