by Rachel Vincent
Series: Menagerie #1
Published on September 29, 2015 by Mira
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
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 in her black swan burlesque costume 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.
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I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into this book but I can say that I definitely liked it! First of all, it involved a carnival which is an immediate must-read for me. Add to that the elements of mythology woven throughout the world and I’m sold. It was an…. interesting experience reading it, though, because a lot of the book completely disgusted me in terms of the content but at the same time I was rooting for Delilah the whole time so I didn’t stop reading.
So, before continuing, I want to add a trigger warning here that this book features a lot of abuse and it’s shown fairly graphically. The cryptids (the supernatural/mythological characters) are treated little better than animals and this includes the main character, Delilah, as well as a young girl. Let me be very clear that this book is not young adult. It really hits hard on the subject of abuse and captivity, essentially enslavement in some regards. Fair warning.
But back to the story. Vincent knows how to spin a story. While I felt Menagerie moved a bit slow at times, it was all building up to the end. At the same time, I don’t feel like I was on the edge of my seat at any point in the book. I was invested in the characters but not enough that I was frantically flipping pages. Which was nice because that distance gave me more of a chance to reflect on some of the harsher topics addressed in the story as well as breathe. I don’t think I would have enjoyed this book if it had been non-stop action AND hitting those darker themes.
This is not an action-packed adventure but I think those slower scenes still worked to draw the reader deeper into this very extreme world.
I definitely think Delilah’s character shined throughout. She’s the kind of person that would do whatever it takes to do the right think. Not necessarily what’s easier. And considering what happens to her that takes a lot of courage and strength. She could have given up at any time and accepted her captivity but the entire time she fought, not only for herself but for the other cryptids. I also liked that the reveal of what she is wasn’t something I expected. It didn’t quite sit right with me either within the context of the story but I look forward to seeing that part of her life expanded on in the future.
At the same time, I also enjoyed getting in the other characters’ heads periodically throughout the story. Most of the book is from Delilah’s perspective but other characters are brought in for a chapter here and there which I enjoyed because it opened the story up a bit more.
By the end of Menagerie, I was waiting for the ending BIG EVENT to be a bit more drawn out based on the rest of the book but overall I liked the direction the book moved the story toward and I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel. I’d recommend this to fans of the paranormal but who are tired of the usual vampires and witches. There’s more of a mythology base in this book. Just keep in mind the warnings previously mentioned. Looking forward to the next book!