Series: Menagerie #1
Author: Rachel Vincent
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
From the Publisher: 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.
Warning: Minor spoilers ahead.
I didn’t think it was possible to do so, but Rachel Vincent has created in Menagerie a world that I’ve never before seen in my reading. While no single aspect of this world is unique, the way that Vincent has expertly woven various mythologies into a single universe left me feeling as if I were stepping into a new universe for the very first time.
While the book takes place in the United States – specifically Oklahoma and Texas – it is not the United States that we know. In this alternate version, every kind of creature you’ve ever imagined or read about co-exists with humans. Mermaids, minotaurs, fae, sirens, werewolves, skinwalkers, thunderbirds – there are simply too many to name. They have all of the same rights and privileges that humans do. They work with humans, they live next to humans, and they exist peacefully with humans.
Until the reaping.
One night in 1986, millions of human children were systematically murdered by their parents. In every family, a single six year old child remained alive. It was soon discovered that those six year old children were not human; six years prior, some 30,000 children were born but never made it out of the hospital. They were replaced with surrogates.
Because of the reaping, these non-humans – cryptids – were stripped of any and all rights and privileges. Millions lost jobs and homes. They became property. And the world of the Menagerie was created.
Delilah is thrust into this world when she displays some rather unusual characteristics while touring the Menagerie. After twenty-five years of believing she’s human, Delilah’s world changes in the span of a few seconds.
As I read, I found myself relating to Delilah in ways I didn’t expect. I was at once both captivated and disgusted by the Menagerie. Captivated by the mysteries it contained, yet disgusted by the treatment of those in captivity. The monsters weren’t the ones locked in the cages.
At it’s heart, Menagerie is a story about humanity and whether or not being human is a pre-requisite (spoiler: it isn’t). The story that Vincent tells is intense, vibrant, and – at times – heartbreaking. But what I liked most about it is that it wasn’t predictable. I thought I knew exactly what was going to happen, how the characters were going to interact, and how the first book of this trilogy was going to end. I was wrong.
I like being wrong when it comes to the predictability of what I’m reading.
I do have some concerns about things being “too tidy” – and perhaps a bit too easy… but thankfully Vincent has more books coming to muddy the waters again.