Release Date - September 29, 2015
Publisher Website - Harlequin
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 432 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received for honest review from the publisher**
Here is the Goodreads synopsis
From New York Times bestselling author Rachel Vincent comes a richly imagined, provocative new series set in the dark mythology of the Menagerie…Menagerie is my introduction to Rachel Vincent novels, and she sure didn't disappoint. A wildly imaginative world, engaging characters, and a timely social structure, all ensure a highly addictive read that will easily have you reading late into the night.
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.
The setting is mesmerizing. It's incredibly vivid and vibrant. It comes to life easily though Rachel Vincent's words, and it captures your imagination. It's easily the strongest aspect of the novel, and one that you can loose yourself in completely. There is a magical, yet sinister quality to the 'carnival'. It's one that makes you think about the animals in these traveling 'circuses' and how it would look if itwere people within those cages instead. It is eye opening right from the second you're immersed into the story and that shows Rachel Vincent's talents.
This novel easily plays out like a television show or movie. You can visualize all the details, and see yourself in the middle of the story with little effort. The author has transported you into this world, and has made these characters feel incredibly real. The entire novel feels real and that adds an extra layer to the experience. The realism ensures that you become invested in the story, and that you care about the characters. It also adds to the sense of unease you feel, because it feels so similar to real events and situations.
Part of this realism is due to the easily imagined oppression and treatment of the cryptids (the magical creatures that are the carnival's exhibits). Stripped of all rights, subjected to horrible conditions in captivity, and forced into a life of confinement and abuse. It is entirely relatable to the fight for rights, animal cruelty, and genocide that we're familiar with. It's not unfathomable, and not unknown to us, so slipping into this world feels effortless as a result. The brutal truth is hard to read sometimes, and there were some unflinching scenes that were uncomfortable to experience. Violence, rape, and derogation are common place in this world, and it is heartbreaking. It's a novel that ignites an anger within you and it's one that doesn't leave when you turn the final page.
Deliah has an inner strength to her that is present through each indignity and each situation that is thrown at her. She uses these atrocities to gain strength and never breaks. She is strong in a different way than perhaps expected, but one that is no less inspiring than the usual. It's not a physical strength that stands out in her, but a mental one. It's what allows her to retain her sense of self and fight back. She refuses to bow and bend to her captors. She refuses to give in. This strength is her most defining trait, and one that serves the story well.
Those who are looking for a novel with little to no romance will be drawn to this story. It appears that this entire series may have little romance in it (or perhaps even none at all), as the focus is elsewhere. The story is stronger without it, as it would only distract from the overall message of the novel. This is a world that doesn't lend itself to romance, and I was especially relieved not to see any romance between captives and captors.
A story that will have huge cross over appeal and is one that keeps you hooked from the very beginning. Rachel Vincent has crafted an unforgettable world, and heroine that will immediately have you wishing you could read the sequel. She blends paranormal and fantasy elements into a brutal, realistic world seamlessly to create a story that will appeal to both older teens and adults in equal measure.