Author: Rachel Vincent
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Menagerie #1
Hardcover, 432 pages
Publication: September 29, 2015 by Mira
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.
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.
Vincent’s Menagerie series is categorized as Urban Fantasy but there was a very subtle Dystopian undertone which is represented through the quotes scattered between chapters that emphasized life before cryptids were discovered or ousted and the rules and regulations enforced thereafter. While the book is mainly about Delilah Marlow, the chapters are narrated by multiple characters in third person (Delilah’s chapters are written in first person) which gave readers different point-of-views of the same situation which I thought was interesting. I’m sure those following my blog know that I’m not a fan of multiple POVs but Vincent made it work and besides Delilah I found myself particularly fond of Gallagher and Eryx’s chapters. As I mentioned before, I’m quite familiar with Vincent’s work but Menagerie was wholly different from the style of her other series but in a good way. For authors, who ventured out and did something unlike what they’ve done before is usually a hit or miss. However, I’m happy to report that Vincent hit a home run with this first in a brand new series! I’ve always thought she was a talented writer but with Menagerie I can tell she has grown leaps and bounds in the world building/characterization department. Within the first page I was captivated by Charity, and as I got further along into the story, I found myself wrapped up into the plot and each and every single one of the characters lives’, from captive cryptids to the humans working in Metzger's Menagerie (the good ones at least).
Speaking of characters, Vincent did a wonderful job at creating such a strong, strong heroine. I loved Delilah from the moment she stepped into Metzger’s. All Urban Fantasies has a kick-ass heroine…she either has powers, knows how to fight or a combination of the two…and while Delilah is a cryptid, she never really relied on her powers (for the first half of the book she didn’t even know what she was). What made Delilah such a strong and admirable heroine is her attitude and headstrongness. The Menagerie employees tried to break her, humiliate her, taunt her, starve her, manhandled her, threaten her and never once did Delilah waiver. Delilah is probably the strongest heroine I’ve ever read in fiction, she never gave an inch and always stuck to her ground even when her fellow captives saw no signs of hope and urged Delilah to submit to their authority. On top of such an amazing female lead, are a strong male lead and an eclectic memorable cast of secondary characters. There were many familiar mythical creatures featured that we’ve all heard about such as a werewolf, shifter, oracle, mermaid, minotaur, centaur, siren…you think of it and it’s probably in here somwhere. But the thing is, Vincent put her own spin on them all…so it’s like I was reading about them for the first time! Everything just felt so new, fresh and unique! This is a hard thing to do in itself on top of writing a novel. In this day and age, where everyone is writing similar things, it’s hard to accomplish those three things and standout. But again, Vincent doesn’t have this problem and instead she excels at it.
Many reviewers made some reservations when recommending Menagerie. Yes, it’s dark. Yes, most of the book was hard to stomach. Any bad thing, you think you can inflict or happen to/on a person is probably in this book somewhere. That all might not sound so endorsing but this is a book that everyone needs to read. It’s very thought-provoking, which is rare for me in UF/Paranormal novels (since I don’t recall any past books that made me sit back and really think). Regardless at how rough the book was in the beginning there was a happy ending in there, it was a bittersweet one but there nonetheless. I highly recommend this book; and I can easily say Menagerie is in my top 5 for favorite reads of the year. Menagerie exceeded all my expectations and I am already dying to read the sequel!