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.
In 1986 thousands of children were murdered by their parents under some type of compunction but each family was left with a six year old child who had been born in March 1980. These six year olds were not human and it became apparent that somehow Changelings, or Surrogates as they are called here, are the cause of all the suffering. This time is referred to as the Reaping and consequently all Supernaturals (Cryptids) became hunted, caged, and had all their basic rights removed. Not human, not important, just despised Cryptids!
Our story really begins when Delilah reluctantly spends her twenty fifth birthday at a traveling Menagerie. She dislikes the way the creatures appear to be treated and from the start feels uncomfortable. When a handler uses a cattle prod on a young werewolf something inside Delilah snaps and a fierce creature hiding inside her emerges, which leads to Delilah being considered one of the monsters. Within just a few hours, her human life is over and she's sold to the menagerie! It's a cruel, dangerous place, but Delilah refuses to bow down and lose her humanity no matter what the cost!
Oh my, I am in awe! Menagerie took me a while to fully understand, which is why I've tried to explain the Reaping and I'm still not sure why or how it happened. Nevertheless, once the story got going it felt like a runaway train ride and I begrudged the time I had to sleep last night! Honestly, even when I went to bed, I kept thinking about it and just wanted to know more.
There are far too many creatures and characters for me to describe but I will say we get frequent different points of view which might sound confusing but please, trust me, it really is so simple to follow. Delilah is just so strong, never a quitter and compassionate to boot. The handler, Gallagher, has been charged with breaking her and their interactions are truly fascinating. Is Gallagher totally bad? He's a formidable chap and pretty scary but does not seem to take advantage of Delilah. Just what is Delilah, is a tease almost to the end but the reveal makes sense given what has happened to the Cryptids in the past years.
It's a hard painful read at times with very dark undertones, but it's also an awesome story that resonates and will stay with me a while. Menagerie does have an ending of sorts but clearly there's a lot more to come. Yes, I did get some answers but Ms Vincent still has a few more secrets to reveal and I for one cannot wait!
If you love paranormal or urban fantasy then do yourself a huge favour and get this book!
I was given a copy of this in exchange for an honest review.