Review of KINDLE Ebook Menagerie – Book 1 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent #Brainfluffbookreview #Menageriebookreview

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I like this author – see my review of Pride which also has something to say about the modern world within her escapist fantasy story. So when I saw the third book in this series featured on Netgalley, I requested it and when I was approved and realised that this wasn’t one I could crash into – I got hold of the previous two books in the series.

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 big-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah 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.

And there you have it. Creatures which are not fully human are rounded up, stripped of any rights, caged and put on display for the public. Other than the direct, uncomfortable example of what we often do to the animals we share this planet with – what I kept thinking about was those who are trafficked and sold into slavery. The justification for this treatment is an event called the Reaping, where thousands of children were slaughtered by their parents under some mysterious compulsion that has never been fully explained – except that it is believed to be by a creature with non-human powers.

This dystopian, alternative history is well established and I thoroughly believed in Delilah, an apparently ordinary twenty-five-year-old bank teller who reluctantly goes along to one of these carnivals with her friends and fiancé. The ensuing incident sees her stripped of any of her human rights and put in a cage right along the other specimens on display. I really enjoyed following her journey – it was engrossing and horrifying. Though it did jar with me when we were occasionally yanked out of her first-person viewpoint, finding ourselves in the point of view of one of the supporting characters. It didn’t happen sufficiently often with the same characters for it feel anything other than a bit random.

Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Delilah makes a convincing protagonist and I enjoyed how many of the imprisoned exhibits looked after each other. The pace is well judged, as you’d expect from a writer of her experience and I gobbled this one up in two sittings. Recommended for fans of character-led, darker fantasy and no romance.
9/10

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19 responses »

  1. I liked this and I need to get to Spectacle soon. I’m becoming a Rachel Vincent fan too, she seems to write very differently across her different series (although I’ve only read a couple of her books, so I don’t know that for sure). They just all look different. Anyway I’m really curious to see how she continues Delilah’s story.

  2. Good to see you enjoyed this one. I’ve only read the first in the Soul series by this author and it didn’t work for me although I also had Stray and just didn’t get a chance to read it. Perhaps I should give this one a try and see how it works out.
    Lynn 😀

    • Oh yes – I highly recommend this one. It feels very different from her previous work – to the extent that a number of her previous fans are clearly rather flummoxed by this one. While it certainly isn’t grimdark, it is gritty

  3. I think I have a copy of this one, but haven’t read it yet. It sounds a bit dark and gritty with the horrifying reality that the main character faces and I need to be in the right mood to pick up a book like that. But hopefully one day I’ll get around to reading it. The main character sounds well done and the world building sounds good too. Great review!

    • Yes – I’ll agree that it is quite dark, but it is very engrossing and the story gallops along at a fair clip with plenty going on. While I think you’re wise to pick your time to read it, it isn’t an ultimately depressing book. I tend to avoid those or DNF them and at no stage was I tempted to abandon those – if that helps, Lola…

  4. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily #Review – Monday September 3rd, 2018 – T. E. Taylor with Lizzie Chantree, Anne R. Allen #Publishing 101, Sarah Higbee with #review for Rachel Vincent | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  5. Why do I feel like I’ve heard of this author, even though I’ve never read any of her books? But I digress. This is a lovely review, Sarah, and I’m not sure why Menagerie didn’t catch my attention sooner, since it sounds like something I might like.

  6. This sounds like another fascinating read- I really need to start writing these down! I am planning to get a library ‘hold’ on Earth Girl tomorrow so that I can get it into my library. On a side note, it was a three day weekend and I finally sat down and read “Dying for Space.” It’s a good thing I didn’t have much else going today, because I had to finish it! The worlds you build are so immersive that it’s hard to put them down and get on with silly things like dish washing 🙂 On a SIDE side note, finishing it inspired me to ask if I COULD ask you a quick reference question (for my own writing) regarding social cues on your side of the Pond- would you mind if I picked your brain? (If not, no worries of course! I didn’t see a contact button on your site and don’t want to clutter up your page with unrelated questions. Of course, this whole comment is getting very long already…)

    • I look forward to hearing what you think of Earth Girl – I really enjoy her world.

      And I’m delighted you found Dying for Space a page-turner:)). You’ve made my day!

      And I’d be more than happy to answer any questions regarding social cues, cultural norms, etc from this side of the pond as far as my own experience will allow. And I’ll also warn you if I am out of my comfort zone… As for chatting – I can’t recall if we meet up on Twitter, but my handle is @sjhigbee and if you DM me, I’ll send you my email address:))

      • No – thank you! And I REALLY appreciate that you took the time to write a review on Amazon about Dying for Space, too:) ALSO made my day… Someone very nicely described my series as a hidden gem, and while I loved the notion it was a gem, I’d like to be a lot less hidden.

      • Of course! I try to keep up with reviews, and such good books make it easy 🙂 And I just signed on to Twitter- I haven’t used it before, but have been thinking I probably should sign up. Now if I can figure out how to DM lol…

  7. I wonder why she did that pov shift. Maybe she wants to use that minor character as the lead in another installation of the series? I can’t understand why else, since clearly the narrative moves beautifully along with the Delilah character. Hmmm.

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