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.
“Welcome to the menagerie, where beauty and grace shine from every cage and peek from every shadow. You’ve never seen anything like the exotic wonders within, so keep your eyes open, ladies and gentlemen, because in our world of spectacle and illusion, what you see isn’t always what you get.”
Right off the bat, this is unlike anything Vincent has ever written. So if you’re expecting her usual romantic/fun stories, well, don’t.
Menagerie is a dark, provocative, and disturbing story. It depicts a world where all supernatural creatures, called cryptids, are stripped their rights after the reaping, which left millions of humans dead.
“Remember the reaping? wasn’t just a question. It was something parents said in hushed voices. Something priests advised while they made the sign of the cross. Something politicians shouted from behind podiums. Remember the reaping was a warning not to let history repeat itself. A reminder for humanity not to let its guard down.
Metzger’s Menagerie is the largest traveling zoo in the northern hemisphere. Delilah – a once-aspiring crypto-vet – is ready to celebrate her 25th birthday. When her boyfriend gets her tickets to the menagerie, she reluctantly agrees to go. When she witnesses the abuse and cruel treatment the cryptids live through, her rage brings out a monster she had no idea even existed.
She finds herself accused of being a cryptid in hiding, stripped of all her rights, and sold to the menagerie.
“What was I, if I had no name, no friends, no family, no job, no home, no belongings, and no authority over my own body? What could I be?”
Vincent builds the story, world, and characters brilliantly. Mermaids, oracles, sphinxes, Minotaur’s, phoenixes, succubi, fae – there were so much mythology and I loved all of it. But despite all these “monsters”, the humans we meet are the most despicable, and Vincent manages to make all of the characters, human or not, believable and convincing.
Menagerie was scary as hell though. It was awful watching Delilah’s life turn upside down overnight and to see her and the other cryptids suffer so much. But she was strong, she fought for what she believed in and tried to help the other cyrptids. All of this made it impossible for me not to root for her.
Ultimately Menagerie was well-executed, fast-paced, and masterfully written. It might not be the book for everyone because of the dark content, but if you think you can handle the darkness, I highly recommend it.