Friday, September 25, 2015

Early Review of Menagerie (Menagerie #1) by Rachel Vincent

Title: Menagerie
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Menagerie Series
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: MIRA (September 29, 2015)
ISBN-10: 077831605X
ISBN-13: 978-0778316053
Author's Website:
Notes: I received and eARC loan from the publisher for review purposes. Any quotes used are subject to change and will need to be checked against the final version.

Nearly thirty years ago, a horrific event took place across the U.S. that was later called the reaping...

"Shock and grief echo across the United States this morning with the news that more than one million children died overnight, most reportedly killed in their sleep. Government officials and residents alike watch, stunned, as the reports continue to pour in, raising the death toll by several thousand per hour..." 
--As reported by anchor Brian Richards on U.S. Morning News, August 24, 1986

The deaths were blamed on the cryptids, supernatural beings who lived among humans and caused widespread panic. Cryptids were rounded up, thrown in prison (or shot for resisting arrest), and denied citizenship and legal rights...

'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.'(...)

'Fear is a powerful, often irrational emotion, and mass fear on the scale of what followed the reaping has the power to shake any society to its core.'

Now, some thirty years later, that fear will take its toll on Delilah Marlow. While at Metzger's Menagerie, a famous traveling carnival which displays cryptids like zoos display animals, a split second decision to intervene will cost her everything, changing the course of her life forever...

"Leave her alone," I said, and when the entire hybrid tent went silent around me, I realized my voice sounded...different. Not lower in pitch, but larger somehow. More robust.(...) Sounds I hadn't realized I was hearing suddenly ceased" (...) "Get the hell away from her!" I shouted, and my hair rose on my scalp, as if the power sparking through me had charged it at the roots. It floated around my head, not in thin tendrils, but in heavy ropes of hair, twisting around my face in my peripheral vision."

For the past twenty-five years Delilah thought she was human, but was she?

This  book was very dark and yet I totally loved it. It draws a picture of humanity (at least in the world she created) at its least humane which may make some uncomfortable. Power when paired with fear is a dangerous concoction, and people will do things they otherwise would not, especially when given free range to do so with the promise of no consequences. It delves into the darkness of the human psyche and begs the question how would you act in a similar situation? Would you speak up against obvious cruelty, would you remain silent, or be willing participant in the abuse? The scenario brought to mind brought to mind the treatment of Jews by Hitler during his Nazi regime, of black individuals by the people who dared to declare themselves their owners, of Japanese immigrants and citizens of Japanese decent during World War II,  and the list goes on. While the reason for the hate or fear may vary, the treatment that results proves people can be very cruel and possess a dark side.

Delilah is a strong character who is seemingly thrown into a nightmarish position. Instead of laying down and taking it, she does what she can, albeit not much at first, to get out of her current predicament. She's the type of person who speaks up for the underdog and can't hold her tongue when she sees something that she knows just isn't right. While it lands her in a heap of trouble, I have no doubt she'd do it all over again in a heartbeat because that's just the way she is. Her relationship with Gallagher is complicated, and I wasn't sure from one instant to another whether she should trust him.

There are plenty of supernatural beings in this series many of which I'd heard of as well as one or two that I hadn't. The novel is set in what appears to be an alternate history version of our own world that I look forward to finding out more about. I'm curious how similar and different our worlds will actually be. While we gain bits and pieces about what the reaping is, I don't think we've gotten to the core of it. The way the information is given to us, mainly in the form of news articles, makes me feel Ms. Vincent has something up her sleeve that we'll find out about later in the series.

I gave this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses, A wonderful new series with a lot of possibilities. It reminded me a bit of the stories in the anthology Carniepunk and of Anne Bishop's series Others. Like a good magician holds an audience under their spell, Ms.Vincent kept me captivated with this story from start to finish. It also opened up a long forgotten memory from when I was a small child and went to a traveling carnival that featured its own menagerie of strange, rare, and exotic creatures. Five legged animals, a bearded lady, and the like were on display.  It makes me wonder what people would say if that same carnival were to make an appearance today? As for this book, I found it suspenseful and entertaining. I look forward to reading more of this series and seeing where Ms. Vincent takes us with her next book. I definitely recommend this one.

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