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.
When I read the cover copy I was like, woo-hoo! Carnivals are basically circuses, and I like circuses. Fantasy, otherworldly creatures? I’m there.
But holy cow the first half of this book was hard to get through. Looking back this was probably the most telling thing – I should have finished two or three books in the week plus it took me to read Menagerie. I had trouble bringing myself to the page.
Delilah is deemed to be a cryptid and therefore not a person. For over two hundred pages she deals with this. Vincent is trying to drive home the horror of slavery by having it happen to a white middle class woman but it’s way too heavy and obvious. At one point she even has a water hose turned on her.
And for these two hundred pages there’s basically no plot other than, “Argh, the injustice!” At the midpoint the book turns into a more run of the mill fantasy with a story and some action. Delilah gets a purpose but stinks at planning. She has plan A, talks with one person and goes, “wait wait, we should do this other plan!” Then halfway through that plan she goes, “no no no, we should really do this much more dangerous thing that would take a lot of forethought that we don’t have time to do right now!” So much side eye.
And the ending wasn’t even satisfying. It’s not a cliffhanger, thank goodness, but I was left thinking, “Oh, that’s one long, boring road you’re headed down”. I’m afraid I won’t be following.
Thanks to MIRA and Edelweiss for providing a review copy.