(Menagerie #1)

by Rachel Vincent

In an alternate USA where a mysterious great reaping as occurred, and mythological creatures such as mermaids and griffins and werewolves kept caged in traveling sideshow, Delilah Marlow goes to see a sideshow with her boring boyfriend and best friend.

She is horrified to encounter hat looks like human children in the petting zoo alongside werewolf cubs.

Then she’s horrified further when a different werewolf youngster is prodded into “performing” with an electric cattle prod. And finds herself so incensed that she is transformed and her life changed forever.

On one hand, this about a girl living under horrible imprisonment and getting together a band of folks to break out.

On the other hand, this is easily politically parallel to quite a few of the USA’s greatest shames: slavery, unjust incarceration of Japanese during WWII, and any time we chose to treat a group of sentient, feeling, thinking beings as less than human.

I was a bit overwhelmed by the awfulness of the treatment of the sideshow folks. I wasn’t prepared for the deep level of degradation they experienced…like picking up a historical book about blacks in the South as opposed to a fantasy about fantastical creatures. So I’m torn. On one hand, the emotional impact of using fantasy to show how utterly baseless and injust “owning” sentient beings is does exactly what I want good fantasy to do: use the fantastic to shed light on our own culture and mores. On the other hand, it felt too brutal for a New Adult fantasy book. Maybe I felt unwarned?

Not sure if I have the emotional fortitude to continue on with the series, but I can’t say it wasn’t compelling and well written.