Years ago humanity was blindsided by the reaping.

“We hadn’t seen the reaping coming. The cryptid surrogates had pulled off the greatest con in all of history—so meticulously executed that we didn’t realize the scale of the infiltration until it was far too late. Six years after the first wave, we’d still had no idea that our losses numbered more than three hundred thousand.”

People who are afraid cannot be reasoned with. In the years following, laws bred of fear and hatred were passed. Cryptids were stripped of any and all rights. They were no longer considered human, no matter if they looked it or not. Considered nothing more than animals, the more ostentatious creatures were forced into servitude in traveling carnivals. Beneath the big top they were exploited and forced to perform for humans who were both fascinated and horrified.

Delilah Marlow’s boyfriend managed to snag tickets to one such carnival for her birthday, Metzger’s Menagerie. Metzger’s is one of the best traveling carnivals and tickets must’ve cost a small fortune. The carnival seldom passes through middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma so any who could afford to attend would be there.

“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.”

Delilah gets much more than she bargained for while perusing the exhibits. When a handler uses a cattle prod to goad a child into performing, Delilah has had all she can take. Amid her fury at the mistreatment, she turns into something else. Her life as she knows it is stripped from her. She’s captured and forced to perform in the carnival. As an unidentified cryptid, they’ll try to break her, but things aren’t exactly as they seem behind the bars of the carnival and she might yet find a way out.

Menagerie is the first novel in a trilogy by the gifted Rachel Vincent. I’ve enjoyed her other works in the past and was eagerly awaiting this new world. Her world building is revealed in layers. You learn small bits and pieces from quotes at the beginning of some chapters and a few flashbacks. It’s told from alternating points of view, from both people working at the carnival and people behind the bars of the carnival as well. It’s not often you get to peak into the head of the ‘villain’ of a book or many of the supporting characters. It’s not her most impressive work and there are minor pacing and suspense flaws, but it was good enough that I’ll finish the trilogy. In a genre that seems pretty played out it’s a decently novel concept. I’d say if you’re into fantasy give it a look. It’s not overly long and it’s entertaining. The next two books are already out so there’s no waiting!