Although Spectacle is a worthy successor to Menagerie, the overall plot does feel somewhat similar to the first book, just with some details changed.
Rachel Vincent’s Menagerie kicked off a fairly fascinating universe. Like other cryptid-based series (I’m thinking here of Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid, which I recommend), Vincent plucked out different creatures from around the world, threw them together and said they all existed, and then went for the idea that not only did they exist, but people knew about them and exploited them.
Into all of this comes Delilah Marlow, who at the start of Spectacle is running Metzger’s Menagerie after effectively staging a hostile takeover. There’s just one problem: someone knows that she and her fellow cryptids are running the place, and so they end up at the Savage Spectacle, owned by one Willem Vandekamp.
Because Vincent again elaborates further on the world she’s built here and pays off some references from the first book, and since the plot does have some twists, it does get 3.5/5 stars.
(The following may constitute a minor spoiler.) To be honest, one of my favorite parts of this book is that again, Vincent doesn’t automatically default to throwing in an overtly romantic plot. (I even say this as a fan of romance novels.) It would be easy to do so, possibly even expected, and I suspect that as the series continues, there may be a slow burn in Gallagher and Delilah’s future. But, for now, their bond is based on the oath he took to defend her work, and even some developments don’t necessarily make it romantic. The two of them clearly care for each other, but as Delilah’s narration emphasizes, it’s not based on attraction so much.
(Spoilers end.) Additionally, Vincent takes the time to flesh out the world a little more. She referred to Willem Vandekamp in a few lines in Menagerie, so to actually meet him instead of leaving him mysterious makes the novel feel like a payoff. Indeed, his Savage Spectacle does provide a sharp contrast to the relative poverty of Metzger’s Menagerie. It does also appear that Vincent has set up a third book pretty well with the plot of this novel.
Speaking of the plot, on the whole, it’s more than fine. The twists and turns end up really working based on some of the new introductions Vincent makes here. It certainly kept me reading for long periods of time.
Here’s where we get to my primary issue with the plot of Spectacle. Although the trappings are different, and the twists are too, it feels a bit like a rehash of Menagerie. It’s more sinister, as befits a second book, but the basic idea that Delilah is locked up yet again and has to figure out what to do to get herself out with the help of Gallagher and more of her friends is still right there.
It’s a bit like if The Empire Strikes Back had immediately brought back the Death Star again, instead of saving it for Return of the Jedi and then making it even bigger for The Force Awakens. As I said, the other elements are indeed different, and those twists were enjoyable ones. Part of this is likely because yours truly did read the two books back to back, since it makes this seem more apparent.
Menagerie and Spectacle are two very good paranormal novels, and for those looking for something not populated by the normal vampires and werewolves, the set has plenty to offer.
Spectacle is out today from MIRA Books; Menagerie is also available.