When their coup of Metzger’s Menagerie is discovered, Delilah and her fellow cryptids find their newly won freedom brutally stripped away as they are sold into The Savage Spectacle, a private collection of “exotic wildlife.” Specializing in ruthless cryptid cage matches, safari-style creature hunts and living party favors, the Spectacle’s owner, Willem Vandekamp, caters to the forbidden fetishes of the wealthy and powerful. At the Spectacle, any wish can be granted—for the right price.
But Vandekamp’s closely guarded client list isn’t the only secret being kept at the Spectacle. Beneath the beauty and brutality of life in the collection lie much darker truths, and no one is more determined than Delilah to strip the masks from the human monsters and drag all dark things into the light. (Goodreads)
Following the cryptids’ escape from the harsh control of Metzger’s Menagerie, heroine Delilah Marlow is now in charge of their travelling circus, with the chains now merely for appearances sake. They are free to perform as and when they like to ensure the money continues to flow, using any excess profits to free further cryptids from captivity and offering them the choice to come on board at the circus. However, their freedom is not set to last long, with the circus being raided and all cryptids taken into the custody of Willem Vandekamp.
Willem claims to be a scientist and developer, known for studying cryptids and designing ways to control them based on their abilities. His primary invention seems to be that of a collar, which all the cryptids wake up to and realise that they cannot use any of their abilities, as the collar has been attached to the spine and reacts to neurological impulses. It also restricts them to certain rooms, with any attempt to pass through the doorway resulting in harsh electric shocks.
With the group not sure what comes next, it becomes clear that the Savage Spectacle is more than just Willem’s science experiment, with the cryptids being dressed up and put on show, available for purchase if the buyer is willing to pay enough for the pleasure. Then there are the fights put on between the more bestial cryptids, which is where Gallagher the redcap ends up, unable to protect Delilah as he has sworn to do. Instead, she is forced to watch him fight and suffer the internal struggle at spilling blood dishonourably, whilst some of the shifters are used in hunts, with people paying a fee to chase them down through the woods.
I think that Vincent has managed to successfully build upon her world that was established in book one, somehow thinking of a way to dehumanize the cryptids more than the carnival had before. The glimpse of freedom that they had been shown was almost cruel as they were so quickly snatched back into captivity, this time made to suffer the inability to even communicate, as the collars can even prevent them from talking.
It was the unjust nature of the ‘shows’ that unleashed Delilah’s inner beast and made her desperate to find an escape route for them all, as she shows her strong sense of righteousness throughout the book. I still admired her as a character and thought that she showed strong intellect to come up with some of the ways around their restrictions. She can still pass for human, and that works as an advantage and a curse as events unfold, putting her in a difficult situation that will be carried forward into the next book, having to keep her emotions under control.
Gallagher’s character was also explored further in this book as we learn more about the loyalty and honour of redcaps and what it means to him to take another life. He is desperate to take down all their captors, but must be convinced by Delilah to bide his time until the right moment comes. It is hardest of all for him to see Delilah hurt when he has sworn to protect her, and even harder for him to tell her certain truths towards the end of the book. They have suffered together and share a bond no-one else understands, something that goes far beyond love and is as pure and simple as honesty and loyalty.
Overall I thought the plot of this book developed the cryptid world further so that we could understand the depth of the prejudice prevalent in society. There are those twisted few who take advantage through the Savage Spectacle, but this shows humans to be more depraved than the cryptids they mock. I thought that this helped show the cryptids positively, along with the glimpses we see of the family relationships and romances formed between them, as Vincent depicts an entire community within the pages. I think I would have liked to see more development of previous characters other than just Delilah and Gallagher, and I also have my concerns over where the plot is heading in book three. However, only time will tell if the series will continue to impress.
A great follow up to this fantasy series, the cryptid world is expanded further and introduces us to the depth of politics prevalent in this alternate reality. The characters undergo significant development and I thought the relationship between Delilah and Gallagher was expanded nicely, with Delilah’s power still having a significant level of potential for future books.