Sunday, May 28, 2017

Review: Spectacle by Rachel Vincent

Spectacle by Rachel Vincent
Book Two of the Menagerie series
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

In this riveting sequel to New York Times bestselling author Rachel Vincent's acclaimed novel Menagerie, Delilah Marlow will discover that there is no crueler cage than the confines of the human mind…

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.

What I Liked:

Let me say two things before I start my commentary: (1) This book is not bad, and I think it will be very successful and a good addition to the series. Please read my full thoughts before jumping to the conclusion of "Alyssa gave the book three stars so it must not be good!". (2) This review might be shorter than usual because my thoughts and feelings on this book are not going to be an accurate reflection of the book's quality. Usually I write my reviews based on technical aspects and categories (character development, plot, world-building, etc.), but I don't think I can construct a fair review based on those items, based on my physical reaction to this book. You'll see what I mean.

Actually, this review is going to be somewhat similar to my review of Menagerie. I thought that book was good, well-written, but I suffered as I was reading it. Like Menagerie, there are cruel and disgusting aspects of this book. Unlike Menagerie, or compared to Menagerie, the cruel and disgusting aspects get worse, in Spectacle

In essence, Delilah and the Menagerie gang get kidnapped and forced into the Savage Spectacle, which is different from the Menagerie. The Savage Spectacle is cleaner with better conditions... yet, worse conditions. Each cryptid is outfitted with a collar that has needles that go directly into the spine, which can sense neural and hormonal impulses. Every impulse, action, even thought is controlled. Worse - the Spectacle is all about private engagements and satisfying clients with cryptid fetishes. Yep. Reread that again and imagine what I'm talking about.

Vincent did an amazing job with this story - I can't imagine it having been easy to write. Every disgusting act, every choice taken away, every forced action - I hated all of it but I can't deny that everything was well-written and not without its place. 

I adored Delilah, and Gallager, and the crew. I hated what was done to them, but I loved seeing their strength and self-preservation win out. 

No romance in this book, though there are some... odd things that happen. 

In general, it's a sequel that will rip you apart and hurt you, but it is a good book.

What I Did Not Like:

There are so many things wrong with this story, I can't even begin to list them even if I wanted to (but I won't, because of spoilers). Notice I'm talking about the story and not the book (note the distinction). Vincent is shining a light on some gruesome and horrible topics, and I take no issue with that. Sort of. 

I think my problem is that I hated everything that happened in this book, and I didn't - couldn't - enjoy the story. There are no trigger warnings, nothing to help someone decide if this is a book for them. Let me just say: there is rape in this book. There is lack of consent. There is sexual abuse and sexual harassment. Wills (willpower) are taken, choices are taken, freedom is taken. A person's body is not their own, physically, mentally, or in a reproductive way. Loss of memory, loss of control, loss of the ability to communicate - the story is filled with these things.

Can you imagine? 

I needed warnings. Put yourself in the shoes of a rape survivor, or sexual abuse survivor. This book is disturbing and horrifying - as it is meant to be! - and I could not enjoy it. I do not begrudge anyone their high rating or praise of this book, but I couldn't enjoy this story. I recognize that it is not the book itself that should be put down - but I'm being honest here: I hated the story. 

Three stars, because it's not the book, it's the actions and behaviors that exist in this world and should not be ignored. But, three stars, because I could not stomach this story. Call me whatever name you want, but I couldn't do it. Yes, I finished the book. Yes, I know, all of the things in this book exist (in some way) in real life. 

In Menagerie, I sort of got used to the "disturbing" aspects of the story. In Spectacle? Everything was one hundred times worse. Menagerie seemed just barely disturbing compared to Spectacle. So there was no way for me to "get used to anything", to become desensitized.

Would I Recommend It:

I do not recommend Spectacle. I do not recommend Menagerie. These are not easy books to read, and honestly they get worse and worse in terms of graphic content. Worse NOT in terms of the quality of the storytelling, but worse in terms of what the characters have to experience and face. Call me a snowflake, call me fragile, I don't care - these books are not for everyone. Definitely (unfortunately) not for me. I thought I could handle it with Menagerie, but clearly I was wrong with Spectacle. I can't finish this series. I can't think about how bad book three will be.

Don't take my word for it though, if you've already read Menagerie and you're really interested in this book. But if you haven't read Menagerie, think about what you'll be reading before you start the book. Message or email me with questions, if you want. Although I have to say, I'm going to be trying really hard to forget what I read, in both books.


3 stars. I honestly don't know how to rate and review this book, because it's me and my thoughts/opinions that I'm writing about, and not necessary technical aspects (writing, world-building, character development, etc.). I rarely write this type of review (based on my thoughts/opinions alone), but I'm so shaken and unsettled, and I really don't know how to write this review any other way. Hopefully I've conveyed something useful to any reader of this reviewer. I'm not trying to tear down the author or this book - but I am trying to warn any reader who, like me, shouldn't be reading this book but don't know that they shouldn't be, because they don't know enough information about the book (see above, about warnings). 

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!


  1. This one sounds like a really good read with an equally appealing cover. Too bad it didn't worked out for you :(

  2. I think that if a book has these intense situations and plot lines, there needs to be some acknowledgement of this and it needs to be warnings -- there are things you described that I would need some idea of before going into this series -- even if it does happen in real life.

  3. Thanks for the warnings! I've been on the fence about this series, but now I know they are not for me.

  4. I read that first book and I was sick to my stomach the whole time, but I liked it enough. I don't think I can pick up this second one though. I will mostly likely puke my guts out. I thought things would get better now for them, but it sounds horrifying.

    P.S When you upload the review to Goodreads, can you consider putting the trigger warning at the top in bold? That way it will be the first thing that other readers see and it could help them.

  5. Oh wow. I recently purchased the ebook of Menagerie and was hoping to start it soon. I'm taking your warnings seriously, and if I can't stomach it, I won't even attempt to read this sequel. Like you said, it's not for everyone. And that is still okay. Great review!

  6. Oh no sorry you didn't enjoy this book and I hope your next book will be much better. I haven't heard about this series and I will probably avoid it, although I do like her The Stars Never Rise Duology. Great review.

  7. I always feel like you're very free with your stars in this kind of situation, Alyssa (lol!). I know I would have given it two or less, just because of the reaction it seemed like you got from it. See, I actually stayed away from the first book because even though Rachel Vincent's stories are generally to my taste, the way you wrote about Menagerie just didn't seem like it was worth my time. I'm sorry you didn't like this one as well, Alyssa. But thanks for the warning anyhow!

    - Aila @ One Way Or An Author

  8. I am sorry that this book didn't work for you. It really did have some things that were hard to imagine at times. I hope you enjoy your next read more.

  9. I don't see three stars as a bad rating at all. I see it as a "I'm right down the middle" kind of rating. Obviously you still enjoyed lots of things about the book, but there were lots of things you didn't like, too.

    Love your honest review!

  10. I think I'll skip this one (and Menagerie). I've been thinking of reading them, after I read Freeks someone recommended this as another circus- themed cryptid book, but it looked a little darker and more graphic. Now I know it is! And it just doesn't appeal to me if it's that dark I guess. I can see why this would be trouble for some people (understandably). Thanks for the review, it's good to know!

  11. First off what an honest and great review. I don't think this book would work for me because there seems like a lot of larger topics that might not be handled well, although at least reading your review I so have some warning.

  12. I plan on reading this one pretty soon. I'm glad you reviewed it even though the book wasn't for you. It's nice to see both sides on reviews :)

  13. This sounds incredibly dark. Normally I don't mind stories with a bit of grit, but this sounds like way too much for me. From review it sounds like Vincent's writing is strong, which probably made the disturbing content affect you even more. I have Menagerie as an ebook but I may need to just leave that one unread.

  14. I happen to have an eBook of Menagerie and was planning on reading it as it's a book set in a circus (I love circus settings) but if it's so disturbing and the sequel only gets worse in terms of the disturbing elements, I don't think I'll pick it up! Thanks for the helpful review Alyssa <33

  15. Huuugs. <3 Lovely review Alyssa. You are amazing for reading this book :) I'm so glad you liked the characters so much. But yeah, it's a pretty brutal and heartbreaking one :( Yet I couldn't help but love it so much. Sigh. I hope you will read the next one too. <3


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