Monday, July 14, 2014

The Menagerie by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland

Logan is used to spending time on his own - his mother left a few months ago and his dad has moved them to the town of Xanadu, Wyoming in the hopes of finding her.  It's an okay place as far as small towns go, but all the kids at the local school have already sorted out who they are friends with because they have all been through kindergarten and now school together.  Logan gets some company from his cat and his other pets, but when he wakes up one morning to find feathers in his room and the pets all hiding he has no idea that he is about to be introduced to the world of the Menagerie.

If someone had tried to tell Logan about the Menagerie he probably would have laughed at them or thought they were crazy - but that was before the appearance of a griffin cub in his bedroom!  Suddenly Logan is discovering all sorts of things about the little town of Xanadu and the people who live there - especially Zoe Kahn and her family.  Zoe is not your typical kid, and once Logan learns about the griffin cubs and the other animals in the Menagerie it all becomes a little clearer.  With six griffin cubs on the loose it is a race against time to find them all and return them before the dreaded SNAPA finds out and shuts the Menagerie down.
I don't often come across books that I love from the first page, but The Menagerie was one of those rare gems that grabbed me from the first page and kept me hooked until the end.  This modern urban fantasy seamlessly blends together our world with the world of the Menagerie, and it is through Logan's eyes that we get to see this amazing new world, and his sense of wonder just makes everything more amazing.  The mythological creatures we meet inside (and outside) the walls of the Menagerie are awe inspiring, but also so real and "human" - not what you would expect from a typical mythological creature living in the modern age.  Some of the mythology has been flipped a little, but that fits perfectly with the story and it makes it both a little more palatable for younger readers, but also makes some of the characters a little more relatable and endearing.  This is definitely one of those books though where having a little bit of knowledge about mythology was both and advantage and a disadvantage because one of the surprises wasn't much of a surprise because I saw it coming (but it was still really well written which meant it was still a good moment).
Zoe is a fabulous counterbalance to Logan because she has seen it all, and done it all before, but through her we get to see more of the danger of the Menagerie as well as the wonder.  What could have been just another fantasy adventure instead became a warm and engaging read through the humorous and very human elements of the stories - from comic misunderstandings to the loss of deep friendships, there is something to discover around every corner.  I can't wait to get my hands on book two so I can see what happens next for Logan, Zoe, and the Menagerie because there are the hints of a dark conspiracy here, hints of something to come that could put the whole Menagerie at risk.  One of my favourite part of the Menagerie would have to be the griffin cubs and their sibling rivalry - it is very hard not to smile at some of their antics and their attempts to gain the upper paw over their siblings.

This is a genre bending series because although at heart it is a fantasy story with mythological creatures living in a menagerie in the modern world, it is also a story about friendship and family and what that really means.  It also has the genre bending elements of being a mystery story as Logan and Zoe search for the griffin cubs and uncover something mysterious beneath the calm of Xanadu.  This is one of those great series that refuses to stay in a single genre, and that refuses to be classified as a "boy book" or a "girl book" and hopefully the rest of the series will be this good too.
If you like this book then try:
  • Dragon on trial by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland
  • The world around the corner by Maurice Gee
  • Into the land of the unicorns by Bruce Coville
  • Pangur ban the white cat by Fay Sampson
  • Stone heart by Charlie Fletcher
  • Red rocks by Rachael King
  • The mysterious howling by Maryrose Wood
  • Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo
  • Northwood by Brian Falkner
  • Finding the fox by Ali Sparkes
  • Hollow Earth by John Barrownman and Carole Barrowman

Reviewed by Brilla

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