Book Review: Fierce Kingdom
by: Gin Phillips
Finished on: January 9, 2018
Publisher: Viking Books
I received a free e-copy of this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review. I also own a hardcover copy from Book of the Month. All opinions expressed below are my own.
Joan and her young son are just about to leave the zoo near closing time, when they stumble upon a scene with dead bodies and see a far-away man with a gun. In Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips, we live through the next three hours spent inside the zoo, told primarily from Joan's point of view, as she tries to protect herself and her young son from the shooter.
Fierce Kingdom is one intense ride! As you read, your stress level will ride and push you to continue on until the end. This is definitely a genre that I think many appeal to many reads, but may also be a bit of a trigger warning (extreme gun violence) for many. Gin Phillips did an amazing job of slowly building suspense so that you feel like you are watching this unfold in real time.
I think the zoo setting was a clever one, as we have all been to large zoos and thus she doesn't have to spend a ton of time world-building; we can immediately picture where the characters are and what problems this may cause.
Since I am not a mother, it was hard for me to relate to Joan's character while I was reading. Yes, I (somewhat) understand the motherly attachment and devotion, but having no child of my own, it makes it somewhat difficult to relate to when reading. In fact, it was somewhat difficult for me to relate to any of the characters in the novel. I believe Joan's character is portrayed as a working mother, but she has time to take her child to the zoo or a museum after school EVERY day - this didn't seem very realistic with how busy families with two working parents are. There were just a few character development items that didn't make me mesh as well with this novel.
Without giving any spoilers, another issue I had was with the teacher-student dynamic. For some reason, I just didn't find this interaction to be very realistic. I work in a school in an area that has primarily low SES enrollment, but the teacher's views on her students growing up just became a bit defeatist or nihilistic to me.
Overall, Fierce Kingdom was a well-written and highly suspenseful novel. I definitely understand the draw that many readers felt to this one - especially mothers of young boys. Personally, this book wasn't a hit, but I do appreciate Gin Phillips' writing and would definitely check out her future publications.