August 15, 2017

Fierce Kingdom - Gin Phillips

Random House Canada, July 4, 2017.


Four Stars


Fierce Kingdom is a terrifying novel about the lengths a mother will go to in order to protect her child. Joan and her four-year-old son Lincoln are spending a fun and relaxing day at the zoo, when they hear what sounds like fireworks in the distance. At the end of the long day, they head toward the front gates and encounter a shocking scene – there are armed gunmen at the exit, standing over bloody bodies on the ground.


Thinking fast, Joan grabs Lincoln and runs back into the labyrinth of the zoo – and she keeps running for the next three hours, right up until the novel’s thrilling ending. Luckily, Joan has spent a lot of time at the zoo, and she remembers an empty exhibit where they can hide until the police arrive. She has her cell phone and is able to contact her husband, who tells her that the police are on their way – but soon after she is forced to throw her phone away to distract the gunmen, leaving her at the mercy of the dark zoo at night.


Staying just a step ahead of danger, Joan encounters another small group of people who are also on the run – but working together puts her and Lincoln in more danger. Joan quickly realizes the sacrifices she is willing to make to save her child, and she is shocked by her own actions. The novel questions our duty towards other people in contrast to our animal instinct to survive with our own loved ones. The zoo setting is important because it shows the humans that are trapped there as nothing more than animals in a cage, desperate to survive – suddenly life is pared down to the essentials of food, shelter and staying alive.


Most of the story is told from Joan’s perspective, but we do meet some other characters, including one of the gunmen. Learning about his motivations for the attack is intriguing, and the behaviour between the men becomes increasingly animalistic as well. Each narrator also has flashbacks describing their life before the zoo attack, which are emotional and compelling, fleshing out these characters into three-dimensional people. The background stories increase the stakes, as we become invested in the survival of Joan, Lincoln and the others.


The events at the zoo aren’t always realistic, but it’s certainly a believable situation that could happen to anyone at any time. The difficult decisions of motherhood become clear and concise, as Joan sacrifices everyone and everything – even herself – to protect Lincoln. Fierce Kingdom is a thrilling story, difficult to put down and exciting from start to finish. This is a great summer read that will likely be one of the most popular books of the season, and well worth reading.


I received this book from Random House Canada and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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