Title: Fierce Kingdom
Author: Gin Phillips
Lincoln is a good boy. At the age of four, he is curious, clever and well behaved. He does as his mum says and knows what the rules are.
‘The rules are different today. The rules are that we hide and do not let the man with the gun find us.’
When an ordinary day at the zoo turns into a nightmare, Joan finds herself trapped with her beloved son. She must summon all her strength, find unexpected courage and protect Lincoln at all costs – even if it means crossing the line between right and wrong; between humanity and animal instinct.
It’s a line none of us would ever normally dream of crossing.
But sometimes the rules are different.
Fierce Kingdom is a emotive, tense story which has elements of a thriller – the characters are trapped in a zoo after hours with gunmen who seem to be on a killing spree – but the similarities to a thriller stops there, I suppose. If you’re picking this novel up expecting a rollercoaster game of cat and mouse, I’d look elsewhere, because though we do follow Joan and her young son Lincoln as they try to avoid being killed, the story is more about Joan’s connection with her son Lincoln, and her desperate need to protect him above all else – and before the safety of herself or others. There are times when she has to make difficult decisions to try and secure her son’s safety, and the power of maternal love is really demonstrated throughout this novel.
I found that the first half of the book (after we realise the attackers are in the zoo) is quite slow going, in that not a lot actually happens. Time passes as her and Lincoln hide, and they make some small movements to different hiding places, but there isn’t a huge amount of action, and at times it did drag a little, decreasing the tension that was created at the beginning. However, we learn a lot more about Joan and Lincoln, and here the emotional side of the story really comes into play – and powerfully so!
We learn more about their family life, Lincoln growing up, the struggles of being a mother, and Joan’s fiercely protective feelings towards Lincoln. There’s a limit to how much we find out about Kailynn or Mrs Powell, as we can only learn what they tell about themselves, but we find out more from their discussions and this is an interesting exploration of the way people react to these situations. It also draws attention to the fact that age doesn’t really mean a lot when you’re faced with gunmen – though the very young (Lincoln) are bound to be quite naive and helpless, Kailynn – at only 16 years old – is surprisingly strong and resilient, and Mrs Powell is much older in age, but is similarly hard and determined. Of course, Joan herself has her maternal instincts pushing her to protect them, if only for her son’s sake. I don’t have children myself but I can imagine whilst reading this novel how strong that feeling must be – and it must be even easier to identify with her if you have children yourself.
This is a fairly short book but it is impactful with plenty of tension. It’s got suspense, lots of beautifully written character development, and a good dose of originality – a great read!
Many thanks to Alison Barrow at Transworld Books for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.
Fierce Kingdom is out on 15 June in hardback and ebook formats – view on Amazon here.
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