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Book Review: Fierce Kingdom

October 2, 2017

While reading Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips, I decided that I didn’t need to sleep. What was more important was the next chapter, and the next, and the next. Knowing full well I had to wake up early the next morning to shadow, I kept reading anyway. The thriller novel focuses on a mother trying to protect her son while shooters infiltrate the zoo they’re at. Though there were moments that had every opportunity to be boring, Phillips kept the plot brisk and exhilarating. I fell in love with the book the moment the first shots broke out and the mother started running. A character with such a need to protect is exhilarating to read about. However, this book is not for mothers. While the plot may be exciting for some, it could potentially terrify anyone with children.

In the beginning of the story, no reader would think it was a suspense (unless they’d read the dust cover). The mother, Joan, and her son, Lincoln, are at the zoo, digging through the sand pit and creating fake adventures for Lincoln’s plastic heroes. But when the pair try to leave, two men with guns begin shooting the zoo employees and guests. Without warning, Joan picks Lincoln up and runs to hide. The rest of the novel focuses on them evading the shooters, while Joan has to protect Lincoln, only a few years old and not quite understanding what’s happening. The entire plot takes place over three hours, a seemingly impossible undertaking, but Phillips executes every chapter with fear and angst.

There were times in the book where Joan and Lincoln were just sitting and hiding with nothing to do. But Phillips kept those moments alive by inserting Joan’s memories and chapters from the POV’s of other survivors. What was hardest to deal with was the violence. When shooters attack a zoo, there are going to be casualties, but there were moments when it was almost too much. Animals and people die, and the author had a strange way of writing death scenes. Rather than describe what everything looked like, Phillips would choose a small detail and turn it into an entire story. For instance, when Joan and Lincoln came upon the bodies of two teenagers, rather than describing the blood, Phillips wrote about how the boy’s arm was slung over the girl, as if he was trying to protect her. The best parts were whenever Joan and Lincoln had to move from one place to the next. Those moments were so full of very real stress and danger that sitting in my room where I was completely safe, I felt scared.

Roughly $11.50 for a paperback version on Amazon, Fierce Kingdom is worth the money. While it may not be for everyone, especially people with small children, Gin Phillips caters to thrill seekers who have a lot of time to read the book in one sitting. Other books by Phillips include The Well and the Mine, The Hidden Summer, A Little Bit of Spectacular, and Come In and Cover Me. Overall, this was one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

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