Book Review: Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Paperback, 288 pages
Published July 4th 2017 by Penguin Random House Canada

Synopsis: An electrifying novel about the primal and unyielding bond between a mother and her son, and the lengths she’ll go to protect him.

The zoo is nearly empty as Joan and her four-year-old son soak up the last few moments of playtime. They are happy, and the day has been close to perfect. But what Joan sees as she hustles her son toward the exit gate minutes before closing time sends her sprinting back into the zoo, her child in her arms. And for the next three hours—the entire scope of the novel—she keeps on running.

Joan’s intimate knowledge of her son and of the zoo itself—the hidden pathways and under-renovation exhibits, the best spots on the carousel and overstocked snack machines—is all that keeps them a step ahead of danger.


My Review:

I was gifted a finished copy of this title by Penguin Random House. This review has been cross-posted on Amazon, Indigo, and Goodreads.

I should start off by saying that although I received a finished copy of this book, I had heard good things about the audiobook so I hurried to borrow it from my local library’s Overdrive catalogue. I listened to the majority of it during a long drive and I barely noticed the traffic around me. Great acting and narration by Cassandra Campbell.

The story starts slow and sweet, as Joan and her son Lincoln spend another day together at one of their favourite places in the city, the zoo. After the first moments of realization following gunshots, readers dive into the thoughts of a mother whose sole focus is to protect their child. I caught myself nodding along to a lot of the thoughts in Joan’s head, like when we look around the room and wonder “If something were to happen right now, would I survive? Would I fight? Would I give up?”

I loved the way Gin Phillips presented Lincoln. He’s such a young boy but one of the most intricately constructed characters I’ve ever read about. The sweet co-dependency and love between mother and child came to life when not even the Avengers could reassure and protect the boy. I can’t imagine going through an experience as traumatic as the one in the book, let alone doing it all with your young child. As any thriller, you question some of the character’s decisions and internalize all the things you would have done differently. I did this several times. But it was fun to read Joan’s thought process through it all nonetheless.

Fierce Kingdom takes place in a 3-hour span inside the zoo, amidst attractions, confused animals and the darkness of the night. I only ever realised I was on the edge of my seat every time I had to pause the audiobook to interact with other people! I ended up parking the car for a bit instead of going home just to keep listening and to find out what would happen next.

I absolutely loved this book, and gave it a 4.5/5 stars only because I wanted a bit more from the resolution of the book. Some of the characters are never mentioned again and I still need to know what happened to them! Fierce Kingdom is a quick and gripping read that I absolutely can’t wait to see on the big screen! If you’ve read the book, who do you picture for the characters? I’m excited to meet Joan!

For Canadian readers, you’re in for a treat: Penguin Random House Canada is currently hosting a giveaway on Goodreads until August 22nd. Don’t miss out on a chance to win one of five copies! I am not being sponsored to share this, I just wanted to spread the word.



Author: Marina

Books and comics enthusiast.

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