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Fierce Kingdom: A Novel Paperback – July 24, 2018
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An Amazon Book with Buzz: "The Patient" by Jasper DeWitt
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—The New York Times Book Review
“Heart-stopping . . . A stunning novel you'll be talking about all summer long.”
“A shot of pure adrenaline. But it’s not just the action that will keep you turning pages: Fierce Kingdom is a moving story too.”
“Gin Phillips’s heartpounding novel will have readers questioning what lengths a mother would go to in order to save her child . . . or someone else’s.”
“A page-turning, adrenaline-soaked read.”
“Extreme heart-pounding adventure, right this way. Fierce Kingdom is the perfect summer thriller.”
“The premise of this novel will send chills down the spine of any parent—and keep them turning pages into the wee hours.”
“Fierce Kingdom is gripping and almost impossible to put down.”
—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Because we make fun of helicopter parents for the lengths they go to to keep perfectly safe children even safer, we can can forget that, for children, safety is a kind of love—and that makes Fierce Kingdom a terrifying book, but more importantly, a beautiful one.”
“By introducing the threat of violence, the book amplifies everyday domestic concerns, producing a kind of crystallization of the experience of parenthood.”
—The New Yorker
“Fierce Kingdom unfolds at a rapid-fire pace with each chapter upping the tension and danger.”
“A powerhouse of a read that balances empathy and fear as it poses complex questions about human nature.”
—Washington Independent Review of Books
“This heroine proves that a mom protecting her son is indisputably the fiercest creature in the animal world.”
“Fierce Kingdom is a novel that crackles with tension and danger. . . . Do yourself a favor and devour this book before the inevitable movie premiere.”
—New York Journal of Books
“This adrenaline-fueled thriller shows the animal instinct of one mother's love and the ferocity with which she fights to protect her son.”
—Read it Forward
“It tore at every maternal fiber in my body. I couldn’t put it down.”
—Fiona Barton, New York Times bestselling author of The Widow
“Fierce Kingdom is a bold exploration of the ferocity of a mother’s love—riveting and beautiful, and all too real. You’ll find yourself asking, what would I do? It’s brilliant.”
—Shari Lapena, New York Times bestselling author of The Couple Next Door
“I devoured it in one breathless sitting. Outstanding.”
—Clare Mackintosh, New York Times bestselling author of I Let You Go
“This is an elegant, taut, and tense survival story that explores the boundaries of parental love. By pitting love against fear, Gin Phillips questions the opposing forces of family bonds and shows how fierce one mother’s love can be.”
—Claire Cameron, author of The Last Neanderthal and The Bear
“I loved this book not only as a mother, but as a woman—and a feminist—living in a world teeming with pressing domestic details along with unpredictable, casual violence.”
—Susanna Daniel, award-winning author of Sea Creatures
“Phillips’ characters are exquisitely rendered, her prose is artful and evocative . . . Poignant and profound, this adrenaline-fueled thriller will shatter readers like a bullet through bone.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A searing exploration of motherhood at its most basic.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Phillips manages to combine beautiful imagery with heart-pounding, nerve-fraying intensity. . . . Fans of literary page-turners, like Sunil Yapa’s Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, won’t want to miss this.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“Fierce Kingdom is stunning and extraordinary; keep the defibrillator handy.”
—Shelf Awareness (starred review)
About the Author
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There's also a nice depiction of motherhood, as Joan struggles to keep Lincoln alive and psychologically intact, trying to protect him from the terror around them; and there are some moral questions around what (and who) is a mother willing to sacrifice to save her son. There are some neat twists in the writing and the action sequences that work well.
BUT there is one big caveat and a detraction to my enjoyment: be warned that Fierce Kingdom has a frustrating ending - almost a cliffhanger. If the entire novel is about what happens to a mother and son trapped in a zoo with terrorists, shouldn't we know what happens to the mother and son trapped in a zoo with terrorists, when the book is done? To leave it ambiguous felt like a shot at some sort of vague literary ambition, and it made me just irritated.
The author must have children because she writes about the mother-child bond with such authority, and compassion. I felt as if I were there with this mother, ready to 'splatter brains on pavement' to protect her son. The portrayal of at this mother is spot-on. Hearing her listen to her son's chatter is priceless, as it is to the character who loves this young boy.
The tension never lets up as Joan must make decisions that might seem cruel, but taken in the context of protecting her son, they seem perfectly legitimate and what any mother might have done.
I was a little disappointed that the book ended so abrutly and left out the fate of some of the other visitors to the zoo. The mind of the shooters was scary and probably all too real, so overall, this is a very worthy read and one that will keep you up most of the night if you're as slow a reader as I am.
Top international reviews
This was where the book started to go wrong for me. The idea that Joan had was solid-hide out of sight and wait for help to arrive. What it turns into is a bunch of chapters with Lincoln whining and having tantrums because he isn't getting his own way, Joan endlessly thinking of everything 'cute' that Lincoln ever did, the games they played, how amazing her child is, and it got very bogged down in detail that really didn't interest me. Add in the stupidity-Joan texts her husband Paul about them hiding from multiple gunmen so he decides then to phone her to 'hear her voice' which could have alerted the bad guys to her position! Joan doesn't call the police herself, letting Paul, who isn't there and knows nothing, do it for her. She loses the chance to tell the police where the gunmen are, their approximate age etc which would have alerted them to exactly what they were facing. Then she worries that the glow from the screen might give her away so instead of y'know, switching it off, she throws it away! Oh good one! There are countless times later that she could have used the phone to update her position and get the police to her quicker but she throws it away. Good one.
Lincoln drives me mad because he just never shuts up. Joan has explained that bad guys want to kill them about a hundred times but he still continues to whine, shout, yell, sing and I just wanted to tell him to shut up and go to sleep! When he is awake he just yaps about nothing and asks questions all the time. When he finally does stop talking which is good for their survival, Joan thinks he is too quiet and starts getting him to talk again! She goes to all the trouble of getting him to a safe place and because he keeps acting up, decides they better go hunting for a vending machine. Yes sugar is exactly what this kid needs! Not! I also have to question why she let her four year old watch Predator and her claims that he wasn't bothered by the violence and gore yet tries to hide his eyes from the dead bodies in the zoo. I also wasn't convinced that he can't tell the difference between scars and scarves but can use words like apprehensive. Hmm.
We get one brief chapter on Kailynn, who works at the park and had her phone confiscated by her mother for continually sleeping in. She is hiding inside one of the buildings. Outside is retired teacher Margaret who enjoys listening to audio books as she walks around the zoo for exercise. She is heading for the exit when she realises that something bad is going on. But we don't see these people again until about halfway through the book or beyond, which is frustrating! I wanted to know what they were doing and if they were ok. I'd rather have seen what was happening with them instead of Joan endlessly thinking about everything Lincoln did or being subjected to his constant whining and tantrums. Yes I get that kids would be like him under similar circumstances but it really was not fun to read about and it became very repetitive and annoying.
We also get a brief look at the thoughts of Robby, one of the gunmen and following him would also have been more interesting especially when they were still hunting the few remaining survivors. That would have ramped up the tension more seeing him trying to find Joan and the others. Think how interesting it would have been having POV of the killers and the various people stuck inside the zoo like Kailynn, Margaret and the mother of the baby! I'd have also liked the POV of Paul, frantically waiting outside for news with the cops trying to decide what to do about the crisis. That would really have been really good and it would have kept the story moving along at a good pace and kept it exciting. Instead I just felt the plot kept dragging in between the odd interesting event.
I also found Joan annoying. I can understand why Joan left the safe hiding place to get Lincoln food to keep him quiet. I understand her trying to leave a false trail for the killers but throwing away the phone when it was charged and could be used for updating Paul and the police about the survivors, where the killers are etc. It was crazy to just throw it away the way she did and I doubt anyone else in her position would do it. Just keep it turned off until you need to use it and you'll be fine! Duh. I also find it annoying that she berates Kailynn for her nervous chatter yet thinks it is fine for her son to constantly do it. Her attitude to the other survivors bugs me, she judges the baby mother yet then has to make the same choice, she is ungrateful for help and of course her annoying child puts them all in danger.
My biggest annoyance with the book is not getting a fully resolved ending. We are left unsure about what happened to everyone including Joan herself. What happened to the baby and its mother? What about Margaret? Is the groundhog ok? I HATE not having all the answers at the end of the book! Especially the fate of the groundhog-I want to know!!!
Overall I'd say that this book had a good idea but the pacing was poor with too many chapters bogged down by irrelevant details and not enough focus on the actual situation at the zoo. I wanted to see less repetition and more of the other characters. It just dragged a bit too much for me. I'm not sure I'd read anything else by the author.
Don`t think author has children ,as even the brightest 4 year old does not know the stuff this child genius does,and most certainly does not behave like this child .His doting mother lets him watch Predator with all the gore ? come on -for real ??
After a short while they leave comparative safety to collect snacks ? Really ?
She is so bothered about her phone giving her hiding place away that she chucks it ,despite all the text messages on it,[ sent to her husband ,telling him where they were hiding.] How did she know the gunmen would not read them ?Why not just turn her phone off ?
With all the lights still on and all the noise would a brief flash of light actually have been noticed by the gunman?
A big build up to the 3rd gunman went nowhere .
Joan and her son were irritating beyond belief ,preferred the survival of the teacher and the young girl .
How come nobody but her could hear the baby crying, in its hiding place,,despite the gunmen passing the same area .Not likely.
Not very well developed characters ,and any suspense negated by mindless waffle on past events ,whilst on the run .
It's an exciting read that you could easily lose yourself in for a couple of hours and finish it in one sitting. Phillips does a great job of ramping up the tension, especially as the authorities and Joan's husband are just over the zoo wall trying to resolve the situation without further deaths while she battles to save herself and her son. Fun read - would make a good movie.
One of the blurbs compare it to Room and I do think there is a valid comparison there. However, Room had a keychange in it. You had the section in the room and then you had the consequences of freedom. Where as there is no keychange in Fierce. I think the flaws come from extending a good idea past it's limits in order to extend it to a novel and part of me would have loved if it had been kept as a novella. Nevertheless it is a very good page turning thriller that I think many people would enjoy. I quite happily read it in one sitting.
Nevertheless it is definitely worth a read.
I did find the use of third person and present tense a little jarring, but that’s just personal taste. However the story is suspenseful and emotional as you root for Joan to keep Lincoln safe from the shooters hoping to hunt them down.
I imagine somebody has already bought the film rights because you can definitely picture a movie version. I bet if a film is made they tidy up the ending though!