By Gin Phillips
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.
I am not going to lie, my relationship with Fierce Kingdom was one of love and hate. Ultimately though, my love for this short, fast paced thriller prevailed. In hindsight, the very reason I hated it defined why it worked so well. There simply was not enough, but in the best of ways.
“You cannot know a wild thing.”
Fierce Kingdom is a story that dares to tackle the fiercest of all things, a mother’s love. It dives deep into the heart of the primal fear as it explores what happen’s when the life of Joan and her 4-year-old son is placed in jeopardy. Trapped within a zoo where terrorizing gunmen show no interest in taking hostages or leaving survivors, Joan must call on every ounce of her strength as a mother and person to ensure their survival.
While character and setting are limited, this story is anything but. Driven by fear and sheer will to survive we are continuously exposed the a variety of emotions. The combination of anxiety, motherly instinct, and determination create an atmospheric read that is drenched with tension and breath-holding moments.
Spanning over a mere three hours, Phillips waste no time thrusting the reader into the action. Fierce Kingdom is a rare narration that manages to successfully capture the time frame of our protagonist’s ordeal within the span of the 288 pages. But do not be deceived. While it may take only a few hours to devour this suspenseful story, moments can feel like an eternity as we follow Joan through the dark zoo in search of safety.
The selection of an original setting ripe with potential dangers that exist around every corner ultimately carries Fierce Kingdom far. The writing is crisp and immersing. There is just enough detail supplied to keep the readers senses engaged and heightened, but always a refraining approach that withholds just enough to fuel the suspense.
I did encounter a few challenges with Joan. She is not without flaws and made some decisions I found questionable. I had to step back occasionally and reevaluate the situation. I was left with several “what would I do” and “what ifs”. However, I also feel that a plot and character that can evoke and solicit these questions is a sign of solid writing.
Fans of fast paced, suspenseful reads that explore humanity and the difficult decisions made during extreme situations will not be able to put this down. Definitely a one sit read!
Learn more about the author at ginphillips.com.