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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

#CJSReads REVIEW: Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips @vikingbooks @ginphillips17

Fierce Kingdom
by Gin Phillips
Viking Books

This told-in-real-time thriller about a mother and son trapped in a zoo will have your heart racing with the turn of each page.  See what #CJSReads had to say about this 

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.

A masterful thrill ride and an exploration of motherhood itself—from its tender moments of grace to its savage power—Fierce Kingdom asks where the boundary is between our animal instinct to survive and our human duty to protect one another. For whom should a mother risk her life?

My Review:

Joan and her four-year-old son, Lincoln, are enjoying a day at the zoo when they realize it's almost closing time and they better get moving or else get trapped inside.  As they head towards the exit, Joan notices a gunman and several people bleeding on the ground.  Luckily, Joan is well versed in the zoo.  This serves her well as the sun goes down and she tries to hide her and her son who is growing increasingly bored and hungry.  

Told in real time from 4:55 pm to 8:05 pm, this is a unique and thrilling ride showcasing the bond between mother and son, the basic need to survive and the moral dilemma of making hard choices in order to ensure that survival.  I had the hardest time putting this book down.  Told mainly through Joan's perspective, we do get glimpses into the minds of a zoo worker and one of the shooters.  It's spine tingling to get into the mind of someone who is having fun spree killing animals and people and reminds me of my abnormal psych classes where we learned of sociopathic and homicidal behaviors.  

I disagree with comparisons to the book, Room.  While I did enjoy that book and the perspective from a child, this book is above and beyond that one in my opinion... but the theme of the bond between a mother and her child is clear.  I absolutely loved the banter between Joan and Lincoln and all the little nuances the author brings forth with his special language and the unspoken moments between him and his mother.  I felt my heart racing with each moment and just so VERY involved with each turn of the page.  And quite frankly, if you're going to keep references Scarecrow & Mrs. King, well, how can I NOT like it?! (Am I showing my age here?)

While the subject matter is all too realistic these days, sadly, I applaud how the author really sucks you into the story.  The writing is beautiful.  A particular moment with the colobus monkey never leaving the side of one of his own was very touching for me.  It showed how while Joan is in her own world thinking of her son's survival more than anything, that the actions of the shooters are terrifying not only the humans, but the animals as well.  And quite frankly, I tend to be more sad about these events. I will say that there were some loose ends and I can't say more than that without spoiling anything.  However, for me, it just gave more to the authenticity of Joan's struggle.  

Jessica's Thoughts:

FIERCE KINGDOM by Gin Phillips is one of those books that was getting a lot of hype, and for good reason! This book isn't completely a thriller, but it's an emotionally charged suspense novel. As a mother, how far would you go to protect your son?

Joan and her young son Lincoln are frequent visitors to their local zoo. They know the layout and have their favorite secluded areas. She and Lincoln go to their favorite place - a shady enclosure in the woods at the edge of the zoo. As Lincoln plays, Joan is keeping an eye on the time - 4:55pm - the zoo will be closing soon. 

Then an unexpected explosion happens. Joan recognizes it as gunfire. As she tries to keep calm so she doesn't send Lincoln into a panic, she picks him up and beelines it to the only exit (the front doors). As she makes her way there, she comes across the other visitors. The armed men have been on a killing spree and Joan realizes she needs to use her knowledge of the zoo to keep her and Lincoln safe. 

Phillips does an incredible job bringing the readers through the emotional ringer. This book is told "in real time". We start at 4:55pm and the book ends at 8:05pm for an action packed and nerve wracking read. This book had me completely drawn in, I needed to find out what Joan's next move was going to be! How was she going to avoid being caught by the gunmen? We even got a glimpse inside the mind of the killer which only improved upon the eeriness of the book. 

While this was incredibly suspenseful, I wouldn't categorize it as a cat and mouse thriller. I definitely enjoyed this one and for a shorter story, it really packs an emotional punch! If you want a good suspenseful, character driven, and emotional read, then this needs to be on your list!

I give this a solid 4/5 stars!

Sam's Thoughts:

I have been eagerly anticipating the release of Fierce Kingdom, by Gin Phillips, for MONTHS; I had read multiple posts during the blog tour for the UK release and it shot right up to the top of STAFF PICKS at Chapters-Indigo upon its release in Canada, but since the US released it later on in July and I was reading it with Jessica and Chandra for one of our July #cjsreads picks, I held off for as long as possible!  Now that I have read the title, I feel as if the hype is justified but feel like this book absolutely left me wanting more.

Let me break it down.

The novel opens with a mother (Joan) and her young son (Lincoln) enjoying an afternoon at the zoo.  Lincoln is talking a mile a minute, Joan is making lists in her head and as they head out of the zoo for the evening, Joan hears a popping sound.  Something is absolutely wrong and this is made clear when Joan sees the bodies.  There is a shooter in the zoo and the shooter is not just hunting the animals.  Scooping up Lincoln and running, Joan must try and protect him from the evil that lurks.

The general premise was absolutely gripping; I was hooked from the first pages of the book.   What a different setting for a thriller!  I felt like the zoo backdrop added an extra layer of unpredictability as our protagonist had to not only worry about the human danger but also the danger that comes from nature.   Phillips also does an excellent job at making her characters realistic and relatable.  I was genuinely concerned for their plights and found myself continuously asking myself what I would do in such a situation.    I also felt like Phillips did an amazing job at developing her secondary characters.

Now, my struggle with the book is hard to discuss without giving any spoilers but I did have quite an issue with an aspect involving a baby.  I felt like I didn’t get any resolution and I felt quite a bit of anxiety surrounding this small bit of plot.  I also struggled a lot with the ending.  Again, hard to explain without providing spoilers but it really didn’t leave me satisfied.

Overall, I felt like Fierce Kingdom was a stellar piece of fiction and would recommend it to anyone looking for something fast paced and engaging.   Gave it 4/5 stars!     

Big thank you to Viking Books for these copies in return for our honest opinions.

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