There has been a fair bit of excitement building around Fierce Kingdom, the latest novel from Gin Phillips which is published next month. Fierce Kingdom is a thriller in which we meet a mother and child, and the extraordinary turn of events that lead them into danger.
Their story begins after a pleasant afternoon spent in a wooded area of the zoo, a place in which Joan and her young son Lincoln come to relax and play, and talk of superheroes. But with zoo closing time looming it is time for them to set off home, but as they begin their journey a sound leaves Joan feeling alarmed – the sound of a gunshot. It transpires that there is danger lurking in the grounds of the zoo, and Joan must find a way to get herself and her child to safety. Each chapter is headed by a time as we see how time passes and how Joan and Lincoln’s situation becomes all the more desperate as the minutes pass by. From the early stages of the novel there was plenty of tension, and I was desperate for Joan to find a way to escape. However, along the way there are many challenges for Joan, not least that of keeping out of the sight of those responsible for their turmoil. Along the way Joan faces some difficult situations in which she must make a choice, in which she must decide what is best for Lincoln, and actions which may have consequences for others..
The novel’s structure and the tense plot meant that I got through this book pretty quickly and whilst I read it in a few sittings it is a story that could be devoured in one sitting. Gin Phillips has created a frightening story set in unusual surroundings, a place where there are plenty of ways to hide – for the hunter and the hunted. As I read I was concerned alongside Joan for those little details – the light from a phone screen, a child’s cry – simple things that could draw unwanted attention. This all helped in building up the atmosphere and sense of unease throughout as I was constantly wondering just how close Joan was to the perpetrators. This story shows the extraordinary determination of a parent and their love for their child, the instinct that kicks in when what is most precious to us is in danger. The relationship between Joan and Lincoln is wonderfully portrayed, and we see the strength of the mother and child bond. We get to see the intricacies of life that might be taken for granted, the simple little things about an individual that are special, and that make them who they are. But this story is not solely about Joan and Lincoln, as we are also introduced to other characters, and get a glimpse into their own lives as they assess their current predicament. And from this we see how strangers interact and form bonds under terrifying circumstances. It was interesting to see over the course of the story how the characters behaviour changes, the way humanity deals with a crisis, and how they can summon the courage, and the strength to find their way home.
Fierce Kingdom is a gripping and tense thriller which represents the strength of human nature and maternal bonds in the most perilous of situations. It will be published on 15th June 2017 by Doubleday. With thanks to Alison Barrow for providing a proof copy for review.