Book Review: Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis / @zaralibrary

bk - fierce kingdom


Category: General Fiction (Adult)
Author: Gin Phillips
Format: E-book via NetGalley, 288 pages
Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada
ISBN: 978-0-7352-7319-1
Pub Date: July 4, 2017


Summary from Publisher:

After school on a late October day, Joan has taken her four-year-old son, Lincoln, to one of his favourite places on earth: the zoo. Just before closing time, as they need to go home, she hears some loud pops like firecrackers. Not thinking much of it, they head for the exit…until Joan realizes the eerie human emptiness means danger, then sees the figure of a lone gunman. Without another thought, she scoops up her son and runs back into the zoo. And for the next three hours–the entire scope of the novel–she does anything she can to keep Lincoln safe.
Both pulse-pounding and emotionally satisfying, Fierce Kingdom is a thrill ride, but also an exploration of the very nature of motherhood itself, from its saving graces to its savage power. At heart it asks how you draw the line between survival and the duty to protect one another? Who would you die for?

  • From NetGalley

Book Review:

Fierce Kingdom is a tense novel that crescendos from a quiet outing in the afternoon between a mother named Joan, and her young toddler, Lincoln, at the local Belleville Zoo—until she discovers just before closing time, a man with a rifle and many injured and dead bodies on the ground.

The tone of the book quickly heightens to a state of adrenaline panic as Joan tries to frantically plan a means of protection and safety for herself and her young son within the confines of a zoo that is both cloaked by the growing darkness of evening and a fearful awareness of the danger posed by a potential madman with a gun.

The setting is infused with accurate detail, which gives the reader a deeper insight into the main character’s psyche as she narrates her demise, as she decides solely based on sound, sometimes sight, the immediate needs of her son, and what kind of educated guesses she may strike at about their common enemy—what exactly her next best step may be.

But, she is not the only victim held captive in the dark unknown even though she may or may not be aware of the others: an unnamed mother with a screaming infant; Kailynn, a talkative teenager; and Mrs. Powell, a retired elementary school teacher, strangers hiding and waiting in the dark.

While the secondary characters add a little movement to the plot, the true voice and heart of the book is little Lincoln and his mother’s fierce love for him and her adamant instinct for survival. Interwoven in the narrative of cat-and-mouse, is the back story of a woman whose maternal instincts stem from her own survival from a hurting past.

But, the book is clear: Joan loves her son and she will do anything and everything she can to survive.

The book, too, demonstrates what can be behind the psyche of a madman (and his cohorts), how mental illness can and does sometime play a role in unnecessary acts of violence—in lieu of deeper pain and suffering.

And yet, the novel also does justice to the tenacity of a mother’s love, how desperation can pivot those in that position to do what is unexpected—and beyond.

Fierce Kingdom is a gripping love story and bond between mother and child, and the power of will and the shear random lottery of luck that sometimes means the fine line between imminent death and wholly relieved survival.


Characters: 3 stars
Plot: 2.5 stars
Language/Narrative: 3 stars
Dialogue: 3 stars
Pacing: 3.5 stars
Cover Design: 3 stars


Zara’s Rating

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A special thanks to Penguin Random House Canada for providing me with an e-copy of the book, Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and timely review.


About the Author:

author - gin phillips

Gin Phillips is the celebrated author of The Well and the Mine (winner of the 2009 Barnes & Noble Discover Award for Fiction) and Come in and Cover Me (“original and strikingly beautiful” – Elle Magazine). She has also published two middle-grade novels. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her family.

  • From Goodreads


You can connect with Gin Phillips on her official website.



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