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All booksThrillerFierce Kingdom
Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Fierce Kingdom

by Gin Phillips

Quick take

The air crackles with malevolence and unbearable tension, as even the zoo animals, locked in their cages, sense the approaching violence.

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Why I love it

Sarah Weinman

Fight or flight. Rage or relief. A good suspense novel evokes our most primitive emotions. The adrenaline spikes as we desperately need to know what happens next. And if the book is really good, time spent in the grip of mounting fear pays off with an explosive and cathartic ending.

Fierce Kingdom delivers a level of pure fear that I hadn’t felt in ages. It’s the story of Joan, a mother who spends an afternoon with her four-year-old son at their local zoo. What could go wrong? A lot, as it turns out.

The most dangerous creatures in the zoo, of course, are not the animals locked in their cages but the people who visit them. And as daylight begins to fade away, trouble arrives—and Joan will seek somewhere, anywhere, to hide. The air crackles with malevolence and unbearable tension, as even the zoo animals, trapped in captivity, sense the approaching violence.

What will Joan do to protect her son? Will she sacrifice herself for him? Or vice versa? What would we do in a similar situation? Of course the zoo is the perfect literal and metaphorical place to explore these questions. When primal fears take over, how far can we be pushed before we lose our humanity and act solely on instinct?

Sharp, pointed, precise— Fierce Kingdom inhabits the true feeling of real time. In fact, the entire story takes place during exactly 3 hours and 10 minutes. Decisions arrive quickly—or unbearably slowly. Hours rush by and then seconds stretch out. Catharsis arrives and the payoff is brilliant, yes. But this novel continues to haunt me. And it will haunt you, too.

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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?

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Member thoughts

All (3666)
All (3666)
Love (1497)
Like (1719)
Dislike (450)
3752 ratings
  • 40% Love
  • 46% Like
  • 12% Dislike
  • Mobile, AL

    This book was absolutely amazing and the reason I continued my BOTM subscription. I read it all in one night. Gin Phillips is amazing; I've since read her “Come In and Cover Me” & can't wait for more

  • Carrollton, TX

    This hit my spot for, “needing a good thriller.” It’s tense, haunting, and though a slow buildup - it works. The story felt real to me, and I REALLY appreciated it was intense but not overly graphic.

  • Lake Charles, LA

    This books pulls you in. The desperation of a mother protecting her child is palpable. You feel ever tiny relief while still feeling the tension. Couldn’t put it down till the very end. Wonderful book

  • Boise, ID

    When I selected this book I wasn't expecting it to be what is was, but I'm so glad it wasn't. The suspense and events that occur keep you reading right until the very end. I read it all in one sitting

  • Meridian, ID

    Wow. It kept me in suspense the whole time as to whether they would be found or not, and a great look into how far a mother is willing to go to protect her son. I wish we had an answer for the ending!

  • Rockford, IL

    A gripping thriller! I had to read this whole book in one sitting because I just HAD to see how it ended! The author really pulled me in and made me feel like I was experiencing it with the characters

  • Mansfield, CT

    I wanted to hate this book. Because it spoke so well to my own fears these days out in public with my 4 year old. But this book was amazing. It was heart pounding and addicting. I couldn't put it down

  • FPO, AE

    Man, did I love this book. It was incredibly fast paced, and I was hooked the entire time. All of the characters were quite interesting; I loved reading of the lengths Joan would go to for Lincoln. A+

  • brockton, MA

    Such a page turner! I held my breath for so much of the book! Such a touching story of a mother & son relationship in reality that is so scary !! It hit so close to home with a son who loves the zoo!

  • Pittsburgh, PA

    These are everyday people in a bizarre and confusing situation. The relationship between the mom and the boy is precious and authentic. The writing is wonderful. The characters are interesting and bel

  • Erlanger, KY

    This book was terrifying in the best way--I was holding my breath the whole time. The ending breaks my heart because, try as I might, I can't bring myself to believe Joan survived, but I still love it

  • Acworth, GA

    This book simultaneously made me want to go to the zoo and also to never set foot in a crowded place again. Gin Phillips mastered the slow build without being boring by creating delightful characters.

  • Los Osos, CA

    This book was hard for me to read. Everything this mother did for her son, I did for mine. I was sick with worry for these characters. With everything going on in our society, this could have been my

  • Milwaukee, WI

    I loved this book. It grabs you from the start and was hard to put down. It left me wanting more...and feeling slightly unresolved - which is often how life is. Particularly with this subject matter.

  • Hazlet, NJ

    From the first page I was an anxious mess- I wanted to stop reading, I wanted to throw this book away...I wanted to never put it down and read it all in one night until my heart stopped racing! I did.

  • Pasadena, MD

    I read this entire book in one day. I couldn't put it down. I was biting my nails worrying about the main character and her son. It was a thrill ride and very different from most other books I've read

  • Downey, CA

    Loved this book, I devoured it. It pulled me in so hard my heart was racing and it would take me several minutes to bring myself back to realization that I am in my room and I also do not have a child

  • Hastings, MI

    Read this book a couple years ago and it still sits with me as incredibly memorable. Had to stay up late, reading, just to see what happened next. Very anxious reading it. Felt like I was right there.

  • Walpole, MA

    This book sucked me in and didn't let me go. I read it in one sitting! I think it hit me so hard because I have my own four year old son at home and, just like Joan, I would do anything to protect him

  • Klamath Falls, OR

    Very intense and hard to put down. Finished the book within a day because I was nervous of what would happen with the characters. I can relate to Joan's thoughts and feelings when it came to Lincoln.

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