Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips @GinPhillips17 @DoubledayUK @alisonbarrow #FierceKingdom

Lincoln is a good boy. At the age of four, he is curious, clever and well behaved. He does as his mum says and knows what the rules are.

'The rules are different today. The rules are that we hide and do not let the man with the gun find us.'

When an ordinary day at the zoo turns into a nightmare, Joan finds herself trapped with her beloved son. She must summon all her strength, find unexpected courage and protect Lincoln at all costs – even if it means crossing the line between right and wrong; between humanity and animal instinct.

It's a line none of us would ever normally dream of crossing.

But sometimes the rules are different

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips was published in the UK by Doubleday on 15 June 2017 and is the author's fifth novel. I read her debut; The Well and the Mine back in 2010, before I started this blog. When I look back at my review on Goodreads, I notice that my thoughts about that novel do echo my feelings about Fierce Kingdom. I'm not sure how I missed her other three novels: Come In And Cover Me (2012); The Hidden Summer (2013) and A Little Bit of Spectacular (2015) and I'd certainly like to catch up with them soon.

Just as in her debut, the author has created a story that is completely character-led. Whilst the central event in the plot is a terrifying incident that, thankfully, very few of us will find ourselves in, it is the exquisite characterisation and exacting dissection of the relationships within the story that overwhelm the reader. One of the strongest bonds is that between a mother and her child, and Gin Phillips uses this as the central theme in Fierce Kingdom.

Joan and her four-year-old son Lincoln are regular visitors at the zoo, they know each nook and cranny; they know when the animals will be fed, they know where the restrooms are, and the vending machines. The zoo is a place of happy times and good memories.  One ordinary day takes an extraordinary turn for the worst when the sound of gunfire echoes throughout the park and Joan and Lincoln are trapped.

Joan's basic motherly instincts kick in immediately and the following 280 pages are laden with tension and fear, yet are also a study in motherhood, raising questions about instinct, fear and how far someone will go to protect the person that they love the most.

I think many readers have expected an action-packed thriller full of near misses and chases, and I can understand why they may be disappointed. There are scenes of breath-taking suspense and unease but it's not all crash, bang, wallop by any means. There are a couple of things that Joan does during their time in the zoo that will, without a doubt, raise questions with readers. I'm not going to spoil anything by mentioning these, but have to admit that I was puzzled too. However, unless we've been in a shooter situation, I'm not sure that any of us can really say what we would do, or can judge others.

A short novel at just under 280 pages, with just a few characters, but also a bold and tense story, beautifully written, with emotion and feeling. This is a novel that may divide readers, but will also create discussion and debate.

Gin Phillips grew up in Montgomery, Alabama.

After earning a degree in political journalism, Gin worked as a freelance magazine writer for nearly a decade.

She's lived in Ireland, Thailand, New York and Washington, DC.

Find out more at
Find her Author page on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter @GinPhillips17

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