Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Cover art courtesy of Goodreads
I chose Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips as my August Book of the Month with high hopes. It follows Joan and her son Lincoln as they get trapped in a zoo at night during a shoot out and have to figure out a way to survive. Hiding in an empty porcupine enclosure, they narrowly avoid the shooters, then later are united with some other lone survivors to await rescue.

Unfortunately, this book left much to be desired. I haven't felt this strongly about a book negatively (that I finished anyway) in a long time. First, it's unrealistic. The son Lincoln is supposed to be 4 years old, but the vocabulary he uses is insane (the kid actually uses the words vile and assassination in sentences). Smart or not, it completely contradicts the immaturity that Lincoln shows throughout the book. Secondly, the main character Joan REALLY bothered me. I'm not sure if she was just stupid or what, but her actions throughout the entire incident were horrible. She yelled at the girl who tried to save her by bringing her into a safe hiding spot. She went to the FULLY ILLUMINATED snack machines to get snacks for her son (who while he has the vocabulary of an SAT student, can't stand being hungry without screaming). The whole time I really disliked both Joan and her son, which is not something you want to feel about the main characters of a book. Third, this entire book only spanned about 3 hours of time, and I think trying to drag this story out into a full length novel was unnecessary. It could have been a great short story or novella, but it spent way too much time on virtually nothing to fill length. And the ending? Totally anticlimactic and SUPER ambiguous with a lot of questions still remaining. 

What I will say about this book was that the writing was great, and the overall idea behind the plot was incredible. I also liked how you got multiple points of view, even though it primarily followed Joan. The cover art for the book was beautiful, even though that doesn't count for much. I think Phillips did a good job addressing a really challenging topic: young boys feeling hurt by the world looking to do some damage as revenge. I imagine writing in the point of view of the shooters for those few sections of the book were incredibly challenging, and even though I was disappointed in this book overall, some of those scenes really made my spine tingle.

You win some, you lose some, and unfortunately this book was a loss for me. It seemed marketed as a thriller but was really more about the mother/son relationship, which left me disappointed. I am still giving it 2.5 stars, because I think some people might really enjoy it, and overall the premise was good.

Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars


  1. I hate wheb people misrepresent the vocabulary of children, either making it too advanced of making them do baby talk. It's very jarring. At least the writing was good!

  2. Too bad it didn't work out. I hope the September book of the month is better for you.

  3. I am a nanny, so I get really bothered when I listen to an audiobook and the narrator is doing a small child's Voice or I read a book and they try to make a small child with the personality of an adult.

    I was debating reading this one before, but now I don't wanna.

  4. Lord, kids can be incredibly intelligent. But how about going to a Pre-K classroom for a day and listening to how the children talk? It's not that hard to figure out which words a child would use. But maybe that's because I'm a mom.

  5. shucks - this one is in my TBR and calendar from Netgallery

    1. You have a calendar for NetGalley? (Or do you mean you just read down the list based on which is releasing next?)

  6. I love the concept behind the book. (I mean, I don't LOVE it, but it sounds interesting.) Sad that it didn't play out as well. :(

    My 6 year old knows some big words, but she didn't at 4. And not enough to use them properly in sentences. That's annoying that the author chose to do that. Screaming for snacks is 100% truth for many 4 year olds though!

  7. I love this cover, although I tend to stay away from thrillers because they just don't appeal to me much (although you say it focuses more on the mother son relationship so...)

    I don't have a hard time believing that a four year old that knows big words would still act immature. Just because his vocabulary is advanced doesn't mean that his emotional maturity is. But I can understand how it could come across as being off. Great review. - Katie

  8. now that I have a 5 year old, I pick up on this too often. Also, I always have to finish a book...not matter how bad. Thank you for the review, I'll avoid this one.

  9. I can't really enjoy books when the main characters aren't likable either