Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips


As he’s speaking, a sharp, loud sound carries through the woods. Two cracks, then several more. Pops, like balloons bursting. Or fireworks. She tries to imagine what anyone could be doing in a zoo that would sound like small explosions…

There is another bang. Another and another. It sounds too loud to be balloons, too infrequent to be a jackhammer.

The birds are silent, but the leaves keep skittering down.

The tension is real from the very first chapter. It is the kind of tension I key right into. What was that sound? What if I arrive at the gate too late, and the park is closed locking me within? Worse, what if something endangers my son?

The quiet man and the loud man are in the zoo,  hunting. People have fallen in various positions all around the entrance, and more are in hiding, particularly Joan and her four year old son, Lincoln.

She has her cell phone, from which she has informed her husband that  she is hiding with their son in the empty porcupine cage. She is behind a huge rock, telling her son to be quiet while she holds him tightly against herself, and the tension is palatable. I feel that I am her, hiding, hoping desperately that I will not be found.

I am her, holding my son, who when he was four asked the same kind of existential questions Lincoln asks. “What do strangers look like?” my son once asked me. “How can bad people be happy?” Lincoln asks his mother when he hears the men with guns laugh.

When Joan leaves her hiding place with her four year old, because he is hungry and she wants to find him something to eat, I want to scream, “Don’t leave! You have been safe where you are.” But they venture forth, finding a living colobus monkey standing over a fallen one, a dead elephant which at first appears to be an “ink-stain shape on the ground.”

This novel is mesmerizing and terrifying on several counts. For once, it’s not the gone girl, or the disappearing woman, or a girl on a train.  It’s a mother, in a situation which feels entirely possible in today’s world. It’s a mother and a son and evil, twisted men that are scarier than a clown holding some balloons could ever be.

8 thoughts on “Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips”

  1. It is soooo good! A thriller I really enjoyed (for the first time in a long time). Still waiting for Sleeping Beauties…tapping impatiently this Columbus Day weekend.


  2. Oh, my! I love a good thriller and this sounds like a winner. I may have to listen to it on audio. Or will it be to scary?!

    Hope all is well with you. I haven’t been good about visiting your blog, but I hope to catch up soon!


  3. Lesley, you and I both love a good thriller, and this is exactly that. It is not too scary, and the ending is quite interesting. (Great for a book club discussion!)

    Don’t you be sorry about visitkng; I am the worst offender! I’ve been trying Instagram, enjoying the brevity, but feeling rather insignificant next to so many people with 30k followers. Literally.

    Are you doing the readathon next Saturday? It’s Greg’s birthday, but I’ll try for as much as I can (when dinner is over).

    Love seeing the photos if your caravaning, as the Swiss would say. xo


  4. I read this a while ago, but never got my review written. I thought Fierce Kingdoms was very anxiety-producing and better written than most of The Girl on the Train-style books I’ve read lately!


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