Book review: ‘Fierce Kingdom’ by Gin Phillips is thrilling suspense novel perfect for Halloween

This book review was written by Avery Cavender, library assistant at Bud Werner Memorial Library and first appeared in Steamboat Pilot

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Fierce Kingdom: A Novel Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780735224278
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Viking - July 25th, 2017

As the cool air of autumn rushes over the mountains into our valley and heralds the coming of Halloween, many of us are looking for the perfect suspense/thriller novel to curl up with. "Fierce Kingdom" by Gin Phillips is the book I recommend to fill that need. It is a heartrending story of a mother and her young son trapped in a zoo with crazed, meticulous shooters.

That's right, a plot out of most people's worst nightmares. The monsters in this book don't lurk behind the doorways of your childhood imagination, but in the crevices of your brain that hold your biggest fears. They are the perfect villains because they are possible and visceral. They come for you even when you are enjoying a nice day in a public space, such as the zoo.

The beginning and the end of this book will grab you and refuse to let go. If you have children this book will especially take hold of you. Once you are trapped in the zoo with this mother and her four year old son you will want to read quickly, so that you can try to escape the madness yourself.

For days after reading this book, questions of "What would I do?" will run through your mind. There is the ethical, good answer, and then there are the answers that haunt you at night as you think about your own survival in a situation similar to this. The author deals with all of these options, which makes the psychological aspect of this novel as stimulating as the terror.

The writing style itself is not sacrificed for the sake of the genre. The fast current of the paragraphs pulling the heroine towards the impending end will occasionally dip you in a hot spring of mental instability on the part of the antagonist.

There are even momentary breaks allowing you to come up for air as the author takes the reader into sweet familial moments. But very, very small breaks that only heighten your concern for these suffering characters.

Phillips masterfully plays through the minds of both the victims and the shooter. So well, in fact, that you may find yourself caring for the villain, though you don't want to.

I have no qualms about recommending this book as it is now a new favorite. It has raised the bar on suspense writing that I will accept as thrilling. But be warned: Not even the very last sentence is truly safe.