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Publisher's Summary

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.

Suddenly, mother and son are as trapped as the animals. Joan's intimate knowledge of this place that filled early motherhood with happy diversions - 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?

©2017 Gin Phillips (P)2017 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"It tore at every maternal fiber in my body. I couldn't put it down." (Fiona Barton, New York Times best-selling author of The Widow)

"Narrating primarily from Joan's perspective, Campbell captures her horror, determination to survive, and devotion to her son. Campbell also perfectly captures the inner thoughts and outer reactions of each of the other characters in the novel - both good and evil.... This fast paced audiobook will remain with listeners long after the story ends." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A Fantastic Fast Paced Listen

This book was an intense page turner that grabbed my attention and kept me listening non-stop. The struggles of this diverse set of characters were compellingly conveyed to the listener through Phillips' ability to capture their internal chatter and thoughts. The book spans only about three hours of real time but with the use of flashbacks and memories we learn a great deal about these people. Heart pounding, horrifying and insightful are words that come to mind when I reflect on the story.

More than this, the book tackles many difficult topics by looking at the individual will to survive, motherhood, personal strength and how far our responsibility goes in regard to helping strangers in peril. This is my first book by this author and I am impressed with Phillips' skill at stepping beyond the simple thriller aspect and deftly taking us into the minds of the characters.

Campbell's narration was excellent. She was able to capture the terror and turmoil subtly with her voicing of each character. The reading never became too extreme or over the top which could easily have happened with a less experienced narrator. Campbell is becoming one of my favorite readers.

Be aware that this book delves into gun violence and sociopathic behavior and you most probably will find yourself repelled by much of what happens in the story. At the same time Phillips' will have you thinking and asking yourself repeatedly--what would I do in this situation. Compelling, thought provoking and really scary. This is excellent story telling but in my opinion not for the faint of heart listener as the violence is very intense.

27 of 30 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

View from the Hunted


5* reviews and a *fantastic* sold me; I love a fantastic listen. The story is told by the mother; an idyllic day at the zoo for mother and son, shots are fired, and the day is turned into a nightmare. As the mother realizes the pops she's heard were actually gunshots she instinctively scrambles to protect her life and her little boy's, her mind frantically racing through different scenarios. Philips does an impressive job of keeping the shock and the responses authentic to the psychology while balancing it with the increasing intensity of the situation. This is the strength of her novel, telling the story from inside the head of one of the hunted. So, with the mother and little boy crouched behind a bush with bullets firing, why did I set the book down? I'll try to explain my complacency....

The mother's narration started to feel myopic and while that may have been part of the author's strategy, I found the mother and son getting on my nerves in spite of the situation. I found her intimidatingly perfect and nurturing, a Wonder Mom; the little boy went from being precocious to obnoxious. I should have been wondering who is shooting, at whom, and why, and where are the police, but I was fixated on the mother's patience with her little 4 yr. old in the situation. She gives him his action figures, fishes for animal crackers in her purse and worries about his playing too loudly and I was pumped up with the fight or flight response, wanting her to ditch the *Inside voice only please,* and instead give him an urgent *SHHHH! We could be shot here!!* That's what the mind does with stories we know are fiction... the psychology is there but detached. The ending is already there a few chapters ahead and these are just fictional characters from a writer's head. So, I stopped reading what I thought was just another every-day-situation-turned-disastrous story. I was about to return the book but more reviews were in and decided to give it another try -- that was August 30th.

During their fight for survival, the author brilliantly gives us the mother's self-examinations of what she sees and her reactions. She mentally chastises a woman that leaves a baby in a garbage can under a speaker blaring Halloween rock and roll music...then contemplates under what conditions such a sacrifice would have been made, what it would mean to her and her son's survival if she picked up the baby as they were fleeing the approaching shooters, where is the infant's mother. These thoughts and decisions will both haunt her and encourage her as she flees just steps ahead of the gunmen and eventually as she adjusts to her own ethics in a world where this kind of terror will forever be a reality to her.

A day later, Oct. 1st, Gin Phillips's novel didn't feel so much like fiction. Today I finished the book, read from a different perspective than what I started with, and in a different world. As I read I kept wondering *How do you gather your thoughts in such a situation; how do you make sense of such insanity?* I can't imagine.
My heart is with the victims and heroes from Las Vegas, 10/01/17.

16 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Suspenseful but myopic.

I understand why so many reviewers loved this book. It is well written and equally well narrated. My issue was the singular focus on a mother and her son. Seven long hours of focusing on her memories and love for her son. We learn little about the killers, nothing of the police and very little about the other victims being hunted. So I grew weary, despite the fact I kept listening to the end.

The author obviously intended to tell the story from the perspective of one main character. A young mother with her young son is at the zoo when gunshots erupt. We experience everything she does, including the fear and frustration of not knowing who is shooting, why they are shooting, whether there are other survivors in hiding, and wondering what the police are doing. I see the author ‘s purpose, but it left me feeling let down.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Non-sensical

This was a book someone else selected for our bookclub to read. It was thought that a story about a mom and her son would hit home (it does). In Canada this book is also a "Heather's Pick" at Chapters/Indigo and those books are usually inherently reliable.

This book was just non-sense.

The narration was fine, particularly given there wasn't much to work with. The voice the narrator used for Joan was really grating in that it was overly syrupy and the one used for the most non-sensical things that happened in the book.

So the story is that of a mom/son at the zoo after school when a Columbine-esque group of young men shoot and terrorize the patrons and go "hunting". Joan, the mom, realizes this issue and begins taking steps to protect her son. But Joan is constantly in her own head with irrelevant memories, thought patterns, and musings that lend nothing to the story.

I disagreed with 99% of the decisions Joan made for how to keep her son safe. I acknowledge that there is no perfect response to such horror, but I was appalled by the choices she made in the circumstances.

There was only suspense in this novel, because the 3 hour stint in hiding at the zoo was elaborated upon by flashbacks and odd thought patterns. I did wonder how it would all play out as there were no early give-aways as to how things might resolve (which is why I gave 2 stars overall). The ending was fine, but nothing to write home about. This book just wasn't for me.

#Abuse #Violent #Zoo #tagsgiving #sweepstakes

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

couldn't stop listening!!

indeed it is a "Fierce Kingdom" that grabs you by the seat of the pants and takes you on a ride that you just can't seem to get off of, even the final words...

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Mark
  • Reno, NV, United States
  • 12-19-17

Good but needed faster pacing or stronger message

A woman tries to survive during an active-shooter situation at a zoo, and her actions are completely skewed by trying to protect her noisy, impatient four-year-old son. It was interesting to see a story of macho male violence almost entirely from the view of women watching it unfold. It could’ve had a heavy-handed message but it very subtly gets the viewpoint across about the essential role women play behind the scenes of society at large. Frankly, I wanted a stronger message or else faster plotting. A subtle message and slow plotting were a bit of a chore. Bechdel test: Pass. Grade: B

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

fierce kingdom is fiercely suspenseful

If you could sum up Fierce Kingdom in three words, what would they be?

suspenseful; soul-searching; heartfelt.

What did you like best about this story?

I liked the way that the author showed how good of a mother the main character of this story is, she's patient, loving, protective, and fierce. :-)

Have you listened to any of Cassandra Campbell’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

If I have I do not remember, but her performance was very good.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

yes, definitely.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

You won’t put it down once you start reading

When I saw that the entire book takes place in about three hours I knew it was going to be a page turner. My cousin finished it in one night, and it took me just over one day to finish it. I had to know what happens.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Slow to start & only a few twists

By the time I got halfway through it I did want to finish it but it was still a slow read with an almost predictable ending.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Intense and Insightful

I rarely go to movies, but I look forward to seeing this story on screen. Hope they leave the storyline alone.