Fierce kingdom : a novel / Gin Phillips.

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      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?"-- Provided by publisher.
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Booklist Reviews 2017 May #2

*Starred Review* Readers will likely be unable to put down this literary suspense novel from Phillips (Come In and Cover Me, 2012). Joan and her four-year-old son, Lincoln, are at the zoo near closing time. As they approach the exit, she sees bodies on the ground and a man with a gun entering a bathroom. Retreating into the maze of the zoo and its myriad of exhibits and enclosures, Joan finds a, hopefully, perfect hiding place. But as time passes and Lincoln gets hungry and restless, Joan must become proactive to protect them both. The time starts each chapter, with the whole book taking place over the course of three hours. Joan's voice gives shape to her and Lincoln's lives, but readers also get other perspectives, including one of the shooters. Phillips manages to combine beautiful imagery with heart-pounding, nerve-fraying intensity. Although there is very little description of actual violence, the premise alone means the squeamish (and animal lovers) should probably skip this one. Those who want a tidy ending will also be disappointed. But fans of literary page-turners, like Sunil Yapa's Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist (2016), won't want to miss this. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

LJ Reviews 2017 February #2

Phillips opened her career with The Well and the Mine, winner of the Barnes & Noble Discover Award, then followed with the atmospheric dream piece Come in and Cover Me. Changing tack again, she offers a literary/thriller blend about a mother who's hustling her young son out of the zoo at day's end when she spots something that sends them both on the run. An LJ Editors' Spring Pick, p. 27.

Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

LJ Reviews 2017 May #2

Joan has brought her four-year-old son Lincoln to one of their favorite places, the zoo. Joan doesn't think too much about the distant popping noises she hears as she wrangles Lincoln and his toys in order to start heading out. As she nears the exit, though, she sees bodies and a man with a gun. Grabbing Lincoln and running in the opposite direction, she heads for a hiding place in the animal exhibits. Faced with multiple agonizing decisions over the next few hours, Joan tries to keep her son quiet and safe. But what about the teenagers they ran by and the baby she keeps hearing cry? Flashing back and forth among Joan, other trapped zoo visitors, and one of the three gunmen, the story sustains its intensity while also exposing the characters' inner thoughts. Phillips (A Little Bit of Spectacular; The Hidden Summer) skillfully captures the terror of the situation but also the beautiful minutiae of our everyday lives. This literary thriller encompasses three terrifying hours in the lives of some zoo visitors and the gunmen hunting them, movingly conveying much of the action through the viewpoint of a mother and her young son. VERDICT This would be an excellent book club pick. Also recommend to those who enjoy Rosamund Lupton's suspense novels. [See Prepub Alert, 1/23/17; "Editors' Spring Picks," LJ 2/15/17.]—Melissa DeWild, BookOps, New York P.L.

Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

PW Reviews 2017 May #1

In this harrowing thriller from Phillips (Come in and Cover Me), set at a zoo in an unnamed city, one second Joan is pressing her four-year-old son, Lincoln, to pack his action figures so that they can get out by closing time, and the next gunshots ring out—turning their pleasurable afternoon routine into a parent's worst nightmare. Over the next three hours, Joan struggles to keep her tired, cranky preschooler quiet as she attempts to find a safe hiding place or escape route. She discovers that others are similarly trapped, and that there are apparently multiple shooters, who regard their prey—both human and animal—with no more compassion than if they were targeting Lincoln's plastic heroes and villains. In passages of unexpected beauty, Joan flashes back to earlier moments in her relationship with her son. In one poignant scene, a colobus monkey seemingly mourns its slain comrade ("standing so close that its long white fur mixes with the fur of the dead one, and Joan cannot tell where one stops and the other starts"). A searing exploration of motherhood at its most basic, this all-too-plausible horror story may haunt even readers with steely nerves and strong stomachs. Author tour. Agent: Kimberly Witherspoon, InkWell Management. (July)

Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.