Review: The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg


The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg // VBC ReviewThe Kingdom
Jess Rothenberg
Published: May 28, 2019 (Henry Holt & Co.)
Purchase at: Amazon or Book Depository
Review Source: Copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Amy

Rating (out of 5): 4 stars

People go to The Kingdom to live out their fairy tales. In one day you can visit a mermaid lagoon, go on a safari, walk with dinosaurs or other extinct species, anything you could imagine. Fantasists—android-like “princesses”—were created with the most cutting-edge technology to fulfill each visitor’s every wish and desire as they traipse through The Kingdom’s varied landscapes.

Ana is one of seven Fantasists. She’s well aware of her place within the park’s structure, and knows the rules are there to keep her and her sisters safe from an outside world that is quickly crumbling. But when Ana meets new park employee Owen, and sees the work he puts in to caring for the hybrid animals, she can’t help but start to question her own existence especially as the hybrids all seem to be slowly dying.When Ana is accused of murdering Owen, the dark underbelly of The Kingdom threatens to become exposed.

I thought that The Kingdom was a really interesting rumination on what it means to be human. Everything is really enhanced when you have the juxtaposition of the almost sugary sweetness that The Kingdom experience is supposed to entail, only to realize that things aren’t quite as happy as they seem beneath the surface. You really get that gut-churning feeling that says something is just plain wrong in The Kingdom, and that feeling run throughout as you try to piece together events that lead to Owen’s murder.

I really enjoyed the way Jess Rothenberg structured The Kingdom. Told in alternatively between court transcripts, emails, interviews, etc. that give readers the events following the murder, the story then skips back to Ana’s perspective to fill in the blanks of what happens leading up to Owen’s murder. I liked working from both sides slowly seeing the picture develop.

There are quite a few twists and turns along the way that I won’t go into detail here as it kind of ruins the surprise of it all, but I felt like all of the revelations we learn went perfectly with the facade that the park itself puts on for the rest of the world.

Some of the twists were easy to see coming, but I appreciated the ones that made me question my own theories and made me second-guess what the truth really was. In that regard it’s easy to question the reliability of the characters, even Ana. Not saying any or all untruthfulness was maliciously dealt, but when you are closed off from having all the facts your perspective can be skewed. Unfortunately, this also kept me from feeling the depth of the relationship the developed between Owen and Ana.

Overall, Jess Rothenberg navigated everything really well and that the pacing was spot on. I hated every time I had to put the book down again, but quickly became engrossed each time I’d pick it back up.

The Kingdom was a very interesting, often surprising, and engaging read. The ending leaves a bit open should Jess Rothenberg want to explore more in this futuristic—yet not too unfamiliar—world. I’d definitely be down for more stories that explore the complexities of these things called life and love.

Content: Kissing, implied sexual abuse  

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