Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy
Published: UK, July 2019, Pan Macmillan (USA, May 2019, Henry Holt and Co.)
‘Welcome to the Kingdom… where ‘Happily Ever After’ isn’t just a promise, but a rule.
Glimmering like a jewel behind its gateway, The Kingdom™ is an immersive fantasy theme park where guests soar on virtual dragons, castles loom like giants, and bioengineered species―formerly extinct―roam free.
Ana is one of seven Fantasists, beautiful “princesses” engineered to make dreams come true. When she meets park employee Owen, Ana begins to experience emotions beyond her programming including, for the first time… love.
But the fairytale becomes a nightmare when Ana is accused of murdering Owen, igniting the trial of the century. Through courtroom testimony, interviews, and Ana’s memories of Owen, emerges a tale of love, lies, and cruelty―and what it truly means to be human.’
I received an electronic copy of this book from Netgalley and Pan Macmillan.
The Kingdom is a fabulous novel which mixes up Westworld and Disney World. All the way through the novel I couldn’t help but think of Disney! The Kingdom follows protagonist Ana, a fantasist (aka Hybrid A.I Princess) who has been created to make park guests dreams a reality. Mostly this is meeting and greeting, walking in parades, attending tea parties etc but as expected, there is a sinister and dark institute working in the background so everything isn’t quite as rosy as it seems in the park and Ana quickly becomes entangled in the not so perfect reality of The Kingdom and its creators and investors.
I really enjoyed this book as an introduction – it has set a good scene that I want to know more about and introduced characters I can root for in novels to come (hopefully). The Kingdom is the setting and designed as a theme park created to satisfy guests desires for experiences including being able to see animals that are now extinct. The narrative itself is told through story interactions between characters from Ana’s point of view as well as transcripts of interviews with Ana (and others) when she is in custody and on trial. Through this the story enfolds through the interview process and Ana’s memories of what actually happened and delivers all of the detail with a fresh outlook. I like the use of transcripts in the novel and find that it makes the book easy and quick to read!
The draw back for me was the lack of detail in the other fantasists but I understand it wasn’t really needed for the storyline in this novel. I would have enjoyed more interaction between Ana and Owen and I would have liked some more time with Eve & Pania – other ‘princesses’ especially these as they are mentioned the most. But this doesn’t detract from the quality of the writing, which is superb. The language flows quickly – I barely realised how much I had read until I was halfway through and although there are instances where sexual harassment/assault is hinted at, there is nothing explicit and it is handled with a gentle respect, not as a main plot point.
Overall I feel really positive about this book and I will definitely be looking at more of Jess Rothenberg’s writing from now on. If you’re looking at something to dip your toes into for Sci-Fi fantasy novels this will do the trick nicely!