Saturday, June 29, 2019

Book Review: The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

Title: The Kingdom
Author: Jess Rothenberg
Publication Date: May 28, 2019
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Pages: 352
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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'm not sure what I was expecting from The Kingdom when I first picked it up, but this book turned out to be a hell of a ride! I am a huge Disney World fanatic - I basically moved to Florida to be able to go more often. I also love dystopian fiction and books written in transcripts so this one was definitely for me!

Ana is a Fantasist, a princess in a park that is remarkably similar to what I'd expect a future Disney World to be. She has lived her life in the park being told of the horrors outside the gates. Ana and her sisters have been told about the terrible world people live in and believe they exist as a reprieve from reality. When Ana meets Owen and begins noticing strange things happening in the park and with her sisters, she begins to question the only reality she has ever known and I love her for it!

While she is understandably naive, Ana is also a remarkable character. It was exciting to follow Ana's journey as she began to evolve and wake up to the world around her. I loved the relationships with her sisters, especially with Nia. It was unsettling to see these women attempting to communicate with each other under the watchful eye of their makers. Speaking of which, "Daddy." Big cringe. On the other hand, Ana and Owen together were such a sweet couple. I loved how much they trusted and helped each other and I also appreciated that their romance didn't overshadow the bigger story at all.

My absolute favorite thing about The Kingdom was the world created by Jess Rothenberg! I could absolutely see this park existing in the future and the different lands were all incredible. I would love to see this as a movie! Has it been optioned yet? Can we make that happen? I already felt like I could see the park.

This story was so much darker than I expected when I first saw the cover floating around. I'll admit, I wasn't in any hurry to read it until a friend kept insisting I'd love it. The rainbows and butterflies are definitely surface level and the real mystery hiding underneath is truly terrifying. The Kingdom is told in flashbacks interspersed with transcripts from the trial and interviews. It made the story seem much more urgent and fast paced.

I loved how unexpected the ending of this book was and I'm seriously hoping for a book two! It definitely seems very open and like there's much more story to be told. If you're looking for a dark dystopia that's more than what it seems, you should definitely give this a try! Especially if you're a Disney fan.