The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg is a revelation. Its uniqueness and ingenuity absolutely blew me away and I cannot recommend this clever, chilling and stunning novel enough. It’s part YA feminist romance and part dazzling dystopian with an electrifying crime thriller element mixed in. Not only is it 100% original, it’s well-written, plotted incredibly well, and utterly riveting.
Our setting is The Kingdom, a futuristic fantasy theme park that can only be described as a Dark Disneyworld. The Kingdom is “ruled” by seven fantasists—beautiful android princesses who entertain and please guests. The mystique and beauty of The Kingdom was glimmering with a hidden darker side that is explored throughout the book.
I really liked the characters depicted in this novel. Ana was curious and caring, logical, and loving. There is a stark contrast between the Ana we see at the beginning of her story and the Ana we see at the court trial and in interrogation. It was great following her story and seeing how her own and others’ actions affected her and her exploration of her own humanity. We only got to meet a couple of Ana’s fantasist sisters in detail, Nia and Eve, and it was enjoyable how different their personalities were despite the three of them having the same programming.
The Kingdom explores a lot of important topics; perhaps most significantly that of objectification and consent. Ana and her sisters are very beautiful and taught to always say yes and never no, which workers and investors at the park seek to take advantage of, as does the man who runs The Kingdom who uses the fantasists as a kind of bribe to get investors to support the theme park, a disgusting concept really. There aren’t any scenes with direct sexual assault, but it is strongly implied. I thought the way the author used this setting to raise such important topics was incredibly powerful and necessary, which ties in with the discussion in today’s society.
“In the end, it does not matter what a story is about. It only matters who gets to tell it.”
This story was told through flashbacks, court testimonies, emails, interrogation records, and more which are all intricately woven together throughout the plot. We see Ana’s perspective of the past at the same time as we see her and others interviewed at court about what seems to be a twisted version of events. This narrative thrilled and excited me and made The Kingdom impossible to put down. This book was full of suspense and mystery as well as romance and the exploration of important topics such as consent.
As I read, I thought I knew where the story was going, but I was wrong. Jess Rothenberg surprised me at every turn with the development of characters, plot, and the revealing of the dark mysteries hiding between the seemingly perfect facade of The Kingdom.
The Kingdom was a powerful and poignant story that I urge you to read. It is unique and beautiful, witty and surprising. Whether you’re a fan of crime, YA, dystopian, or even fantasy novels, this book will perfectly satisfy your craving for a new kind of story and a fresh exploration of what it is to be human.
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Synopsis | Goodreads
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.