Published by Pan Macmillan on July 11, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult
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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.
A murder mystery set in futuristic Disney-like theme park with the princesses as hybrid android/humans? Count me in! I first heard of The Kingdom and knew I was going to love it because of the sci-fi twist, but after reading it, I cherished it even more – it’s such a wild and unique concept that was executed so well!
Androids Created For a Purpose
My motor is working hard in my chest. It always unnerves me a little when humans respond in unexpected ways.
I thoroughly enjoyed hearing from Ana, a Fantasist’s perspective (one of the “princesses” of the park). As an android created to make people’s dreams come true, there’s clearly a lot of implications about what her personality was like and how she is “created”. But seeing things through her eyes, you can see it’s clearly not the case as she takes on board human emotion and behaviour and begins reacting on her own.
Seeing the juxtaposition between Ana and her sisters – different Fantasist models that have been created for different areas of the theme park was interesting, particularly when it came to some of the older models, Eve and her favourite sister Nia. They are each formulated with a set personality, and “improvements” have been made with the newer models, and it’s clear that while a lot of park-goers come and see the Fantasists, the employees in particular don’t respect them at all and treat them like objects. In fact, there are a few scenes of implied sexual abuse that were a bit disturbing to see, but made sense given what the Fantasists are created for.
Unreliable Narration Keeps You Guessing
In doing the right thing…I have actually done the worst thing.
As the book opens, we see a transcript of an interview between Ana and a doctor, and it’s clear that she’s currently on trial. We know that a murder has happened – but we don’t know whether she did it, who it was, whether she is innocent and why.
There’s clearly more than meets the eye as a reader and to Ana’s own perspective, deeming her an unreliable narrator. That was part of the fun of this book – putting the pieces together yourself. Like any good thriller, this one keeps you guessing until the very end, even when you think you’ve gotten all the answers.
Delving Into Artificial Intelligence
There’s so much that this novel delves into when it comes to artificial intelligence – giving them the chance to improve and learn behaviour, hybrid animals and bringing them back to life, reprogramming them when they don’t do what they want you to, the duty of the creator and their creations, whether they could love and feel emotion…I loved how all of this was integrated into the story, while still moving the plot along at a steady pace. I loved hearing of the hybrid animals and how they were created, and seeing the unfortunate setback of a “disease” in their system causing them to attack one another. This offered a lot of depth when it came to the park and its creations.
The Kingdom offered a thrill-ride of murder and mayhem in a carefully constructed theme park wonderland of the future, and I loved every minute of it. It offers a lot of depth when it comes to artificial intelligence and moves at a super fast pace as we explore the Fantasists in this futuristic theme park.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Trigger warnings: murder, sexual abuse (implied), attempted suicide, animal abuse
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for sending me a review copy!
The Kingdom is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$16.99 or from The Book Depository.