The Kingdom is the ultimate fantasy theme park, with its thrilling rides and coasters, set among safari grasslands, mermaid pools, and tropical forests, a monorail, and the magical Princess Palace. Long-extinct animal species have been bioengineered and now roam free, along with hybrid animals like horseflies as well as virtual dragons.
And what’s this Kingdom without princesses? Ana is one of seven Fantasists - half-human, half-android princesses, who are engineered to make park visitors' fantasies come true. Her programming dictates that her behavior is predictable, and she is not complicated with the vast array of human emotions. So when Ana does start experiencing emotions, questioning what she's been told to think and say, her whole world inside this surreal futuristic amusement park changes. It also leads to the most controversial trial of the century and to a surprise romance.
Author Jess Rothenberg isn't new to the YA scene, having been both the editor of the popular 'Vampire Academy' series, and writer of 'The Catastrophic History of You & Me.' But this is a genre-bending departure from vampires and paranormal romance for Rothenberg, bringing us a mash-up between sci-fi and fantasy, Westworld crossed with Disney World. The Kingdom is set in Lewis County, WA, 2096, a future that comes across as incredibly eerie, the kind of ‘too good to be true’ that is undeniably unsettling from the very beginning.
Ana, being half-human, has deep questions about the role she is supposed to play in the theme park, as it becomes clear that it’s far from ‘normal’; most importantly, the question of whether she actually committed the highest crime of all - murder - pushes the story through twists and turns all the way through. The confusion Ana feels over her romantic feelings and friendships are also fantastically exaggerated examples of how the teenage years can be a minefield to deal with anyway, and the way she questions the treatment of animals hit me at my core.
This book is the perfect combination of fantasy and sci-fi, with the twist of mystery, romance and good dose of a fairytale mixed in, and it brings up so many profound questions about humanity and how we treat others. It felt like nothing else I had read lately and so I loved this deeply original book.
*Thank you to Christian Trimmer for introducing me to this delight, and Henry Holt Books for Young Readers for treating me to an early copy.
Life as a young fox is scary, with so much to learn about the dangers out there in the woods. Little foxes learn about these dangers from their mama, a masterful storyteller, or the hard way, by facing the world.
This beautifully-written and illustrated middle-grade book invites the reader to step inside the minds of little foxes, and embark on an adventure, full of the real-life challenges that they often face:
Nasty humans, vicious woodland creatures like the Golgathursh and badgers, and dangerous territorial foxes. And especially the harsh Winter.
This is a tale within a tale, and just like scary stories told around a campfire, it has elements of horror and delight. Not only is it precautionary for fox kits, like foxes Mia and Uly, readers will recognize the themes of friendship, family, bravery, and the drive to push ahead when life is difficult.
Author Christian McKay Heidicker has a way with words too, and through his writing he has conveyed a very vivid picture of woodland life, describing objects as a fox would see them, and creating new words for things that wouldn’t make sense to them. He also doesn’t shy away from the brutality of nature, from the cycle of life and death, and the struggle for survival against the most difficult of odds. The young foxes in his story face hunters, painful separation from family members, and gruesome injuries and death. Heidicker draws inspiration from classic authors Bram Stoker, Edgar Allen Poe, and H.P. Lovecraft, and weaves in a very well-known children’s book author into this very book; young readers who love a scary story will enjoy this, but it’s not for those who are easily upset by animals getting hurt or struggle with the harshness of nature.
The most wonderful part in my reading this (aside from enjoying the adventure and the amazing artwork by Junyi Wu) was how it reminded me of discovering books about animals in my childhood, such as ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ ‘The Wind in The Willows,’ and ‘Watership Down.’ I enjoyed these with my dad, and they fueled my love and compassion for animals. I expect many readers who will enjoy this book will be or are animal-lovers too, as Heidicker has embodied the curious and mischievous nature of foxes so well in this book, and it’s really hard not to love them because of it. This deserves to be a children’s animal classic!
**Thank so much to the editor, Christian Trimmer of Henry Holt Books, for my early copy and the chance to read and review this book.
Release date: 8.20.19