The Kingdom is a dark take on a Disney theme park, set in the future where there are human-made hybrids (animals and humans, alike), that populate a theme park meant to make everyone’s wish come true. The story follows one such hybrid, Ana, a Disney princess-like character trying to understand the mysterious events that keep happening in the park.
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 bio-engineered 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 a bit torn about what to say about this book. I enjoyed it, for the most part! I jumped at the chance to read it after reading it’s synopsis. The idea of a “dark Disney” is fun and mysterious. But in reality…this book didn’t take it far enough, in my opinion. Perhaps because it’s a YA, but I don’t feel that the author really made it dark enough. There were many dark things hinted at, but when it came right down to it, only a few horrible things actually occur on the page.
If that was the only thing I had a problem with, then I wouldn’t be as disappointed, I don’t think. Really, though, other than it not being dark enough for me, I felt like the story was really half-baked. There were a lot of plot holes, in my opinion, that were due to an underdeveloped world. The book was entirely too short to really give the sense of this world and the problems occurring within it. We don’t really get a good sense of the other hybrid girls aside from Ana and maybe Nia. We don’t really get a good sense of the park itself, just superficial glimpses that only exist so that we know the scenery has changed. We don’t even get a good sense of the people who run this park, the people supposedly watching and monitoring all the hybrids’ every move.
Additionally, the romance is very weak tea in my opinion. But I think this is due to how fast-paced the story is. It glosses over everything, so why not gloss over the romance? Normally, I don’t mind a fast-paced book, but when it causes other aspects of the book to suffer…well then it’s problematic. There was just no time to really get to know this world or its inhabitants. There’s a subplot about a disease or “pattern” happening across the board with all the hybrids, the human and animal alike, that never fully gets explored. It was very frustrating to get to the end of the book and have this casually explained in a sentence or two when it felt like there was so much more going on throughout the whole story.
So, overall, disappointing. But I still enjoyed the story for what it was. I just wanted more out of it.
Literary Value: 3/5
This is not Rothenberg’s first book, but it doesn’t seem like she’s written very much aside from this. I wish whoever had been editing this book had maybe asked more questions about this world, so that Rothenberg might be pressed to add…more to it?
Ana is an okay constructed character, but she’s very bland. I guess that’s to be expected from a mostly robotic human who has been taught her whole life to behave like the epitome of perfect princess. But even as she’s developing more of her own feelings and personality, Rothenberg just doesn’t take it far enough. I think another example of this kind of situation done better is the videogame Detroit: Become Human, which deals with androids that are starting to break the bonds they’ve been programmed to follow and are experiencing their own humanity. I think the storyline of that game does a great job of showing that slow growth of a basically robot type personality into an autonomous being.
The story had too many plot holes to ignore. My main problem stemmed from the fact that the surveillance of the hybrids and the park in general was really conveniently spotty to almost non-existent. I couldn’t believe the amount of time Ana and her sisters spend in areas that are “off the grid” so to speak because of poor connection. You’d think that the people who have created and are in charge of these very expensive hybrids would do something to combat that, even to the extent of having human personnel keep tabs on all of them. But no, for the sake of plot, this aspect fell to the wayside in a too obvious way that left me shaking my head.
I also found the final “big finish” ending to be way to unbelievable and happened way too fast. It was over in an instant. I didn’t feel like this snug, “all loose ends tied up” ending was earned by everything that proceeded it. It was all just too convenient.
I often don’t say this, since I love stand-alone books now more than ever, but I think this book needed to be a series, to give the author time to better explore this world and flesh it and the characters out more.
Entertainment Factor: 4/5
Like I said, I’m torn about this book because despite the flaws that it had, I still enjoyed it for the most part. I liked the world and I enjoyed seeing this little mystery play out. I was definitely kept guessing till the end on certain things, which was good!
Overall, what I can say is, this is a nice, quick read that has a lot of cool elements to it that keep it from being a dismal disappointment. I was definitely along for the ride and I finished this book pretty quickly! While I wasn’t glued to my seat, there was enough intrigue and sci-fi uniqueness to keep me invested and turning the pages.
Cover Art: 4/5
Part of the reason why I was so interested in picking this book up was because of this gorgeous cover. I mean, it’s sparkly in a subtle way, it’s got this cool sci-fi android face on it and the colors are really appealing.
I think what I like most about it is that you can’t really get the whole story from one glance. There’s enough going on in this image to keep you looking. You can’t take in all the clues right away. I think it pairs nicely with the overall feel of the book. Its beautiful exterior belies the complexity underneath, just like the hybrids in the story.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5 Tiaras 👑👑👑
For me, this was a really cool concept that just didn’t stick the landing. The idea of hybrid “Disney” princesses and a murder mystery in a theme park set in the future sounds so, so cool. It’s like a sci-fi dream! But I didn’t feel the book lived up to the idea it was presenting.
The story had some pretty serious plot holes/conveniences that were entirely too important to gloss over. The characters were a bit underdeveloped for my taste, as was the romance. The world needed so much more building – we only get surface-level descriptions and not enough time spent in the world to really explore it. As a reader, this was really frustrating.
And the ending was just too quickly resolved/all ends tied up too neatly. I felt like there were major elements to the plot that were just explained away so that the book could end, leaving me with questions unanswered.
Would I recommend this book?
Yes. I would.It was still entertaining and had a decent enough plot to keep me interested. I think as a YA book, it’s not the best, but it’s certainly not the worst. It just needed a bit more TLC and development. Since it’s a stand-alone, I think it’s easier for me to recommend, because even if you don’t love it, it’s just one book – one and done. You don’t have to slog through a whole series only to find out it wasn’t worth it.
Thoughts & Thanks
Thank you so much for reading this post. I would love to hear your thoughts on this book if you have read it. If you’re considering reading it, let me know what you think, once you do!
Happy reading! I leave you with this: