Book Review: “The Kingdom” by Jess Rothenberg

Cover of "The Kingdom" by Jess Rothenberg
Cover of “The Kingdom” by Jess Rothenberg

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “The Kingdom” by Jess Rothenberg! It’s been a while since I read a book featuring a non-human protagonist (robot) and a murder mystery, so why not pick up a book that includes both? Here’s a quick summary so we know what it’s about:

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.”

Plot Development: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The plot mainly consists of Ana’s flashbacks to her experiences before the current day (the murder trial). There are also segments in the book detailing interviews as part of the trial, witness testimonies, and so on. The book heavily relies on the reader putting all the pieces together about what actually happened. This can be a huge risk if the information given doesn’t fit together, but this book made it work. I have to give kudos to the author for putting this all together, because this was a very complicated case.

The twist close to the ending actually surprised me, which rarely ever happens. I won’t spoil what it is here, but the ending taking place after makes me believe that there could be potential for a sequel if the author wished to go that route. However, it is fine as a standalone book with how the ending is written, too.

The only thing I didn’t like about the overall story were the sideplots. They felt a bit unclear and could have used some more attention. They did add to the main story, but

Worldbuilding Development: 4 out of 5 stars

The worldbuilding was quite immersive. Unfortunately, it’s hard to have a good idea of how expansive The Kingdom is, as there was no map or in-depth explanation of the park. This might be intentional, given that we’re seeing The Kingdom mainly through Ana’s eyes and no one else’s. However, having some worldbuilding notes like specialized sections of the park than just the plot-relevant ones, would be nice to see. This would lend to giving the theme park a more fleshed-out state of being.

Character Development: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Despite the great plot development and worldbuilding, I actually thought the characters were the weakest part of the book. I enjoyed reading Ana and Owen’s characters and how they bonded with each other. Their bonds and actions especially made more sense and worked better when the plot twist close to the end of the book was revealed.

Unfortunately, many of the other characters come off as one-note or needed more development. For example, the developers of The Kingdom talked a lot about their work and Ana and so on, but I didn’t really understand why they cared so much. Was it for the sake of scientific innovation? To make a quick buck? I wish there was more explanation.

Overall, I’m rating this book 4 out of 5 stars!

I thought that this was a creative take on a murder case and also executed its overall story well.


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