The Kingdom — Jennifer M. Barry — Book Review

The Kingdom

One-sentence summary:

A YA paranormal romance that is poorly executed, has bland characters, inconsistent pacing but solid writing.

Longer Musings:

The Kingdom is a first-person narrative written from the perspective of Rioghan, an immortal man, who begins the novel with a single purpose: to seduce and sleep with as many attractive women as he can find. To accomplish this task he has several tools at his disposal: his god-like looks, complex understanding of the human psyche and an ability to magically charm anybody he wishes.

Luckily for the readers, he quickly stumbles onto Lily who rebuffs his advances with snarky barbs and some eye rolling. She has red hair, an irish background and a beauty that is beautiful. Like an angel. Also, she can sing. Which we discover, conveniently, because they both happen to arrive at the same mystical castle ruins at the precise moment in time they have to be there. A feat they manage to accomplish over and over and over again. That is until Rioghan gives up on requesting fate (or the author) to put up a billboard saying that he’s in love and starts to stalk Lily.

Naturally, Lily — the 19-year-old goddess — has lots of time for Rioghan because she’s rich. Or, at least, her mother is and so she can travel anywhere her heart desires, and still squeeze in a complaint session about the exact same parent’s controlling tendencies. A problem that Rioghan also has, except with his father. A bond, that together, they will use to overcome these issues and embrace their new lives.

The book is 177 pages long, but it felt huge. Almost 1/4 of it is spent on the two main characters talking about the ‘hidden’ history of the world. Nothing happens. They don’t discuss this in the middle of a fight scene (akin to Mr. and Mrs. Smith), or have a verbal debate (a la The Incredibles), they simply sit in a room while Rioghan educates Lily on how things are. If you like your mansplaining long and condescending then The Kingdom is right up your alley. It has entire sections where the male contemplates about how he’ll need to re-educate the love of his life once she’s out of her mother’s control. How he’ll ‘fix her’ like a Coldplay song might.

That’s not say The Kingdom is entirely devoid of merit. The writing is solid and the historical setting’s interesting. However, they’re wrapped around a protagonist who has major issues. Firstly, he falls into the immortal-yet-boring camp for me. This is a man, a good-looking god, who has nothing interesting to say. Knows less about the world than a high-school student and falls in love with a young woman who is as uninteresting as him. He compares (or, more precisely, the author compares) the effect that the Belfast bombings’ had on him to his non-girlfriend disappearing from his sight. That is a real thing in this novel.

This happens about one third of the way through the novel, the exact moment in time that the author seems to realise that they have created someone devoid of personality and need to spice things up. Make him less, less. So as if in response to this realisation, Jennifer M. Barry grabs a horrific terrorism attack that shook an entire city, took hundreds of lives, and plops it in there. And then promptly forgets about it. An event so important that even the narrator (originally) tells us that it scarred him so deeply he started to care about humanity. Unless, you count the start of the novel, where he didn’t really too much about anyone except hot babes..

So, yes, the writing is fine and the characters act out their arcs in the expected way with no major changes to the plot line that Twilight made famous. One thing I will say is that the word beautiful appeared on awful lot, 54 times according to my search for the term. I’m not sure if that’s on par for this type of work, but it was enough to irk me to investigate further.

Conclusion:

The Kingdom is a YA paranormal romance that is less story and more reader fantasy. It features rich and attractive young adults with 1st world problems who dislike their parents. The novel has large info-dump sections told around coffee tables, a sexist male protagonist / stalker and a rushed-together action sequence at the end. There are some interesting world-building ideas proposed in the novel, but they’re not used effectively or to build the main story. My recommendation is to skip it and re-read Twilight instead.

Books Are Indie

 

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