Author: Jess Rothenberg
Publication Date: 28 May 2019
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Henry Holt
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(TM) 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.
Based off of the synopsis of this book, I severely underestimated just how dark and sinister this tale would be. Imagine Disney World with its beautiful fairy tale princesses and then immerse them into a scene out of West World where the men who oversee these the day to day of these princesses are filled with perverse desires.
The story opens with a brief murder scene then jumps forward to the post-trial interview between Ana and Dr. Foster. Ana has been accused of murdering someone (at this point, all we know is that there’s a body). Dr. Foster is trying to get information out of Ana but based off of the short transcript, she is unwilling to participate in his line of questioning. At this point, the reader is meant to be confused.
The plot takes place in both the past (two years prior to the murder trial) and the present (post murder trial). During the time leading up to the murder trial, we learn that Ana is a fantasist at The Kingdom meaning that she is an advanced robotic princess that was created to fulfill all fantasies of the park guests (that right there is already as creepy as it sounds). She’s one of several fantasists and together they are collectively referred to as sisters.
The sisters are meant to represent different cultures of the world (they all have different skin tones and physical characteristics), but they have no concept of the attached cultural history they represent. They are required to maintain unattainable beauty standards, which ultimately leads to their objectification. There’s a scene that alludes to sexual assault, which is covered up by wiping the fantasist’s memory.
The fantasists are meant to look pretty and serve. They are not expected to think or feel anything. However, as Ana develops a relationship with Owen, she starts to evolve and exhibit human emotions. Once Ana begins to feel, she starts to question all of the practices at The Kingdom and whether or not they are humane (i.e. the way the animals are treated at the park, the beauty standards of the fantasists, etc.)
I don’t want to give away much more of the plot because trust me, it packs a punch. Overall, this book tells an incredibly haunting tale that really makes you wonder about the deep desires that humans are capable of and the lengths that people will go to for entertainment.
Thank you to the author for the giveaway win! This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.