Kingdom has three key protagonists for me – Dylan, the son of a senator that has taken his own life; Campbell, a former geneticist haunted by the past and in search of redemption; and Tiber City itself. Dylan wanders through life enjoying drugs, alcohol and casual sex; his mother is in a home and the suicide of his father has left a shadow over the family. There is further confusion with the rise of another politician who looks similar to Dylan’s late father, Robert Fitzgerald.
Elsewhere we have Campbell who was once involved with Morrison Biotech but has now found sanctuary with the Order of Neshamah, a religious group who have turned to science to gain a greater understanding of the human soul. Campbell’s motives are not always clear and it is hard to gauge whether he is a good guy or a villain. Campbell has the problem of former colleague, Michael Morrison, from Morrison Biotech who is intent on recovering the geneticist and has a keen interest in the political landscape as well.
O’Donnell’s Tiber City is the strongest character in my opinion. The descriptions in the book are heavily detailed and leave no stone unturned. This is a gritty and uncompromising world though, its descent down to the corruption of its people rather than through a costly war. I cannot fault O’Donnell’s skill in conveying this dystopian world but I did feel that the description was often too heavy. It interrupted the flow of the story and as a result it is Tiber City that is the most memorable element of the story. I didn’t really feel I got to the heart of Campbell but Dylan’s efforts in solving the mystery behind his father’s death were always interesting. The novel did seem to gather pace in its final quarter, but I just wish it had shown the same urgency throughout.
Kingdom is a very well-written novel, with Tiber City beautifully conveyed. However, the detailed description, though excellent, impacts negatively on other areas of the book. I did guess some elements of the story before the end but the storyline remained intriguing. I will certainly be interested to see what the next instalments have to offer.
(Book source: reviewer received a copy in exchange for a fair and honest review)