BOOK REVIEW: THE KINGDOMS BY NATASHA PULLEY

Book cover for The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley

STAR RATING: 3 stars
PAGE LENGTH: 448 pages
CW: Death, gun violence, slavery, animal death, child death
IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske for the male longing, or To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis for the time travel

SYNOPSIS

Joe Tournier has a bad case of amnesia. His first memory is of stepping off a train in the nineteenth-century French colony of England. The only clue Joe has about his identity is a century-old postcard of a Scottish lighthouse that arrives in London the same month he does. Written in illegal English—instead of French—the postcard is signed only with the letter “M,” but Joe is certain whoever wrote it knows him far better than he currently knows himself, and he’s determined to find the writer. The search for M, though, will drive Joe from French-ruled London to rebel-owned Scotland and finally onto the battle ships of a lost empire’s Royal Navy. In the process, Joe will remake history, and himself. 

The Kingdoms has been recommended to me about a million times over as a book that I would very much enjoy. It’s got the male x male romance, it’s got time travel, it’s got historical events. All things I’m extremely fond of. So why didn’t The Kingdoms work for me as much as I wanted it to?

One — I think I read it way too fast. This is a known problem for me, because I tend to zoom through a book and not savor it. I think if I had savored this one a little, I wouldn’t feel so entirely lost. I was having a great time with The Kingdoms until about 80% of the way through, and then I was LOST. I mean, I have no idea what was going on. I think perhaps if I do a reread I would catch things a little better, and maybe understand what was going on with the time-travel.

Highlight to reveal a SPOILER-FILLED discussion on my confusion. Seriously, do not read if you haven’t read this book.

So by the end of the novel, there are THREE timelines? How do none of these result in a paradox? Or do they? I am so very confused. The original Joe we start the novel with was Jem, right? And when he “wakes” up on the train, he ends up as a slave, taking the place of whatever original Joe started in that timeline. Where does Jem come from, then? And then where do Kite and Joe go at the end of the book? To Kite’s original timeline? SOMEONE PLEASE WALK ME THROUGH THIS.

Another problem I had with The Kingdoms is that I really didn’t feel the romance between the two leads at all. They had chemistry together, sure, but there was no real…longing until the very end of the book. I didn’t feel romantic love between them for a long, long time in this book, and when I did it felt very out of nowhere? Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way. Who knows.

I did, however, enjoy seeing the historical elements of this book. Watching naval battles through Joe’s eyes was horrifying. The Napoleonic Wars happen right there on page, and the descriptions are both macabre and terrifying. It’s all really well done.

I love time-travel books, and I love when they include love in them, but The Kingdoms — as of my first read — has left me wanting some clarity. I’m not giving up on this book, though. I do plan to reread it and give it another go.

Add to your Goodreads, or preorder at at the following links:

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE