Book Review

To Kill A Kingdom

To Kill a Kingdom

  • Author: Alexandra Christo
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: March 6, 2018
  • Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

CONTENT WARNING: murder, blood, violence, mention of slavery

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

His heart will make a fine trophy.

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one things sirens loathe most—a human. Robbed of her son, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good. But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to broker to eliminate humankind’s greatest enemy?

As I read this, I wondered two things. One, what kind of people take stories like The Little Mermaid, and say “but what happened if I made this story more … stabby?” And the other thing was … am I the only person who didn’t know that this was a super-stabby version of The Little Mermaid? But honestly, the only thing that matters is that somehow, it works. And it works really, really well. How have I managed to resist this book for so long? Because it’s been calling to me from the library shelf for so long, and now I’m kicking myself for not reading it sooner.

It was easy to love both the MCs, especially since the story is told from alternating POVs. However, they are both morally gray characters. Lira is a siren princess who has been brought up to succeed her mother, the Sea Queen. Her natural tendency towards human-seeming emotions has been viewed negatively, and she’s been actively encouraged to be brutal and ruthless, killing a human prince every year to collect his heart. But then again, she *is* a siren. 

Elian, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult to classify. He’s a prince as well, but instead of staying on land and preparing to become a king, he took to the seas to hunt sirens. He’s built himself a crew that he views as family, who supports him in his quest to get rid of the killer sirens, but he has some complicated feelings about basically wanting to commit genocide.

“They’re from everywhere and their homes are nowhere, but they call Midas so because I do. Even if it is a lie for them and for me. My crew is my family and though I could never say it—perhaps, don’t need to say it—the Saad is my true home.”

But when he saves a transformed Lira, it throws a wrench into his plans. He doesn’t know anything about her, and she isn’t exactly forthcoming. And she creates a strange dynamic in his crew of found family.

“I’m plotting to steal back my birthright, betray my mother and then rip out Elian’s heart so no human can be a worthy threat to us. Yet somehow Madrid thinks my comments on her friendships are troublesome.”

The story itself was intriguing and would have kept me reading long into the night, but it was made that much better by the characters themselves. Lira, Elian, and the individuals that they surround themselves with are so well-crafted. They’re all complex and believable with their own personalities and quirks, and I loved to see them interact. There’s so much witty banter, which is one of the best parts of the story. The other is watching how Elian and Lira dance around each other and discover that despite all of their differences, they’re both more alike than they realize … or want to admit.

“In the pits of our souls—if I amuse myself with the notion that I have a soul—Elian and I aren’t so different. Two kingdoms that come with responsibilities we each have trouble bearing. Him, the shackles of being pinned to one land and one life. Me, trapped in the confines of my mother’s murderous legacy. And the ocean, calling out to us both. A song of freedom and longing.”

This is a perfect standalone novel. The pacing is just right — steady action throughout, just the right amount of information provided at the right time to avoid info dumps, and the exact amount of fairy tales/folklore incorporated into the story to make me curious as to how it was all going to play out in this version. It makes me want to immediately run out and check out the rest of Christo’s works, because if this is any indication, it’s going to be amazing.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 8

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