Vicious and clever, Alexandra Christo tears her way into the book world with her stunning debut novel To Kill A Kingdom. Loose fairytale retellings seem to be all the rage these days (Cinder, A Court of Thorns and Roses, etc.), yet I never knew I needed a wicked retelling of the Little Mermaid until I read this book. I was missing out, and I didn't even realize it until this book came along.
Like I said before, it's wicked, and it's cunning, and it's a whole boatload (haha) of fun. Usually when I'm in a deep book hangover, the only cure is to read a sweet romance to snap me out. It's usually no good to read another action/fantasy story, because my mind is still stuck in another world. I still picked up To Kill A Kingdom for some reason-- even though I knew the odds of me liking it were slimmer due to the fact I was still feeling hurt by the ending of the Wolf by Wolf. Yet against all odds, I didn't just end up liking the book. I love it.
"Royalty cannot be unmade. Birth rights cannot be changed. Hearts are forever scarred by our true nature."
It very loosely tells the story of The Little Mermaid-- and I mean loosely. Like, the main character is half fish, her love interest is a prince and she has red hair and at some point gets turned into a human. The rest is a series of twists and turns that are all their own. To Kill A Kingdom will take you on a marvelous ride, stealing your breath and yanking at your heartstrings. It has a fun and intriguing plot, and even more fun and lovable characters.
The "mermaids" of the story are not, in fact, mermaids. They are sirens, not the creepy vulturelike type of siren, but the mermaid-like sirens who sing to sailors and are their peril. Every year on her birthday, a siren will enchant some poor sailor and rip out their heart. It's brutal and it's vicious, and I love everything about them. They're solitary, cruel creatures who care for nothing but themselves. They do not bond, and they do not care. They simply exist to satisfy their own pleasures.
"I may not have my fins, or even my voice, but I am my mother's daughter. I am the most murderous creature in the hundred kingdoms."
While all sirens are feared, not many sprout as much terror in the hearts of man as the Prince's Bane, otherwise known as Lira, the princess of the sea. Lira is cruel and brutal, just as a siren should be-- or at least, she tries to act that way. I loved Lira's character because of how sharp she is. She's nothing like the sweet, naive Ariel. Nope, Lira is a personality of her own, and the only way to describe her is sharp. She's cunning, and more than that-- she has a very sharp tongue, always quick to lash out with clever words. Her and Elian's word spars are part of what made the book so enjoyable. She's a strong protagonist, able to defend or attack even when in a strange body in an even stranger setting.
The story is told from dual POVs, Lira's and Elian's. Elian is a pirate at heart, but stuck in a Prince's body. All he wants is to be out at sea with his loyal crew, hunting the creatures who hunt him-- sirens. Yet, he has a duty to his family and to his country, a duty that he despises. How can he be responsible for a nation when he feels an undeniable calling to the sea? Like Lira, he's not just clever, but he's also cunning. He comes up with the most devious plans, and never backs away from a fight.
Neither Elian nor Lira are what you'd, or at least I, expect(ed). They're both masters of sass, and clever snaps, which makes their interactions a joy to read. I found myself laughing out loud and snorting more times than I could count. Their banter just... made everything so much better.
"You can't win a war. Someone else just loses."
The world Christo has created is rich and beautiful. Not only did she create a glittering setting, but she also even went as far as to write parts of a language for the story! Now that's impressive and takes good commitment. I was shocked when I reached the end of the book and discovered it to be a standalone-- from the intricate world Christo put the effort into setting up, and the amazing characters, I assumed (and wanted) there to be more books. Yet, so far there aren't any plans for more. Unfortunately.
Every element of this story is breathtaking, not just the world. It's all so beautifully written and... Wow. This really is just a work of art. It would be impossible to know that this was the author's debut novel-- some authors have been publishing for years and still have yet to master the elegance that Christo has with her words, her characters and her storytelling. 8/10 stars, To Kill A Kingdom is a truly beautiful and exciting masterpiece.
I will admit that yes, the beginning of the story seemed a bit slow-- perhaps overly slow in my eyes because I was still fawning over Luka Lowe and Yael, but it really catches up, I promise. You just have to learn to love the characters, and then everything follows. :) I highly recommend this book to any and all, it has every element you could possibly want and more. You honestly don't know you're missing out, but you really are if you haven't read To Kill A Kingdom yet.
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 thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, 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 barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?
Thanks for reading,