To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: March 6, 2018
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
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?
What I Liked:
I hadn't known much about this book before I received it in the mail from the publisher, so I wasn't sure I was even going to read it. But the allure of sirens was too much for me to resist, so I decided to give it a shot. This story seems to be a loose retelling of The Little Mermaid, which, despite what people say, is actually a pretty empowering story of choice. I enjoyed that story, and I enjoyed To Kill a Kingdom. I'm also a huge fan of this being a standalone, because I love standalones!
This is the story of Lira, a deadly siren princess, and Elian, a deadly siren hunter. Lira is the daughter of the Sea Queen, the siren queen of the ocean. Lira has the hearts of seventeen princes, and she is known as the Princes' Bane. When she kills an eighteenth prince a month before her eighteenth birthday, the Sea Queen punishes her transforming her into a human, and giving her what seems to be an impossible task: bring the heart of Prince Elian, notorious siren hunter and heir to the throne of Midas. Prince Elian is at home at sea, not in a kingdom. He hunts sirens because of their bloodthirstiness when it comes to humans. He doesn't suspect that the strange girl he saves from drowning is not only a siren, but the siren that has tried to kill him before, the infamous Princes' Bane. Elian agrees to let her stay aboard his ship, because she says she has crucial information that will help him on his quest to find the Crystal of Keto, which has the power to destroy the Sea Queen. He wants the siren reign of the sea to end. She wants to destroy her mother. They share a common goal, but what happens when Elian finds out who Lira really is?
This book is told from dual POV which I wasn't expecting! I thought it would be told solely from Lira's POV. But we get to read from Lira's first-person POV, and Elian's first-person POV, which was cool. I loved seeing the story progress from each of their perspectives. You can slowly see how their opinions of each other change, which was a gradual and subtle thing.
The story starts with Lira killing her eighteenth prince, but a month too soon. So she is punished, transformed into a human, and left at sea. Elian and his crew find her by chance, and pull her aboard. Little do they know that this is a siren-turned-human, and the very one that once tried to kill Elian.
Lira is bloodthirsty and power-hungry, a true siren princess at the start. She wants to appear inhumane and vicious, and she is definitely both of those things. Being transformed into a human and losing her siren powers isn't at all what she wants, but that won't stop her from taking Elian's heart. But the longer she spends with him on his ship, the less she wants to kill him - which she doesn't realize, at first. How did she go from wanting to kill him with no remorse, to saving his life not once, or twice, but three times? I liked seeing Lira's character development, from a spoiled and cruel princess, to a more human, empathetic girl. She still has all of her determination and will, but she starts to realize that Elian's heart isn't what she needs or wants, and doing what her mother wants her to do isn't the right thing to do.
Elian is similarly afflicted by duty and expectation, but in his case, he doesn't want any of it from the start. He doesn't want to be the heir to the Midas throne, and he wants being a prince. He'd rather be captain of his ship full-time, and live at sea. Elian hunts sirens to protect his people. He has a noble heart, and yet he is every inch a pirate prince. He is charming, cunning, roguish, sneaky, and daring, and he has no concern for his safety. I loved his quick wit and humor, and his selflessness. He sacrifices everything for everyone else. He is a warrior and a pirate and a very clever prince.
Elian and Lira together? They are hilarious, like fire and ice. They bicker and clash from the moment they meet. Lira is determined to hate him (obviously), and Elian doesn't trust her (she is a stranger at sea to him), and yet they slowly begin to like each other. There is plenty of banter and exchanges of wit, and some subtle tension between them. The romance is there, though very subtle, but I liked seeing it unfold. Elian and Lira are a cute and fierce pair - but equally strong and equally capable.
The climax of the story is two-fold - finding the Crystal of Keto, and of course the big confrontation with the Sea Queen. I won't give any details, but the climax has a lot going on and everything happens very quickly. The author does a good job with the pacing of the story in general, but I did find the climax to be very quick, and then the ending occurred.
The author did a great job with the world-building and storytelling. Like I said, I think this is loosely based on The Little Mermaid, with Lira being Ariel (turn "Ariel" backwards and you basically get Lira, and Elian and Eric start with the same letter). I loved this! This story is wholly its own though, with Lira being a siren (not a mermaid - there is that distinction), and Elian being much more than a one-dimensional love interest).
The ending is a good one! A tiny bit bittersweet though not in the way you're probably thinking. It's a happy ending with a shred of bittersweet too it. I thought it worked well for a standalone, and I hope this story stays a standalone. I love how everything wrapped up!
What I Did Not Like:
The only big complaint I have is that I think the author or publisher (whoever makes this decision) should have labelled chapters with whomever was narrating that chapter. There is no clear indication per chapter, and since both characters have first-person POV, it was sometimes difficult to initially discern who was narrating the chapter. Sometimes I had to flip ahead to see whose name would be mentioned (Elian, or Lira) and that is how I would know who was narrating the chapter (whoever's name wasn't the one mentioned). It just would have been easier if it were clearer who was narrating the chapter, like having the name at the very beginning of the chapter.
Would I Recommend It:
I do recommend the book, especially to fans of unique YA fantasy! This book is very interesting and I was never bored while reading it. It also wasn't too romance heavy (a good or bad thing, depending on your preferences), though the romance was definitely there by the end of the story. And it's a standalone novel, so there is low commitment! It's definitely worth the read!
4 stars. I'm very content with this book! To Kill a Kingdom is riveting, thrilling, and romantic - definitely a book I'd reread and recommend to my friends. If you're looking for a standalone story with a clever pirate prince, a fierce princess, and a bloodthirsty villain, look no further. I'm excited to read more by this author!
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