Review: To Kill a Kingdom

to kill a kingdom
To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
Published by Hot Key Books on 6 March 2018
Length: 12 hours
Format: Audiobook
Source: Free download via Audible
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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?

I seem to be on a good run with picking books lately; I absolutely loved this one! I love a good anti-hero(ine), and I feel like both Lira and Eilan fall into that category. This book was everything I wanted from Into the Drowning Deep and more. For a YA fantasy, it gets pretty dark and gory and if you’re going in thinking of a retelling of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, you’ll probably be disappointed — it’s closer to the original tale by Hans Christian Andersen, if anything. I could see parts of the story that honoured the Andersen’s tale, while still being an entirely original story.

Lira is the Prince’s Bane, a siren known for only taking the hearts of princes. Eilan is the Siren Killer and a pirate. Her mother is the Sea Queen, who conditions her to be hard-hearted and ruthless. He does not want to inherit the throne and finds his home onboard the Saad, the ship he captains. When he hears the tales of the Eye of Keto hold the secret to defeating the Sea Queen and her sirens, he goes in search of it. When the Sea Queen punishes Lira by turning her into a human, she is picked up by the Saad’s crew. Eilan isn’t aware that Lira is the Prince’s Bane, although he is suspicious of her.

If you enjoy your books with a lot of romance, this will probably not be the book for you. This book takes slow burn romance to a new level. It takes Lira and Eilan a good 30 chapters to realise that they even like each other. I did enjoy their relationship development, though. They don’t trust one another in the beginning, but their dialogue is filled with quips and witty banter. Both are morally questionable, and if this were any other story, Lira would be a straight-up villain. I enjoyed the questioning of ‘nature vs nuture’ and whether or not Lira could be anything more than a murderer.

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.

I really enjoyed Lira’s arc. Christo did something really interesting by imbuing this protagonist with so much power, and then immediately taking that power away. Lira as a human is vulnerable and has to learn how to adapt to her new surroundings. This book is essentially Lira learning that being powerful does not necessarily mean wielding incredible strength.  I also really enjoyed the side characters — the crew of the Saad are loveable and funny, with Kye and Madrid being obvious standouts. Christo does a great job of showing motivations through actions, rather than exposition.

Christo excels at world-building. This book obviously borrows heavily from Greek mythology — the underwater kingdom of Keto was named after Ceto, the Greek goddess of the dangers of the sea, and I’m pretty sure that Lira’s native tongue is based on the Greek language — and there’s so much that nods to myths and fairy tales while completely turning them on their head. In the Hundred Kingdoms, there’s countries like Midas, the city of gold — even the water looks golden, thanks to the reflection of the city’s golden buildings. Or Eidyllio, the land of romance. While not the point of the story, I would’ve loved to see more of the political systems of the kingdoms and how they interlock (they seem to work together, but I’m not sure if its supposed to be like the United Nations  — multiple countries working towards a common goal  — or the European Union  — political and economic union).

This book is well-paced, and I found myself on the edge of my seat while listening to the climax of the book. So many YA books are turned into series that don’t really need to exist, but To Kill a Kingdom is so fascinating that I’m almost a little disappointed that it’s a standalone.

★★★★☆

 

 

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