*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and do not represent the publisher or author.*
My experience with YA fantasy at the moment is this: disappointment, after disappointment, after disappointment. But holy moly. This To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo is definitely a beacon in the dark. It did lose some of its lustre towards the end of the book, and there were certain elements that could be better polished, but apart from that, it is the kind of book that I will remember as a stand-out when the year is done – and it’s only March!
Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is known across the seas as the Princes’ Bane. That is, until her ambition gets in the way and her mother, the Sea Queen, punishes her by transforming Lira into the one thing sirens 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.
Prince Elian is also the heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world, however his calling is out on the sea…hunting sirens. When he rescues a drowning woman in the middle of the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of siren-kind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?
1) The BEAUTIFUL Writing!
Alexandra Christo has a way with words, let me tell you! The lyricism flowed alongside her metaphors of the ocean to suck the reader deep into the depths of this world, and I felt that I could hear the eccentricness of her own personality in bits and pieces of the voice. What I loved the most, though, was the way being a Siren was described. Too often in YA fantasy, the protagonists are either human, or some sort of mythical creature that is basically just a human with heightened strength and senses. But Lira is not a human (well, at least in the scenes before she was turned into a human by her mother) and the way it feels to be a Siren is so intricately described that it created only a deeper interest in the world. It was refreshing to be in the mind of someone who was not only brutal because she was powerful, but who also had physical features that are not human. It made her punishment of turning into a human all the more devastating and infuriating because, well, we humans are puny.
I’ve noticed lately that every new YA fantasy release is written in first person, and if I’m to be honest, I really dislike first person. But that was not the case with this book, because Christo managed to make it interesting! We read from Lira’s POV, but also Elian’s POV, and there is no marker to distinguish between the two (usually the character name will come up as an indication at the start of the chapter) except for their unique voices. I haven’t seen this before in a YA story and it was just a nice difference from the usual! (Unless this was just because I read an ARC version of the text, and it hadn’t finished being edited… But in that case, it should be kept like that!)
3) Lira + Elian + Elian’s Crew
Lira, Elian and the human characters were incredibly well-written, and since this story is intended to be character driven rather than plot driven, that was a relief! If you know me at all, you would know that I am obsessed with brutal, vicious, cut-throat characters, and you would also know that I am constantly complaining because the majority of YA characters at the moment are pathetic, one-dimensional, cheap renditions of the stereotypical strong female character (JUST BECAUSE THEY KILL PEOPLE, DOESN’T MEAN THAT THEY ARE A DARK, BADASS CHARACTER!!!!!! THEY NEED COMPLEXITY!!!! My tangent is now over). Lira had that complexity even though her arc was simple. It was so effective because it was well planned and well executed. Elian was just as well written, even though, again, his arc was fairly simple, and his role as Lira’s foil was subtle and therefore entrancing. The members of his crew weren’t just archetypes – you didn’t learn too much of them as characters, and yet it was so much fun whenever they were on the page! I do think that a lot of this good characterisation was the result of…
4) AMAZING DIALOGUE!!!!!!!!
Writing dialogue is HARD. Too often, YA novels fall short because of cheesy, expository dialogue. But I was SO IMPRESSED with Christo’s dialogue! It was constant sarcasm, but at no point was it cheesy, or confusing, or dense with exposition. It was hilarious, witty, and real. Seriously. If I were to give a list of all of my favourite dialogue, I’d give you every single conversation between Lira, Elian and his crew.
5) The Little Mermaid
I can’t end my list of favourite things without mentioning the fact that this is a Little Mermaid retelling – even better, it is a dark, Little Mermaid retelling. To be honest, I’d forgotten what this book was about when I picked up the ARC and didn’t bother to refresh my memory with the blurb. So picking up on all the elements appropriated from the original Hans Christian Andersen version of The Little Mermaid was so much fun! Especially because it is my all time favourite fairy tale of all time!!!
1) The Sea Queen
To be frank, the Sea Queen was a poor villain, and I think this was the main downfall of the book. She was one-dimensional and her motivations were weak, if not absent entirely, and this was a real shame considering Christo made her a frighteningly powerful character – as in, she could kill all of the main characters with the flick of a tentacle. Because there was nothing else that this character brought to the plot, it made her quite annoying towards the end and it made the final battle with her kind of boring.
2) UP THE ROMANCE!!!!!!
I LOVED the romance in this novel, don’t get me wrong. It was beautiful and poetic and sarcastic and subtle and that soulmate kind of thing. I just wish that there was more of it. I’m not asking for more make out scenes or anything explicit – hell no. I just wanted a little more of a slow burn between the two, because what we got was a very mellowed out kind of romance (which was still really, really good!)
I gave To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo…
It was an enjoyable read with beautiful writing that really sucked me into the world and the characters. And, of course, I still cannot get over how awesome the dialogue was. SERIOUSLY! I AM SO HARD TO PLEASE WHEN IT COMES TO CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN CHARACTERS, AND I FELL SO DEEPLY IN LOVE WITH SARCASM AND BANTER IN THIS BOOK!!!!!!!
Let me know what you guys thought of the book or the review! Thank you for reading, and don’t forget to follow my bookstagram (on the right) for more about books!