Review of To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

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’m going to start by accepting that my rating of this book is very much an unpopular opinion.  I know many people loved it and I kind of wish I didn’t know that going into it as I set my expectations way too high.  It isn’t that the book wasn’t good – I mean, Sirens, Pirates, Killer Mermen, what’s not to like – it just fell short of a few things that would have made it awesome

The premise is great with Lira angering the Sea Queen, with the punishment being made human – both she and Elian are then on a mission to retrieve a stone that will grant the holder power over the ocean.  Both have very different reasons for chasing the stone, although they have the demise of the Sea Queen in common. I really got a Six of Crows feeling from it with the mission planning, the gathering of crew, the cryptic meetings and the banter between the crew of Elian’s ship The Saad.  It was this comraderie that really brought a fun squad element to the story and the mixture of lighter and darker moments made me feel a connection with these characters the most.  The Saad is a Black Pearl of a ship, although Elian is far from Jack Sparrow.

As far as the main characters go, Elian is not only a pirate, but a prince who has seen a great deal of suffering across nations at the hands of the sirens, driven by his need to seek retribution when Lira takes a heart too far.  He is a great balance of risk taker and protector, although his silver (or more golden) spoon upbringing leaves him not quite a savvy as he thinks he is.  Lira is angry at her situation but is resourceful and cunning, but the more time spent with Elian and the crew, the more she must learn to put aside all she has ever been taught. The characters themselves have a somewhat obvious connection to the Disney animation, the Sea Queen is a carbon copy of Ursula, and there are traits of Ariel and Eric in there too.  The very un Disney part of it however, are the Mermen. These characters are genuinely terrifying and sickening to imagine.

The story itself is a really great take on the classic The Little Mermaid tale, although it’s very dark in places.  The story is almost itself like a wave, first a calm ripple building into a giant crash into the shore during the final battle.  I loved the quest element to the story and the highs and lows of their expeditions leading up to the arrival at their destination.  There was also plenty of underhandedness going on, never being entirely sure if there was some double crossing going on or simply misdirection.

My favourite quote? “Lies aren’t answers, but they sound better than the truth”

So why the lower rating?  I have to be really careful for spoilers here but for me the driving force behind the story kind of got forgotten and it felt like a massive continuity failing that such a huge issue became completely glossed over.  The romance element actually felt unnecessary and I don’t really feel like enough was made of it to justify it’s use in the story.  I really didn’t feel a pull between those characters, I know that it was a plot device to get us where we needed to be but it just felt really empty.  Given how much time was spent on the lead up to the big finale I felt that perhaps a few more pages could have been given over to really developing that relationship to justify the other issues that it raises.  The finale itself just appears out of nowhere and given the care in pacing up until that point it felt really jarring – although I knew it must have been coming given how few pages I had left.

This is a great story though, don’t get me wrong, I did for the most part really enjoy reading it but there were too many points that could have been tidied.  I think that in a traditionally published book this is quite bad, it’s not the authors fault as they trust in the team of editors provided – but basic continuity shouldn’t be happening.

I’ve been struggling between a 3 and 4 for ages and in a first for me i’m going to cop out and say 3.5*

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