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?
AUTHOR: Alexandra Christo
WARNINGS: death, murder, and abuse
Pirates, sirens, and an enemies-to-lovers romance plot in what is a dark retelling of The Little Mermaid.Can it get better than that? I DNF the first book set at sea and featuring pirates that I attempted to read and so I wasn’t really interested in reading anything similar. To Kill a Kingdom has been sitting on my Kindle for over two years and I just couldn’t bring myself to read it until I participated in the OWLs Readathon, hosted by G from Book Roast, where one of the prompts was to read a book set at sea. You best believe I’m kicking myself now for not having picked this book up sooner. I absolutely loved it.
‘You are a little heartless today, aren’t you?’
‘Never,’ I say. ‘There are seventeen under my bed.‘
To Kill a Kingdom is told from dual perspective. First we have Princess Lira, a siren also known as the Prince’s Bane, heir to the Sea Queen and three years away from taking the throne. Each year, on her birthday, Lira lures a Prince into the ocean to rip his heart out of his chest. Except her eighteenth heart doesn’t quite go to plan. When we first meet Lira she is cold-hearted, ruthless, fiesty, and incredibly cunning. She doesn’t care about the lives she steals. She is truly her mother’s daughter and admired throughout the sea for the way in which she prides herself on every single one of her kills. One of my absolute favourite parts to this book is the development of Lira and her journey of self-discovery.
The second perspective we’re introduced to is that of Prince Elian, the crown prince of Midas. Elian has no interest in becoming King. While there are sirens in the ocean waiting to be hunted, Elian would much rather a sword on his belt and a ship to captain, much to his parents’ disappointment. If you’re wanting a Prince Eric type of YA love interest in this dark The Little Mermaid retelling then look elsewhere. With a tongue as sharp as his sword, the Midasan prince is every bit as cunning and ruthless as Lira. He’s a pirate, not a prince. However, his heart is in the right place, and his love for his crew is undeniable. All of his actions are driven by love – and revenge.
‘How strange that instead of taking his heart, I’m hoping he takes mine.‘
I’ll admit I’m not a fan of most romances in YA. They feel forced and contrived, as though they have to be written to sell the novel. But I am a sucker for enemies-to-lovers and a slow burn romance. To Kill a Kingdom had both. I’m not just talking about a ‘slow burn’ that only last until the halfway point of the book. No, I’m talking about an honest-to-god slow burn romance that begins to take shape towards the end of the book. It is slow – and I am here for it. These are two characters who utterly despise one another. One is siren with a penchant for taking prince hearts, the other is a prince driven to hunt and kill sirens. What a match! I adore the way their relationship progresses and the moment when, ultimately, they both realised they loved the other.
‘And the ocean, calling out to us both. A song of freedom and longing.’
The worldbuilding in this was wonderful. I loved the different kingdoms, from Midas to Eidyllio to the sea kingdom of Diavolos. Each were unique and wonderfully crafted. The way To Kill a Kingdom was written allowed me to visualise in my mind just how each of the kingdoms would look. This is the kind of worldbuilding I adore. I particularly enjoyed exploring Diavolos and the lore behind the sirens. Sirens are depicted as beautiful and majestic creatures that are ruthless and terrifying. In comparison, mermaids are much more grotesque and much less human than what you might imagine a mermaid to be. Mermaids are treated as the dregs of the sea, and I loved the hierarchy and all the sea politics we were introduced to.
I did find a few issues with plot pacing, especially in the middle. The plot slowed to a snail’s pace and I found myself wanting to put the book down. This might become the part where many would find themselves wanting to DNF a book but power through. It doesn’t take long for the plot to pick up once again and keep you hooked. The ending is a zinger! For a debut novel with some niggles, To Kill a Kingdom is brilliantly executed and a thoroughly enjoyable read, one I would highly recommend!
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