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Review: To Kill a Kingdom - Alexandra Christo

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To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
Series: Standalone

My rating: {★★★★☆}

YA Fantasy Retelling
Published March 6th 2018 by Hot Key Books

Source: Copy received from Jonathan Ball Publishers
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 voluntarily read and reviewed a review copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Alexandra Christo is like a breath of fresh air in the YA Fantasy world and I absolutely loved her take on this Little Mermaid retelling.

This is no tale of Prince Charming coming to rescue the damsel in distress; this is a fabulously macabre and gritty retelling where both of our main characters are anti-heroes. It's too rare that YA characters are allowed to be quite so dark and murderous and yet I loved them despite this, perhaps even because of this.
Some people burn so brightly, it’s impossible to put the flames out.
The book is narrated in dual first person POVs from Lira; our deadly siren princess who literally rips the hearts from the chest of her victims and only targets princes; and Elian who is our Prince turned Pirate, the deadly siren hunter who wishes to rid the sea of the threat of the Sea Queen and her lethal , remorseless sirens.

From the opening lines of each character I was completely in love and totally hooked.

Elian is far more than a pirate or a prince - he is desperately running from his responsibilities as the heir of Midas and only feels at home on the open ocean where he is able to choose his freedom and his crew. I loved that he was so swashbuckling and a wonderful Captain; autocratic without being overbearing, intelligent and skillful, calculating and shrewd without being overly manipulative and all of it encased in that devil-may-care attitude.

Lira is far more than the daughter of the Sea Queen and though she has been schooled in brutality and ruthlessness there is a streak of humanity inside her that cannot be squashed, even by her mother who has done her best to literally beat it out of her.
A prince may be the subject of myth and legend but he can’t live in them. He should live in the real world, where he can create them.
'Enemies to Lovers' is one of my favourite romance tropes, and Christo really did this one well. There's barely perceptible shifts in their relationship and it's just so great to see such a deliciously slow and shippable romance unfold.

At the same time there was some fantastic character grown for both Elian and Lira and I loved that we got to see not only both sides of the story, but two amazing characters on such equal footing with each other and both able to save each other as well as themselves.



I also loved the inclusions and twists of all the different myths and legends like the Sea Witch and Midas etc. All they key points of the Little Mermaid fairy tale were included but each with the author's own twist and Christo definitely made this one her own.

There's only a couple of small reasons that this isn't a five star review from me - mainly some very minor 'debut issues' being that the world building was somewhat limited (there was a lot of different places and each one was interesting and diverse, but I felt a little lost... I could have used a map? Also the author leaned heavily on some myths and legends that we already know about). I also felt the action scenes could have used a tiny bit more work; at times things got a little rushed and hazy although it all came back together at the end. Finally the secondary characters were also just sliiightly flat for me, and this stood out when the two main characters were so dynamic and brilliant.

The dialogue, the interactions and the main characters themselves are so on point and the sassy banter between Elian and Lira kept me entertained throughout.

The whole book houses a wonderfully empowering message - that of choice and deciding that you want more than the hand that life may have dealt you; deciding that you want more and then going out to get it. There's not much more empowering than that!