To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
Published by Feiwel & Friends on March 6, 2018
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Paranormal, Pirates, Retellings, Romance, Sirens, Young Adult
Length: 352 pages Source: Amazon
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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’ve been waffling back and forth about To Kill a Kingdom ever before I read it. The reviews out there are really mixed. There are a few reviewers whose views usually align pretty closely with mine, but even among those there are some starkly different views. So when I went into To Kill a Kingdom, I didn’t know what to expect.
The long and short of it is simply this: depending on what you want from this book, your enjoyment of it will vary. From a fantasy and a retelling, I’m usually looking for solid worldbuilding, and from a any book I want to fall in love with at least one of the characters. And I expect the romance to be sensible. To Kill a Kingdom both did and didn’t do these things.
To start with a positive – I loved Elian. I thought he was an interesting character: a prince who wanted to be a pirate, and whose parents let him. He kept true to his goals throughout the novel, more-or-less. Protect the seas, stop the sirens, bring peace. He was intelligent, and not too foolish. Overall, I thought he was pretty solid.
On the other hand, I didn’t believe Lira. She starts off as this really angry, stubborn siren and turned into a lovesick puppy, and I’m not really sure where or why the transition happened. It was almost like reading two different characters. For a POV character, I was really surprised how flat she felt, especially as a siren, there was a lot of potential to make her a fabulous, complex character. I really thought Lira was going to be fantastic from her opening chapters, but as the story wound on, she faded.
I think that motivation was a huge problem for all characters. For example, Elian decided to go on this impossible treasure hunt because a prince was killed who he had been friendly with. Why this prince? Why now? There didn’t seem to be a particularly good reason for the timing of anything, from Elian’s quest to Lira’s redemption. And the reasons that were given… the characters themselves didn’t seem very driven by them.
The romance was cheesy in a bad way. This is very much going to be in the eye of the beholder, but prince/pirate Elian seems to have turned angry murderess into an eyelash fluttering good girl in only a couple weeks. The banter is meant to be witty, but just felt awkward to me. I can see ways where all this could have worked – I was rooting for Lira to be an unreliable narrator planning to betray him after all! – but it never happened and the story went precisely where you expected.
My last toss up is in the worldbuilding. The underwater kingdom was flawless, but we spent very little time there. Mostly, we are aboard the Saad, which is a pirate ship. Except there’s no pillaging and plundering, so I’d say it’s mostly just a ship? Sea travel between kingdoms went very quickly, so I’m assuming the sea is about the size of the Mediterranean. Across four different above-ground kingdoms, we only got the barest taste of the lands and nothing of the culture. I felt cheated. Don’t the characters smell freshly baked bread from the market place? Does anyone play the sitar? Come on. Give me more.
I dunno, guys.
To Kill a Kingdom wasn’t a DNF for me, but I just didn’t enjoy it. I kept turning the pages and waiting to be wrapped up in the magic folks keep howling about, but it never happened. I’m sorry! I wish the rest of you all the best in it.
To Kill a Kingdom is going to be donated.
I’m sure if I read this book again, I would pick up more details that made the world richer, or perhaps notice layers in the cartoon villainess Sea Queen that would give the relationship between her and Lira depth, but I don’t have the energy. I dragged through this book, so I think I need to hang up my hat and admit that it’s simply not a book for me. I hope that it finds its way into the right hands, and the next reader loves it.