To Kill A Kingdom — Alexandra Christo (ARC Review)

To Kill a Kingdom

TITLE: To Kill A Kingdom

AUTHOR: Alexandra Christo

RELEASES: March 6th, 2018; Feiwel & Friends

GENRE: Fantasy

AGE RANGE: YA

SYNOPSIS: 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?

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Let me say, first and foremost, that I am such a total sucker for books revolving around the ocean, whether it involves pirates, mermaids, sirens, sea creatures, or any mix of those things. When I first heard about this story of a vicious siren chasing down a pirate prince who slays her kind, it skyrocketed to the top of my list of most anticipated releases for 2018. I had every gut feeling in the world that I was going to positively adore this novel, and as you’ll see in my review, I was not disappointed.

It’s the princes who hold the allure. In their youth. In the allegiance of their people. In the promise of the leader they could one day become. They are the next generation of rules, and by killing them, I kill the future. Just as my mother taught me.

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→ Lira ←
While the story alternates between two perspectives, the first one that we are introduced to is Lira, also known as the Prince’s Bane for her cruel slayings of princes. As the daughter of the Sea Queen, her task is to rip the still-beating heart from one prince on each of her birthdays. My favorite thing about Lira, right off the bat, was the fact that she wasn’t some gooey, sweet young girl on the inside; she is unapologetically vicious and coldhearted, which we quickly see is the end result of a lifetime of abuse from her mother.

Technically, I’m a murderer, but I like to think that’s one of my better qualities.

Lira’s interactions with Elian, once she finds herself stranded on his pirate ship, are the definition of enemies-to-lovers behavior: she’s feisty, angry, mean, and conniving, without ever going overboard enough to become genuinely unlikeable. The fact that she has such a difficult home life awaiting her under the sea makes it hard to view her as an outright “villain”, and at many times, I found myself struggling to determine who I wanted to root for: the cutthroat siren, or the vengeance-seeking prince.

In my heart, I’m as wild as the ocean that raised me.

→ Prince Elian ←
Early in the story, we learn that Lira isn’t the only one trying to live up to their parents’ expectations; while Elian’s family wants him to embrace the kingdom and his future throne, all the young prince wants is his ship, his crew, and the ocean breeze in his sails. I have a total soft spot for these sorts of pirates, whose days are filled less with pillaging and plundering, and more with adventures, heists, and a healthy appreciation for families that are composed not of blood, but of loyalty and friendship. Elian is the single most lovable pirate lord I’ve ever read about, and his crew is an extension of that. They are so fun, snarky, and loyal to a fault.

Royalty cannot be unmade. Birth rights cannot be changed. Hearts are forever scarred by our true nature.

Much like I enjoyed the three-dimensionality of Lira’s spiky exterior, I loved the fact that Elian could have so easily been degraded to a run-of-the-mill “good guy”, but is instead a fantastic antihero. He’s clever, a little callous, and capable of fantastic scheming and thievery. He’s a prince, and arguably the lesser of the evils in this batch of characters, but the author never lets us forget that he is still a pirate – not a hero. (I’d also like to take a moment to point out here that Elian is either black or biracial – we know that his father is black, but his mother’s ethnicity is never confirmed, as far as I recall – which I thought was a fantastic reprieve from the stereotypical “Prince Eric”-inspired guy in stories like this.)

“I’d be flattered,” I say, “that you would look for an excuse just to hold my hand.”
“Perhaps I’m just looking for an excuse to shoot you.”

→ romance ←
There are three things that I absolutely never get tired of in romantic subplots: 1) good, witty banter, 2) enemies-to-lovers tropes, and 3) slow burns. This book checks all three of those boxes magnificently. The back-and-forth chatter between Lira and Elian is so fun and sharp, and the way they shift from distrust and a touch of loathing to something more is so delightful to watch. I was rooting so hard for both of them not only to succeed, but to find a way to succeed together. Best of all, this particular dose of enemies-to-lovers doesn’t breach into abuse territory or a gross power imbalance, as these tropes are so prone to falling into in a lot of YA/NA titles.

Every queen began as a siren, and when the crown passed to her, its magic stole her fins and left in their place mighty tentacles that held the strength of armies.

→ sea lore ←
I don’t think I could pick just one favorite thing about this story, but if I had to make a list of the traits that would tie for first place, the lore would absolutely make it into that tie. The sirens aren’t depicted as some frail, beautiful creatures; while gorgeous, they’re otherworldly, haunting, wild, fanged things who show no mercy and are powerful enough to wipe out grown men with a single blow. The mermaids are differentiated solidly from the sirens, as inhuman, grotesque creatures with unhinged jaws and bizarre bodies – they’re fabulously creepy and dark, and I loved every single interaction with them.

The truth of what I am has become a nightmare.

While this story never feels like a simple retelling, there’s one aspect that definitely paid homage to some very old and well-known stories, and that is the Sea Queen. The backstory given explains that the power of becoming queen turns sirens into these terrifying, tentacled beings that are incredibly powerful and magical. Lira’s own mother wields her power with pure brutality, and while I won’t spoil for you the curse she places upon her daughter, it’s a delightful twist on the classic tale and made me downright giddy.

I’ve become so used to being brutal, that I almost forget it didn’t begin as a choice.

→ final thoughts ←
As I mentioned in the preface of this review, To Kill a Kingdom was, hands down, one of my most anticipated releases of 2018, and not a single sentence of it disappointed me. I was captivated from the very first page, and am so delighted to have been granted the opportunity to read it early. I buddy read it with a few friends, who I’ll link to below, and if it tells you anything about how wonderful this story was, every single one of us 5-starred this book at the end of the reading. I think I was only a few chapters into the ARC when I pre-ordered my finished copy, because this is a beautiful stand-alone that I could easily see myself picking up over and over again.

Content warnings: abuse, violence, murder, self-harm, sexual harassment.

All quotes are taken from an unfinished ARC and may differ from the final publication. Thank you to Feiwel & Friends for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Buddy read with Melanie, Lilly, Wren, and Jules!

5flowers

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Just a 25-year-old trying to juggle motherhood, grad school, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

25 thoughts on “To Kill A Kingdom — Alexandra Christo (ARC Review)

  1. First of all, a siren main character, yes finally! Did you hear about “Sea Witch” by Sarah Henning? It’s about Ursula from the Little Mermaid, specifically how she became the sea witch and judging by the reviews, it’s really good.

    Like

  2. I just finished reading this and totally agree with you – it was amazing. I’ve had to order a hardback for my collection as I know I’ll be rereading soon. Love your review!

    Like

  3. “There are three things that I absolutely never get tired of in romantic subplots: 1) good, witty banter, 2) enemies-to-lovers tropes, and 3) slow burns. This book checks all three of those boxes magnificently. ”

    Um, sign me up, sign me up, sign me up??? I couldn’t agree with you more. This sounds fantastic and I need to get my hands on it yesterday. Lovely, thoughtful review! (now brb gonna go get myself a copy)

    Like

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