“Technically, I’m a murderer, but I like to think that’s one of my better qualities.”
When I said that 2018 was going to be the year of epic books, I’ll admit, I had no idea how accurate that statement was. To Kill A Kingdom is one of those epic books, that swam into my unassuming hands. I had no idea what I held. Had no idea that I was about to seriously fall in love.
To Kill A Kingdom is on the very surface a Little Mermaid retelling. Except that’s far too simplistic a description. The sea lore, along with other clever insertions make this book a complex web of myth and legend spun into something new. And oh so dark. All the delicious darkness! All the murderous, devious, absolute delightful darkness!!!
The book gives us the perspectives of Lira, a siren who is unapologetically cruel, and Elian, the charming rogue prince turned pirate. First, let’s check all the boxes that this book gives us:
Pirates – ✅
Sirens – ✅
Mermaids – ✅
Kingdoms – ✅
Legends – ✅
Magic – ✅
Then there’s the story packed full of treachery and betrayal, complete with a plethora of delightful sidekicks with all their sarcastic banter, who are, in Elian’s words, “insane and wonderful”. And as if ALL THAT wasn’t enough, Christo gives us an oh-so-slow burn forbidden romance that will melt the blackest of hearts!
Lira is such a captivating character. Not quite the villain, though she is vicious and homicidal, as we get to know her we realize she is her mother’s creation through a lifetime of cruelty and abuse. One of the things I love about her is how unapologetic she is. She isn’t warm and gooey on the inside, but fierce and determined and strong. Even though she kills princes for the power their hearts provide, it is what her kind does. She doesn’t question it, doesn’t try to find a way around it. The Sea Queen demands it, and she obeys.
“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 rulers, and by killing them, I kill the future. Just as my mother taught me.”
Elian isn’t quite Lira’s opposite, as he is her alternate reality. A Prince who shirks the idea of ruling. That desires adventure and freedom more than power. He is a warrior, but does so out of a sense of duty and honor than the impulse to kill. While that may sound too Prince Charming to be likable, there’s something quite charming about Elian. He isn’t evil, he isn’t malicious, but he is also fierce in his own way. A pirate with a golden heart, who does bad things but for a good cause. He’s complex in his own right.
“There’s royalty in me, but stronger than that there is adventure.”
Lira is known as The Princes’ Bane, as she only preys on prince hearts for her annual trophy. Elian, a Prince, but also a notorious Siren Hunter carries the heart that is the ultimate trophy. Lira wants his heart, and Elian wants hers in return.
“There’s nothing in the world but pain and the rare moments that exist in between.”
Except Lira, though she wants to be the fierce, obedient warrior her mother demands her to be, she is much too independent to comply fully all the time. One misstep brings the wrath of the Sea Queen down on Lira’s head, and she suddenly finds herself given an ultimatum. Turned human, Lira can only return if she brings Elian’s heart to her mother.
Elian, following rumor that there’s a crystal that can destroy the Sea Queen hidden deep within an icy mountain, finds a girl, drowning in the middle of the ocean. But when they save her, she is something far from the damsel in distress that they expect her to be.
“She spits it like a weapon and her face twists. A sudden change from the innocent girl to something far crueler. Almost murderous.”
The way Elian and Lira snipe at each other is such fun. They are both sharp, acerbic, but never venture into the realm of being unlikable. They aren’t swooning for each other, but rather find a respect by recognizing the strength they each have. For all their flaws, you won’t be able to quite help finding yourself liking both of them. If you’re looking for a book where you need to root for one against the other, you won’t find it here. In fact, knowing the impossibility of the entire situation has nothing but tragedy and foreboding woven into every word.
Christo’s writing is something to fall in love with outside of plot. She uses words like daggers, some sharp, some blunt, each one aimed to cut. It is stunning, and bears the confidence of a far more tenured author rather than a debut.
“I feel maddened by the Midasan on my tongue. Its smooth sounds are too quaint to display my anger. I itch to spit the knives of my own language at him.”
This story is an examination of nature versus nurture. Are we who we are by choice? Or do things shape us? Whether that shape is something pleasing to the world, or something more violent and explosive, both Elian and Lira struggle with this question. Underneath everything they say and do, is the uncertainty of who they are at the core of themselves.
To Kill A Kingdom is, from beginning to end, stunning and spectacular. It is dark, devious, and murderous in its beauty. As soon as you finish, you’ll find yourself yearning to pick it up and read it again. To relish the writing. To revisit the characters. To simply submerse yourself in the dark world that somehow fills you with light.
Alexandra Christo has launched herself into an author I will follow with obsessive devotion. To Kill A Kingdom wooed me, but when you go to Goodreads, her next Untitled book set for release in 2019 simply has two words: Gangster Fantasy. Um, can I get a HELL YES???
If you love Christina Henry, Leigh Bardugo, or Pierce Brown, I highly recommend this book! It was released yesterday, March 6, and I will be screaming and fangirling about this one for a long time. Do yourself a favor and go grab a copy now!
Thank you NetGalley, Fierce Reads, and Feiwel and Friends for approving a copy to read and review!!!
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