Rating: 5 stars
To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo is marketed as a loose Little Mermaid retelling but it is so much more than that. In reality what Christo did is assemble every interesting thing about mermaids, sirens, pirates, and magic and weave them all together seamlessly into a one of a kind novel that grips you at the first line and doesn’t let go until long after the last page has been turned.
Our two main protagonists, Lira and Elian, are both killers. Lira, known as the Prince’s Bane, is the deadly heir to the Siren Kingdom of Keto and Elian is the siren killer, pirate prince of the glittering nation of Midas. The two proceed to clash magnificently and if that right there isn’t enough reason for you to pick up this book let me give you a few more.
If you’re familiar with the formula of The Little Mermaid then you’ll no doubt recognize it here but in a much bloodier, deeper form. There are mermaids/mermen but they aren’t what you’d expect, there are sirens who lure sailors to their deaths but there’s more to them than meets the eye, there are princes and princesses who branch out from the paths set for them, and there is a glittering array of kingdoms each unique and ruled by nobles who all deserve their own books if you ask me. In fact I would say that one of my greatest regrets after reading this book is that it appears to be a standalone when all I want is to live in the world Christo built for as long as stories can be wrung from it.
The romance in this book is slow build, slow burn so if that isn’t your style I wouldn’t recommend it but this author is nothing if not a tease. The brilliant thing I found in this book was how the two main characters challenged each other while also being mirrors of each other. Lira and Elain were more than just two side of the same coin, they were two braches of the same tree, to paths on the same journey. This should have leeched them of depth and made the story feel monotonous but instead Christo gives us just enough deviation to keep everything fresh and engaging between them.
One of my favorite elements of this book was the dialogue and how it elevated the interactions between characters. Christo presents us with a cast of characters who are sharp tongued and quick witted. Even the secondary characters are full of life and magic that endears you to them almost immediately. Prince Elian’s pirate crew felt as important to me as Elian and Lira themselves. No character was superfluous and all of their interactions wove together so cleverly that by the end of the book I couldn’t bear the thought of any of them ever being apart.
And speaking of characters these were all so well fleshed out. Even the minor characters were given enough page time and back story that I felt I knew each of them intimately. Yet there was never a point where I felt I was being force fed an info dump of a character’s past. I could easily have read full life stories of each character midway through the book and not felt like my time was being wasted. That’s how much I fell in love with each and every character in this book.
This book was full of adventure, action, romance, wit, sorrow, love, and magic. The characters were faced over and over again with tough choices both internally and externally that kept the tension thick throughout the entirety of the novel yet it was also never lacking in humor or emotional depth. Everything was so well done that I can’t think of a single moment when I was screaming in frustration or horror at whatever petty stupid thing was happening. Rather I was constantly biting my nails and hoping the characters didn’t do whatever brilliantly bold thing I knew had to happen next because it would surely cause me to have a heart attack. So I laughed, I cried, and now I am begging for more because one book in this fantastical realm just wasn’t enough.
Until next time, stay passionate and excelsior!