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?
So it’s highly possible that I both found my new favourite fairytale retelling as well as my favourite new release of 2018, though I can’t truly commit to the latter because there are still so many books I’m waiting on. Anyways, the point is that this book has become an instant favourite for me and it should be pretty obvious why. First of all, it’s a fairytale retelling and I am all about those. Second of all, and probably most importantly, it’s a retelling of The Little Mermaid, aka my favourite Disney movie ever and while I’m sure the original tale is great and all, the Disney movie is what I love best. So when I was informed of this retelling a few weeks back, after making a post about retellings I’d love to see in YA, I knew I had to read this immediately and I’m so happy that person directed me to this book. It grabbed me from the very first chapter and that instantaneous smile on my face never left. If work didn’t get in the way I would’ve finished this book in two days, max. But I guess it just means that I was able to enjoy it more. Retellings typically make me happy but I don’t think anything has made me as happy as this one did. I really have nothing but love for it right now.
- Let’s just get this out of the way first: it’s a retelling of my favourite story and it was obviously the best thing about the book. Hell, it’s what drew me to it in the first place. I might not know a lot about the original tale and basically had the Disney movie playing in my head the whole time so any comparison I make will be to that movie, so bear with me. I think as a retelling and including all of the original elements that it needed in order to be the kind of retelling that I love, I think Christo did a fantastic job with it. I loved how rather than having a mermaid who was so intrigued by the human world and wanted to be a human we had a bloodthirsty siren who’d rather see the end of humans and take all of their hearts. That alone had me living for this retelling because it was such a good spin. But we also had the classic elements from The Little Mermaid like Lira’s red hair, the human prince who rescues her at one point and taking her in in a way, and let’s not forget the Sea Queen who, true to the tale, was some form of siren-octopus hybrid as well as being a merger of Triton and Ursula by wielding a trident of her own and ruling over the seas. As soon as I saw how the Sea Queen fit into this story I was so giddy and just loving it. I really loved how I could see all the elements of the original tale yet it was crafted in such a way that it was able to stand out on its own all while keeping me happy. I don’t even know if Christo did this on purpose, but Lira’s name is almost Ariel but backwards and if it was on purpose then I think it was super clever but if not, then it’s a wonderful coincidence. I think what I saw in this retelling is what I love seeing in every retelling I go into but since it’s of my favourite fairytale, it kind of automatically becomes my favourite retelling in general and honestly I’m ok with that.
- I was actually really happy with the world building I saw in this book and I think a part of me didn’t expect to see any world building at all. I got that we’d need to establish the sea kingdom versus Elian’s kingdom, but I didn’t think that we’d really go beyond that and talk about other kingdoms but we did and I loved what I saw. I’m still not sure what time period this is supposed to be set in but with the way other kingdoms were described, it seems like it was a borderline modern time and that surprised me. But I loved that each kingdom seemed to be respected for a certain thing, like Midas and its gold or one for being so technologically advanced or being the kingdom of romance, and were always known for their reputations. It seemed like all of these kingdoms came together to create a well balanced world, whatever world it was, and I really enjoyed it. The sea kingdom was also really interesting and I loved everything about the siren lore and all of their legends and it felt like a new mythology I’d love to know more of. Another thing I also liked was that even though Elian never desired to be king he knew a lot about the other kingdoms and understood how to handle them all, I suppose. And the same could be said for Lira, who really didn’t need to know anything about the human world but educated herself on them for when the time came for her to be queen. They both seem to be on opposite sides of the spectrum but understand the kingdoms and world they live in and around and I like that a lot.
- I think the way I’ve already talked about the inclusion of the original fairytale and the world building gives way to how I feel about Christo’s writing but in case you missed it, I really loved her writing here. I’ve never heard of her before this book but I know that I’d really love to read other books by her because her way of writing was something I enjoyed a lot and made it so easy for me to read and get sucked into the book. I initially loved how we had a dual POV here, which I honestly did not expect nor have I really seen it utilized in retellings that often, but both the dialogue between characters and inner monologues had such a relaxed and natural feel to them that it was almost as if I could hear the characters speaking. I felt that both Lira and Elian had truly distinct voices in their POVs and I loved both of them. I also loved the banter that they both had and it felt like such a staple to their relationship and I don’t think all of this would’ve been the same without it. If I’m being honest, it kind of reminded me of Leigh Bardugo’s writing in Six of Crows with it’s overall tone and natural flow and even the feeling of happiness it gave me.
- I guess we could say that the romance between Lira and Elian was a bit of enemies-to-lovers because they were literally enemies at the beginning of this book and mutually wanted to kill the other so obviously I’m gonna be all over that. I liked how the relationship progressed between them, even though I wish there were a couple more romantic scenes, but I enjoyed where we started with them and where we ended. And again, for some reason they reminded me a lot of Nina and Matthias from Six of Crows and I think that’s the best comparison/compliment anyone could give. They turned out to be a nice balance for the other and I was so in love with them.
- I think the heart of this book was the idea of humanity and I thought it was interesting how Lira had viewed it due to how the Sea Queen viewed it. Apparently for sirens, even one ounce of humanity means that you’re weak and especially for Lira means that she’ll never be a strong queen. But I loved that her development had a lot to do with this idea and because of Elian she was able to see how important it was to have her humanity and that it wasn’t a weakness at all. It made me proud to see her realize that and that she could be the queen that the sirens needed, rather than a bloodthirsty one like her mother. I think this is where Ariel’s love for humans makes an appearance in this retelling and I think it made sense not only for Lira’s character but for the entire story and it’s yet another one of my favourite aspects of this book.
- Honestly, I think my only issue is that I wanted to see more of Elian’s family because they seemed so great and maybe there were times where the end battle near the end could’ve had a little more oomph to it. I really have very little to complain about here so I may or may not be grasping for straws here. It was just so good, ok?
- Uh, there was no Flounder here? And even Sebastian managed to make a slight appearance on Lira’s necklace? This is an injustice?
THE BOTTOM LINE
- If you love retellings and The Little Mermaid as much as I do then I can pretty much guarantee that you’re gonna love this book. But with such an interesting spin on a tale I love and with really stellar writing all around, this has the makings to be one of the best new releases of 2018 for me. I kind of want to unread this book so I could experience all of it for the first time again.
BONUS: how this book made me feel in a GIF
ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: To Kill A Kingdom
Author: Alexandra Christo
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Pages: 342 (Hardcover)
Until next time,
What did you think of the book? Leave a comment below!