To Kill a Kingdomby Published 06 Mar 2018
|To Kill a Kingdom.pdf|
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?
"To Kill a Kingdom" Reviews
Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh.
I am just sitting here in shock and full of feels and alskfjal;skdjfa;lksjf GO ORDER THIS BOOK RIGHT NOW. How am I supposed to write a coherent review? Gah!
So if you haven't seen the description, this is somewhat of a little mermaid retelling, except there are lots of creatives spins that pull from other folklore as well! (For example, Midas ;))
Lira is a siren known as the 'Prince's Bane' - and she's infamous for killing princes. Yep, that's what she does. She rips out their hearts. Not to mention, she's the daughter of the mighty Sea Queen who is pretty much terrible all around. She's Ursula if Ursula was chewed up, spit out by the devil himself (but still manages to be attractive). Poor Lira's upbringing, and the reason she is a killer, is actually horribly sad.
Annnyyywayyy, Lira is unashamedly brutal and hunts with vicious intent.
Elian is a prince whos pastime is piracy. Yep, you heard me. We have a pirate prince on our hands, ladies and gentlemen. Nikolai Lantsov, meet your brother from another mother. Anyway, Elian is hilariously sassy and all around amazing. But why does he patrol the seas, you ask?
He hunts sirens. And he kills a great deal of them.
So we have a prince killer and a siren killer - the makings of a perfectly delicious story.
Anyway, after an event that royally pisses of the Sea Queen, she changes Lira into a human as punishment and orders her to go kill the siren-killer prince (but without her siren powers.) Elian finds Lira, who looks like an ordinary girl at this point, conveniently drowning in the ocean. But instead of trying to kill him right off the bat, Lira has another idea - and decides to stick around for a while.
That's all I'm going to say.
Here's what you need to know:
Elian is everything. His crew is everything. The WRITING is everything. (Seriously, all aspiring authors need to read this and revel in its beauty. I have SO MANY LINES highlighted.) There is romance, banter, pirates, action, drama, adventure, strong character arcs, and lots of fun kingdoms. I don't want to spoil anything else. Just read it.
Alexandra is a master of creative writing, character, and storytelling. I honestly loved every bit of this book, and you can bet I'll be shoving it at everyone I know.
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ARC provided by Macmillan in exchange for an honest review.
“I’ve made a mistake. It started with a prince, as most stories do. Once I felt the thrum of his heart beneath my fingers, I couldn’t forget it.”
You all, I buddy read this with FOUR of my closest book friends, and we all five starred this amazing story. Please, go treat yourself and preorder this book. Please. Do you like killer sirens? Angsty romance? A+ witty banter? Vivid fighting scenes with mind-blowing imagery? One of the best and strongest protagonists I’ve read about in a long while? And all these things in a standalone? From a debut author? Seriously, we’ve been blessed.
And I can safely say that there is no better feeling than picking up an ARC that is not exceptionally hyped, and that you’re not expecting anything from really, and you come out absolutely loving it. This was perfection and one of the best reading experiences I’ve had all year. I can’t wait for you all to love this book, too, come March 6th.
“I have a heart for every year I’ve been alive.”
This is a magical standalone that surrounds two very different people that are both next in line for two very different crowns:
➽ Lira - AKA: Prince’s Bane, the most feared siren of all time. She has a collection of seventeen royal hearts. She is also the daughter of Sea Queen, who rules the sea kingdom, Diavolos. Yet, the Sea Queen is abusive, a manipulator, a tyrant, and not willing to relinquish her throne anytime soon for Lira.
➽ Elian - AKA: Siren Hunter. He is a royal prince, but also a cutthroat sea captain who sees the world on his ship, The Saad, with his crew. His family rules Midas, the city of gold, and they want nothing more than for him to give up his pirate life and to finally be king. Also, Elian and his entire family are brown-skinned.
“Two kingdoms that come with responsibilities we each have trouble bearing. Him, the shackles of being pinned to one land and one life. Me, trapped in the confines of my mother’s murderous legacy. And the ocean, calling out to us both. A song of freedom and longing.”
In this world, humans fear the sirens that lurk below the water. And under the ocean, sirens are forced to bring back a human heart during the month of their birth and present it for all to see. But our dear Lira has taken to only the hearts of royals. This story is very loosely inspired by The Little Mermaid, therefore, I’m sure you guys can somewhat guess how these two’s paths cross. But after Lira upsets her mother, the Sea Queen wants to find a new way to ridicule and humiliate her, so what better way than to force her to steal the most royal heart of all, but also forcing her to do this task as a human, and while no longer having her siren voice to lure humans towards her.
And what kind of prince in waiting would Elian be if he let this damsel in distress drown in the water? I mean, until he rescues Lira and realizes how much of a damsel in distress she really isn’t. You all, this was some of the best banter I’ve ever read in any book, ever. And you guys know that hate to love romance is the trope that I love more than any other. And this angst? Perfection. These two might honestly end up being my favorite partnership of 2018. From actually laughing out loud, to swooning, to crying, to everything I felt for these two, and all I want is more.
I was astounded by the worldbuilding and how seamlessly it was crafted and presented. Honestly, this entire story’s imagery was so impressive. The last battle was so visually breathtaking, I feel speechless. The last few chapters were perfection, and I feel so honored that I was able to even experience them. Me and Jules both were absolutely astonished by that last battle and how visually pleasing it was to the mind. I honestly could picture this being a movie immediately.
And this book tackles some pretty serious topics, too. We see parental/adult abuse, manipulation, and gaslighting in this book a lot. Kids only want to be loved, especially from their parents, and it takes a lot to realize that sometimes the people who are supposed to protect you and unconditionally love you just blatantly don’t.
“Love is a word we scarcely hear in the ocean. It exists only in my song and on lips of the princes I’ve killed. And I have never heard it from my mother’s mouth.”
And there is such an important and constant theme of how a new generation can change the world. Which is a message that everyone in The United States should be behind right now. As I’m typing this review, high school kids are changing our world, because the baby boomer generation that’s in office currently think it’s more important to protect assault rifles over innocent kid’s lives. Seriously, these teens, who this book is marketed for, won’t be teens for long. They will be voting, they will activists, and they will be changing the damn world for the better. Do you know how powerful it is for them to have books like this? With themes like this? Seriously, this was probably my favorite thing in this book where there was so much to easily love.
This story also beautiful emphasizes the importance of found families. Blood is nothing more than blood. The people who choose to unconditionally love you, support you, protect you, those people are your family. Madrid, Kye, Torik, Kahlia, I fell in love with all of the side characters. And this book beautifully depicts how important it is for you to choose who is worthy of your time and love.
“How strange that instead of taking his heart, I’m hoping he takes mine.”
Overall, this was honestly just a joy to read. The writing was lyrical and beautiful. The world building was fantastic and so impressive, especially for a standalone. The romance was absolutely perfect. Also, my Odyssey loving heart will read any and all books about sirens luring men to their death. I loved being on this adventure and journey alongside Lira and Elian. I absolutely cannot wait to see what Alexandra Christo does next, and this debut novel of hers is one of the best debut novels I’ve ever read.
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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Buddy read with:
🧜♀️ Jules at JA Ironside
🧜♀️ Destiny at Howling Libraries
🧜♀️ Wren at Fables & Wren
🧜♀️ Lilly at Lair of Books
That was absolutely brilliant. I'll read anything that has even a hint of a retelling, but this is probably one of the best I've ever found... it's what I never knew I wanted The Little Mermaid to become!
Lira's a siren princess whose ruthless Sea Queen mother teaches her to steal power & the futures of kingdoms by taking the hearts of princes. (PS the sea queen has tentacles, a trident, and is amazing... she's kind of like Ursula on a bad day).
Lira has flaming hair and is referred to by humans as the "Prince's Bane." One day the Sea Queen punishes her by turning her into a human and sending her to land, where Lira plans to bring back Elian's heart to win her mother's favor. Elian's a cocky pirate prince whose crew kills sirens to protect his kingdom. He can speak 15 languages, including the language of the sea. There are rumors and fairy tales of a crystal that he could use to rid the sirens of their power and kill the Sea Queen, so he takes his crew on a quest.
This story was just straight up fun to read! The world, characters, and plot were established so well that the story just unfolded naturally. The hate-to-love romance worked perfectly, the pacing was great, the writing was strong... I have zero complaints.
I loved how I could totally see the outline of The Little Mermaid and the various clever parts that pay tribute to that story, yet this was still its own totally unique plot. Everything got SO wonderfully creative that I had a stupid grin on my face in parts. I honestly laughed out loud at so many scenes!
If you like YA fantasy, retellings, or cocky guys like Nikolai, Thorne, & Cresswell, then definitely check out this one!
Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC.
“His face makes no difference.” I drop her hand. “It’s his heart I’m after.”
“So many hearts.” Her voice is angelic. “You’ll soon run out of room to bury them all.”
I lick my lips. “Maybe,” I say. “But a princess must have her prince.”
This book is so unique and fun to read.
SIRENS 🧜♀️ and PIRATES, just how freaking awesome is that?!?
Lira and Elian are awesome, funny, sarcastic, intelligent and badass. I love the dynamic that they have and the relationship development was fantastic.
“We are not naïve little heirs to be molded as they wish. We are warriors. We are rulers”
The villain of the story was great and real and really after all a freaking villain to the core!!!
“She is a performer as much as she is a queen.”
The side characters are amazing and the friendships are so funny.
And how they didn’t try to justify every bad thing they did and they forgive each other is just life💘
The writing, literally everything was just on point in this one!!
I had all of my question answered, and for a Single book, a lot happened and all made bloody sense. Which it may be hard to find in a standalone.
One scene in particular that I can really say (spoiler) just made me so happy 😍😁. I was smiling so hard. It was just a entertaining read!!!
“I smile at that, because Elian of all people should know better. He should know to have more faith in myth and fairy tale”
BR with Ronak(Pihu) Gajjar💕.
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.
→ 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!
You can find this review and more on my blog, or you can follow me on twitter, bookstagram, or facebook!
Buddy read with Melanie, Lilly, Wren, and Jules!