Book Review: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

34499221Princess 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?

Mermaids? More like murder -maids, am I right? Hahaha, feel free to kill me.

So, this is a really cool idea. Little Mermaid, but with a stabby mermaid and a stabby prince and a stabby mum and just generally more stabbiness. Yes, please. Stab stab stab. And it wasn’t un-executed! It just wasn’t executed as well as I thought it could be? I don’t know. This is one of those three-star reviews where I can’t fully put my finger on what makes it three star, but I’m just sure it’s not good enough for four stars and it’s not good enough for three stars. I just don’t know, okay? Send help.

So let’s try and figure this out, why don’t we?

Let’s start with the world. The world kind of confused me. It wasn’t terrible! But I couldn’t figure out just how technologically advanced these people were. They had guns and sailing ships, which suggests mid-1600s Golden-Age-of-Piracy, but there were airships? I’d think I’d figured out what the time was, but then someone would mention something and I’d just be sitting there going ??????? That doesn’t fit with what I thought? And while I didn’t feel that it took away from the story too much, it just meant that it didn’t rise to the heights it could have.

Next, the characters. Lira is deliciously stabby. Buuuuut… I kind of wish we’d gotten more of that. I know, I know, the story is about her learning to embrace humanity and accept that feelings do not equal weakness (which they obviously do, by the way), but I just wanted a little more murder. Maybe this is just a case of wrong book at the wrong time, but it added to my ambivalence on it.

Elian. I don’t know. He was fine. At this point I’m wondering if I’m just burning out on YA fantasy because I’ve read so much recently and my reaction to most of the romantic interests (and frequently the main characters, and the supporting characters, and… you get it) is a sort of meh, I’ve seen it before type of thing. Once again, Elian isn’t bad! I just didn’t feel that he was different enough or that he and Lira had enough chemistry to set him apart from the six million other romantic interests I’ve seen.

So now let’s talk about the plot. I like retellings. I might even love retellings. Hence, I have read a looooot of retellings. And yet, somehow, I haven’t really stumbled on a Little Mermaid retelling until now. But if you’re going with an idea for a Little Mermaid retelling… folks, this should be the idea. It’s both so similar to what we know (so many Ariel parallels, a few clins d’oeil to the original Hans Christian Anderson), but things are shifted so all the things that seem familiar are not. The girl dragging the prince up onto the shore. The granting of legs. The power of a voice. And it was pretty entertaining! I was entertained. It was entertaining.

But there was just something missing. Maybe it would be more pages to properly explain the world? (Although I liked that this was a properly self-contained standalone.) Maybe something different with the characters? (Although I think there was nothing outright wrong about them.) I just DON’T KNOW, okay? Ugh. I hate not having a concise opinion.

Verdict: read it, skip it, it’s up to you

If you could write a retelling of any story, which would it be? Do you ever feel like all the characters just kind of blur together? Have you ever gotten genre fatigue? AM I ALONE IN THIS?

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