TO KILL A KINGDOM by Alexandra Christo
Verdict: A killer little mermaid retelling.
Lira is a murderous siren known as the Prince's Bane, for each year she steals the heart of a promised ruler to add to her collection. Her horrid mother, the sea queen, enjoys tormenting her, and thinks that the mercy Lira shows her victims makes her unfit to rule the sea.
Prince Elian is a siren killer. He travels the seas with a band of misfits - similar to a pirate, minus the plunder, pillaging, and general illegal behaviour - but one day must return to rule Midas. He finds his impending duties suffocating, but when he hears whispers of a relic that could kill the sea queen herself, he barters his freedom away to find its location.
When Lira washes aboard Elian’s ship with legs instead of fins, the pair are thrown together in a quest to find the second eye of Keto, a powerful crystal strong enough to kill the sea queen.
So it’s a little mermaid with a dark twist, with the myth of Midas worked into Elian’s kingdom.
Everything about this book is simple yet strong, from the smooth yet beautiful prose, the small cast of well-fleshed characters, and the clear concept: find the eye of Keto, kill the sea queen. The overarching plot is fairly predictable as soon as the pieces are set up, but the journey is laced with surprises, and there’s plenty of action, romance, and magic to enjoy throughout.
The dual POV works well for this tale, because both characters are compelling to read about. Elian is heroic, charming, and good with a sword, a leader by example and someone who enjoys humour. Lira is a brilliant anti-hero, a murderer but not at heart. She plots the kill the prince to steal the crystal, and that keeps the tension throughout.
I did struggle to keep up with the logistics in the water action scenes. There’s more focus on the atmosphere of the action than the details, so I chose to go with the flow on this one.
Another weakness of the story is the promise of a anti-hero POV at the start which couldn’t be maintained throughout, or perhaps the timeline of the whole transition. Lira’s character arc and Elian’s ability to forgive are rushed - considering how fresh some of Lira’s kills were - but for the sake of an awesome story, the emotional journey has been accelerated. With the length and pace of the book, I think this sacrifice isn’t detrimental but it is noticeable.
On an editorial note, I would recommend adding the narrator's name to the beginning of each chapter. While the two main characters are very different, their narration style overlaps heavily. It seems like a simple addition that doesn't do any harm but could possibly do good.
Source: With thanks to the publishers via NetGalley.com.