If there is one thing I can appreciate, it is dark fairy tales. I’ve grown up with the Disney versions, as most of us have. Yet at some point I became more interested in the darker version of these stories. What if there is no happy ending? What if fairy tales actually involved death and not in a Disney way? After reading Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, I was hooked on the genre. When done well, dark fairy tales are magical and mind-blowing. When I read the synopsis for To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo, I was sold. I mean, sirens? Pirate princes? A story that sounds like a proper dark fairy tale? Count me in! But the question as always is, was it any good?
Goodreads says the following:
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?
The wonderful thing about this book is that our main characters are not very good people. Both Elian, the pirate prince and Lira, the siren princess, have many flaws. For one, they are both killers. Also, they both have a very twisted moral compass. These characters are selfish and yet they are relatable in a strange way. Never did I feel annoyed with them because they felt so very realistic to me. Apart from that, there is romance in this book but no insta-love. Insta-love is a pet peeve of mine, so it was refreshing to see characters gradually find love instead of knowing right away that they’ve met the love of their lives.
While this is a fantasy novel, it deals with themes that are ever so present in the real world. Both main characters have families that expect them to be a certain way. Throughout the book, they both discover that they have a choice in becoming who they want to be. It is never easy, but sacrifices must always be made. Despite the book not being very long, there is plenty of character development that many longer novels could learn a thing or two about. Basically, this novel is filled to the brim with characters you will love and naturally a couple you will love to hate. There is plenty of banter in between the more serious scenes. Everything about it just works.
No little mermaid
I have seen some reviews claim that this is a retelling of The Little Mermaid. First of all, that would not do the novel any justice. There are mermaids involved, but those are not really the Ariel kind. Deadly sirens are the main attraction in this novel and while Lira has to give up her song, while Ariel gives up her voice, the similarities end there. To Kill A Kingdom is a unique story in that respect. More importantly, the story doesn’t try to be a retelling. There is great world-building, and the story is well executed. I honestly enjoyed every single word I read.
+ Killer sirens
+ Great world-building
+ Great character development