January 24, 2020 by TinyNavajo
To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
◆ ◆ ◆ ◇ ◇
*Published March 6, 2018*
As with a lot of my books, I saw this on the book river that my library puts together on their catalog’s website. It was during a retellings river and I love me a good retelling, so this one jumped out at me and I had to try it. A darker retelling of the Little Mermaid that I liked quite a bit.
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 best part about this book was how much I empathized with Lira and with Elian. These are our two main characters, one a siren called the Prince’s Bane, the other a prince out on the hunt for sirens. These two kind of swirl about each other, coming close once or twice to killing each other, but something stopping them both times. What I empathize with both of these characters is that they are trying to figure out who they truly are when pushing back against what their societies tell them they have to be. Lira is told she must be as ruthless and as heartless as her mother the Sea Queen. Elian is told that he must assume the throne soon and stop gallivanting about the seas trying to be someone he is not.
Both of these characters are more morally grey, which seems to be the theme for retellings of any sort, but here I think it works. Lira kills, Elian kills, and they both think they are doing this for a good reason. I like the characterization of these two, and I like that this “little mermaid” has more agency, and she is still able to make choices in that affect her and the story, not just “follow the prince and hope all goes well” that a few other retellings seem to have done.
There has been a mild complaint throughout the book community that Lira and Elian are great as separate characters, but once they are pushed together by the story, or the way the story goes, then they start to fall flat as characters. I will say that while reading this, I didn’t notice it much, but there was some times when I noticed that Lira and Elian were almost the same person when they were being sarcastic together. It didn’t bother me too much, but just as a general warning.
I do wish that the book would have built up the world of the story just a little bit more, if just so that there is a little more context for some of the aspects of the story. Granted, there was some and it did support aspects of the story, but there wasn’t a lot of context. Just a little bit more to flesh out the world a bit. Other than that though, there wasn’t a lot to complain about. I enjoyed the story and the characters, and I liked that this was a slightly darker retelling of the Little Mermaid.
What are your favourite types of retellings? Do you prefer darker, or lighter? Comment below and let me know!