A princess must have her prince.
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?
If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I’m all about sexy swashbucklers and high seas shenanigans. At this point, I’m basically pirate trash. Another thing I’m 100% trash for is anything even remotely related to the Little Mermaid.
So what happens when you combine a sweeping, high-stakes pirate adventure with the Little Mermaid? You get To Kill a Kingdom, a deliciously dark, twisty AF retelling of epic proportions. Clearly To Kill a Kingdom had my name plastered all over it.
It’s impossible not to read To Kill a Kingdom without drawing comparisons to Disney’s Little Mermaid. While the plot takes a darker, gritty turn, Alexandra Christo drops a lot of subtle nods guaranteed to make any Disney fan scream. There are elements of the beloved classic tale scattered throughout with direct references and even a new spin on iconic scenes.
Spoiler alert: THIS SCENE WITH ERIC HOLDING ARIEL IN THE WATER ACTAULLY HAPPENS!!!
I also really appreciated how Alexandra pulled threads from Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid too. The idea of the sirens dissolving into sea foam was one of Alexandra’s more obvious nods.
Anyway, Lira is our new Ariel but don’t mistake her for a gentle Disney-esque princess. Known across the high seas as the Prince’s Bane, Lira is heir to the Sea Queen’s dark legacy and the deadliest siren of them all. She’s bloodthirsty, desperate to prove herself and utterly ruthless with the hearts of seventeen princes under her belt. A classic anti-heroine you just can’t help but root for.
But what makes Lira’s story so heart breaking is her complex relationship with her mother [basically Ursula on freaking steroids] and the violent, abusive nature of her upbringing. Lira is a classic case of circumstance and nature vs nurture. It’s very hard to hate Lira when she was basically manipulated into becoming a murderess. But Alexandra give us glimmers of humanity hidden deep beneath her heartless façade and Lira must discover who she is without her mother’s influence. All I’m going to say is that Lira’s character growth is phenomenal as she questions what makes a monster and what makes a human.
Then we have
Prince Eric Prince Elian. I’m not going to lie, unlike Lira, it took me a while to really click with Elian’s character. A classic reluctant prince, Elian is heir to the kingdom of Midas [oh yeah – we get a lot of different folklore] but his heart belongs to the ocean. Elian spends the majority of his time captaining the Saad on a seemingly hopeless but noble quest to rid the seas of its bloodthirsty sirens. His reputation as the Siren Killer is almost as notorious as Lira’s – and I bet you can see where this is headed…
Basically, a twist of fate sees Lira robbed of both her siren’s song and tail, which is how the Prince’s Bane comes sword to sword with the Siren Killer. In a spectacular homage to Disney, Elian saves Lira from drowning and that’s where the real fun begins.
I had so much fun traipsing across the ocean with Lira and Elian. The slowest of slow burns, their narrative is full of sass and snarky banter. So why the four stars? To Kill a Kingdom is a strong debut but it has its flaws. The biggest issue I had was it’s choppy pacing, which could have been balanced a little better. And if I’m being 100% transparent here, I would have liked a little more tension to Lira and Elian’s relationship. I mean, I can’t be the only one who feels that the romance could have been a little hot and heavier. #noshame.
What had me bumping up my initial rating though was the spectacularly vivid final confrontation. I mean, if you think Eric impaling Ursula with a bowsprit is intense, you’ve got another thing coming. All I’m saying is that To Kill a Kingdom’s showdown between Lira and the Sea Queen was EVERYTHING. Basically, I was left utterly breathless and in awe.
So okay, To Kill a Kingdom wasn’t a perfect book. Like I said, I didn’t instantly click with the characters and at certain points, the pacing was off but at the end of it all, To Kill a Kingdom gave me all the feels. And its the sort of book that just keeps growing on you. Definitely recommending this dark retelling for any Little Mermaid fan. And it’s a standalone so you don’t need to worry about a crippling cliff hanger.