BOOK REVIEW: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

BOOK REVIEW: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra ChristoTo Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
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Synopsis:

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?

Soon there’s sun in the distance, or perhaps even moonlight. Everything is muted and as Lira swoops her blade down on mine once more, I let it all fall away. My mission, my kingdom. The world. They exist somewhere other than in this moment, and now there is only this. Me, my ship, and a girl with oceans in her eyes.

The sea calls, sun shimmering on its tranquil surface. Cylinders of light bouncing over every rip and tear of the water’s veneer. Eyes clash, a heroic act bends and twists fate into a finite moment. Hearts drum to the beat of the ocean’s waves, as rapid and tremulous as any tentative alliance formed, swept away with the thought of a shared loneliness. Two aching souls. Like calls to like. And the inevitable betrayal…hardly a betrayal at all, for how can it be a betrayal when it was right in front of your face the whole time? Two monsters in their respective worlds…two monsters who share the same dream.

His hand moves from beside mine, and I feel a sudden absence. And then it’s on my cheek, cupping my face, thumb stroking my lip. It feels like the worst thing I’ve ever done and the best thing I could ever do and how strange that the two are suddenly the same.

Guys. I adored this book. And the writing-it was seriously out of this world. Savage. Unrelenting-the most vicious kind of poetry. If I could write, and, believe me, the last few books I’ve read have made me pine for it so, this is exactly how I’d want to write.

In Midas, the ocean glitters gold. At least, that’s the illusion. Really it’s as blue as any sea, but the light does things. Unexplainable things. The light can lie.

I can’t explain what makes a book tick for me (I lie, I could go on for days)-sometimes it’s a tried and true pattern. Sometimes it’s a random pick that is in a totally different style genre than I’m used to. And sometimes, sometimes they just click . And that’s what happened here.

As I stare at her, I see nothing of the wraith-like girl I pulled from the ocean. Whatever spell had threatened to transfix me when I saved her is broken now, and I can see quite clearly that she’s no helpless damsel. She’s something more, and it makes me too curious for my own good.

I picked this story up because of not only it’s content, but because of the rave reviews and incessant fangirling that came along with my friends devoted love and support. But, like with many things, I get nervous-it’s hard to fall in with the hordes of fans that hype up a new release (no matter how much you had previously wanted to read it). You feel a pressure to love it that much, to not feel broken because you didn’t connect like the rest of the world.

Staying still, in one place and one moment, will make me miserable. In my heart, I’m as wild as the ocean that raised me.

And, I’ll admit, I did feel the pressure even though I waited a month before I tried it. For one, it was just SO dark at first. I don’t know what I expected, but it certainly wasn’t what I read, in the beginning. Flesh and blood and death and just…evil. Pure evil. It was as intense as it was shocking, and after coming off of so many wins in the lighter faring genres (two contemporary, one lighter fantasy), this was a cold shock to my system.

I’m not a good man. I don’t think I’ve been one for a long time.

I felt the pure, murky vileness seep from every inky page the sea queen graced, cutting off my ability to apprehend disbelief that this was going to be as light as I suppose I anticipated. The ruthlessness of Lira, our MC, was no joke either, making my eyebrows furrow and my mouth make this weird shape that I’m sure had me looking like a frowny, gapey fish (or slack-jawed mermaid, if we’re to stick with them our story’s theme, here). I didn’t know if my fragile little heart (HA) could handle the intensity with which each of our characters handled their prey. Turns out?
I’m not so nice after all
.

I kid…I’m never nice. When it comes to my books, the more pain, the merrier. I’m sorry, but there’s just something so appealing about a broken, hero/heroine in need of saving, amirite??? But here…I don’t know what happened. I guess going in thinking ‘la la la, little mermaid, la la’ was my largest issue-unprepared doesn’t begin to express the depth with which I felt betrayed by my inner evil self. Trust me, it won’t happen again-my guard won’t be let down so easily next time.

The Sea Queen curves downward, her tentacles brushing my hand, lips like broken glass on my ear. “Stupid girl,” she whispers, and then—as though it’s the worst thing she could utter—“ stupid human girl.”

But then, that ruins all the best surprises, doesn’t it? Which leads me here: Lira and Elian are my life. There. I said it. The slow burn that erupted like wild fire in my system was a result of wicked awesome story-telling unparalleled by many when trying to conquer a re-telling of any form. And conquer she did. I’ve never read such a vivid, beautiful, amazing retelling ever. The way she twisted and weaved the story so that it was more bloodthirsty, more dreadful, more hopeful, whimsical, daring-it blew my mind.

How strange that instead of taking his heart, I’m hoping he takes mine.

I wasn’t trying to compare because, well, come on. Disney does many things well, but slow burn and destruction and peril and general mayhem aren’t at the helm of their money boats-they are, but in a Disney way. But, you could still see some things that nodded to my darling Arielle, my beloved Ursula, my loving prince Eric, and even her two conniving eels. Now-tell me-how could you NOT be interested?

“Wants to be free,” her companion says.
“Free from the queen.”
“Free her heart.”
“Take a heart.”
“Take the queen’s.”

But they were so subtle. And it was little things here and there, but they were so wonderful. I’d be dying a little, you know, dying in the best, bookish obsessed way possible, and then I’d be like-OMG! That’s kind of like what happened there, and isn’t she just so clever and cunning? (One scene comes to mind near the end where (view spoiler)

just thinking of these vivid details makes my heart erupt in the best, most offbeat way-seriously. And, honestly, it made me love her all the more.

The whites of the clouds dotted with bronze as leftover shimmers from Midas float across my eyes. But soon the world comes bursting back, vivid and unyielding. The coral of the fish and the bluebell sky.

But onto the characters and why they made my heart stutter in impossible-and not so impossible-ways. Tell me. Tell me how you make my heart go crazy when all Elian has to do is snark at our evil princess…and her snark right back. And it makes me giggle and squee and do ridiculous, girly things? How can an author do this? Because they’re enemies-how can we find this endearing? Why does bickering and banter and, quite frankly, threatening bodily harm make our hearts beat so? (half this paragraph was in question form, ummmm…)

“What about your own language?” he asks.
“It’s better.”
“How?”
“It’s more suited to me.”
“I dread to think what that means.”

I’ll tell you why-because we’re fickle fickle girls (and guys, whoever) and we like bad bad things lol. We THRIVE on the hate to love trope. We CHERISH the moments that pile up and begin to forge a bond between our two antagonistic MC’s. We are loathe to admit we’re easy…but tell me, who doesn’t love a prince and princess who hate each other, but end up falling for one another, inevitably, anyway?

We’re like squirrels, gathering up all these little nuts (acorns?? I don’t know), gathering and bunching and storing away any little heated look, caress, shared moment, heroic act, proof of loyalty that’s slowly beginning to build-and EXPLODE when it all comes crashing down, when the worlds collide, their hearts open up…only to be crushed under the heavy boot of deception and lies. Necessary lies, mind you, but lies all the same. We’re suckers for it-and it’s the BEST feeling.

“Gods.” Kye recoils as I slash open Lira’s dress. “Is she going to live?”
“Do you care?” I snap back. It isn’t his fault, but yelling at Kye feels a little like yelling at myself, and I need to be yelled at right now. Because this is on me. If Lira dies, then it’s on me.
I can’t believe you came back for me.
But I left her first.

Elian was…he was everything I look for in my book men. A prince born to be a king, but loyal only to the water he loves-his only love. Suffocating under the weight of his duty, the need to fulfill what can’t be avoided-to become the reluctant king of Midas. He broke my heart with how adventurous he was. A true captain in every sense of the word, a pirate straight down to his bones, with a crew who would do anything to save him or sail by his side. His courageousness bonds his crew together, making them more than deckhands-they’re his friends. Oh, and did I mention….he’s the famous prince siren killer?

People know me as the siren hunter, and those at court utter those words with amusement and fondness: Oh, Prince Elian, trying to save us all. If they understood what it took, the awful and sickening screams sirens made. If they saw the corpses of the women on my deck before they dissolved to sea foam, then my people wouldn’t look upon me so fondly. I would no longer be a prince to them, and as much as I might desire such things, I know better.

And Lira-the princess of the sirens in her kingdom. Second only to the Sea Queen, Lira takes the heart of a prince every year on her birthday and-do you see where this is going here? Do I really need to go further?

Love is a word we scarcely hear in the ocean. It exists only in my song and on the lips of the princes I’ve killed. And I have never heard it from my mother’s mouth. I’m not even sure what it really means. To me, it has always been just a word that humans treasure for reasons I can’t comprehend.

When she and Elian meet, sparks fly-but where he’s flint, she’s tinder, and she wants to see him dead and heartless beneath her. But that’s hard to do when-well, I’ll not say. I didn’t know this happened and I loved everything unraveling before my eyes as a surprise. The less you know, the better.

These two together-amazing. He doesn’t trust her and she wants to be a part of his crew for the mission that is a conflict of interest for them both. Their banter, while sharp-tongued at first, becomes an easy rapport, a tentative bond that helps them further their mission. His alertness disguised as aloofness made me a loyal fan -I loved his personality and the devotion he put forth to save his kingdom and all princes alike. He is burdened by duty, but would do anything and sacrifice anything to save those around him. He is selfless in every sense of the word, and I adore him so much it hurts. Even Lira, who he almost doesn’t like, he defends and honors and tries to keep alive. He is a true hero, and I just have to stop or I could go on about him forever (is anyone keeping track of my book boyfriends in 2018?? The scale…it’s tipping over…).

And Lira, darling Lira-as vicious as she is beautiful. Merciless in her mission to change her kingdoms ways, to kill her mother…and to take the prince’s heart. She’s the Princes’ Bane, you see, the very creature that Elian seeks most in the world, aside from the queen herself, and she’s right under his nose. But who is the hunter…and who is the prey??

Technically, I’m a murderer, but I like to think that’s one of my better qualities.

Lira, though, I could hang with this girl. She was something to behold. Her fury, her ruthlessness, her unrelenting need for vengeance (Elian, too, seeks vengeance for his friend, but, as you can see, this is just another bond they could form) making her almost as bloodthirsty as her mother-but not quite.

I loved her in ways I can’t explain, because she is such a grey area character, and while I couldn’t root her on…I sympathized with her and did want her to win-friendship. Devotion. Loyalty from her new friends crew members on the Saad. And the love she has for her cousin, and her cousin for her, it melted my heart. Two equally strong characters, lonely in ways they can’t express, because their lives almost seem full-but full doesn’t equal fulfilled.

And, PS, this song, every time I hear it…I think of these two (NOT the trust fund baby, met at a party, etc, but YOU GET IT (maybe)).

**I like that you’re broken
Broken like me
Maybe that makes me a fool
I like that you’re lonely
Lonely like me
I could be lonely with you

There’s something tragic, but almost pure
Think I could love you, but I’m not sure
There’s something wholesome, there’s something sweet
Tucked in your eyes that I’d love to meet
***

I don’t know. I just love that it reminds me of this book! (Also, upon looking at the lyrics, I heard the song wrong-it does NOT say, These ARE my people, these are my friends blah blah, but says These AREN’T (OOPS I NEVER HEAR SONGS RIGHT) but I’ll choose to still hear it my way since he adores his crew 😉 )

The rapport of the crew melted my heart in ways I haven’t seen in a long time-in fact, this story reminded me of a sea version of Six of Crows MANY TIMES OVER, even if I’m way out on a limb here. The funny banter of the crew, the jibes, the skill, the friendship-it was a warm feeling-and I’ll welcome it into my soul time and again, for this is surely a forever favorite.

“How did you get the map?” she asks.
“My charm.”
“No, really.”
“I’m really very charming,” I say. “I even roped this lot into sacrificing their lives for me.”
“Didn’t do it for you.” Madrid doesn’t look up from her deck. “Did it for the target practice.”
“I did it for the hijinks of near-death experiences,” Kye says.
“I did it for more fish suppers.” Torik stretches his arms out in a yawn. “God knows we don’t have enough fish every other day of the year.”
I turn to Lira. “See?”

A rush of adrenaline to my system, the end cemented my love further (everyone knows I’m a peril junkie) to the point of obsession, and I’m proud to say it lived up to my [not always but mostly always] haughty standards. I don’t think TKAK needs my endorsement (I mean, check out the ratings), nor does Alexandra Christo, but she has a forever fan and loyal minion here. Consider me part of your crew, Ms. (Mrs?) Christo-I’d follow you into any world (even if it’s in siren, sea queen, and mermen infested waters, but yikes, please don’t (or do, whatever-more Elian!)) and to the ends of the earth on the Saad-I’m a fool for your writing…I’m sure I’d devour it no matter the content, and that’s the most flattering endorsement I can bestow.

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2 Comments

  1. Fantastic review! I haven’t read it yet but I’m planning to pick it up soon. I’m so glad you loved it! 🙂
    Raven recently posted…Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf [ARC Review]My Profile

  2. Okay, first off, I LOVE that song so how awesome it reminds you of the book. I’m glad you really loved this one – you never do know with hyped books. And I’m all about dark and tortured characters. 😉

    -Lauren
    ShootingStarsMag recently posted…MG Graphic Novels- Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter + The City on the Other SideMy Profile

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