Back in March, I was scrolling through Hypable.com when I chanced upon a review for a new book, To Kill A Kingdom, the debut novel by British author Alexandra Christo that puts a dark spin on the classic Little Mermaid tale. Both cover and synopsis intrigued me because I’ve always wanted to read a compelling story about the underwater world, especially if it involves mystical sea creatures and reinvents a fairytale.
To Kill A Kingdom follows the story of one from siren royalty, Princess Lira. In this dark fantasy, sirens and mermaids are distinctively different: while the former are alluring and sinister, the latter are hideous and subservient. Annually, every siren collects the heart of a human man in honor of Lira’s cold-blooded mother, the dreaded Sea Queen, but when Lira accidentally kills one of her fellow sirens, she is cursed into a human.
Lira has two choices: forever remain two-footed, or undo the curse by delivering the heart of the human Prince Elian, a legendary pirate with a dangerous vendetta against the siren population.
By stroke of luck, Lira becomes acquainted with Elian, who has set out to retrieve the mystical Eyes of Keto capable of defeating the Sea Queen and the siren population. What begins as a tense, sometimes violent conflict between the siren princess and the human prince eventually evolves into a young love affair as they travel around the author’s invented universe filled with dangerous lands and icy mountains. As Lira falls for the adventurous pirate, she is plagued by the dilemma to aid Elian’s conquest or use the Eyes for her own benefit.
For the most part, I enjoyed the concise, healthy pacing of To Kill A Kingdom, which toured me around various destinations inside the world of the story. The character count got quite overwhelming at certain instances, because new locations introduced new people, so it was hard to manage my memory sometimes.
What I loved most about the novel was its dark, slightly gruesome scenes; by that, I mean teeth and blood. Deaths are not uncommon: the sirens, including the protagonist, are primarily killing machines, but it was the details of their deaths that were interesting, albeit sadistic.
Unfortunately, the story fizzled out towards the end, with a predictably clichéd and bloated climax opposite of the book’s illustrious opening. I would have loved a good plot twist, but I didn’t get one.
As a loose retelling of the household fairytale, it’s reasonable to say that romance would greatly influence the story, but I was still surprised that romance emerged as a dominant theme towards the book’s end. That said, the romance between the couple authentic and believable; nothing overtly endearing or wishful.
The book itself was as a simple, decent read, although its writing was challenging at times because the author frequently used non-conversational almost poetic sentence structures to exude a medieval tone.
Overall, To Kill A Kingdom is not the perfect underwater fantasy, but it was dramatic enough for me to consider it satisfying. It just lacked that x-factor to make it a really solid book.