I finished To Kill A Kingdom in under 12 hours and wow, what a ride this book was.
First of all, the setting. Oh my goodness I fell in love with it. It would’ve been perfect for a map, but it was also easy to envision these many kingdoms, connected by sea, all with different attributes while under the water, a much darker and terrifying kingdom was hidden. Do yourself a favour and listen to “Mermaids” by Hans Zimmer while reading!
The brutal society of the Sirens was so well established and believable. On one hand (or should I say fin), it created that kind of fascination that comes with relatable, morally grey characters. On the other, it led to possibly one of my favourite quotes:
“You are a little heartless today, aren’t you?” “Never,” I say. “There are seventeen under my bed.“
Yeah, Lira is about as badass as you can imagine. She is a deadly siren, but has much more complex emotions than her mother – who is, you know, the Sea Queen. As you do. Lira is trying her very best to please her, but the cruelty of her mother knows no bounds and leaves no space for affection. Eventually, she even transforms her daughter into a human, and the events unfold from there. So, at the heart of this story is a very sad mother-daughter-conflict, and I’m always here for books who manage to wrap universal emotions in fantastic stories.
The other protagonist is Prince Elian, on-land-royalty who is (thankfully) aware of his privileges but would rather follow his wild heart out to sea. I could relate to him so well, having just come back from traveling myself and yearning to go back again. His guilt towards his family, his preference for genuine relationships, his love for discovery and the sea; it was incredible to see my feelings represented in a character. It’s been a while since that happened for me. I never expected it, so a lot of his quotes made me extremely emotional:
“… It’s the land that steals away who I am and the sea that brings me back. … In my heart, I’m as wild as the ocean that raised me.”
Usually, I’m not a fan of the first person narrator but for this story, it was perfect and I hardly realised it was used at all. We get the perspectives from both Lira and Elian, sea and land, which is just the right combination to give us all the information we need but also leave room for surprises, twists and tragic misunderstandings (yes, they rip your heart out, but in that good way). There are a few plot holes or improbabilities, but they honestly did not bother me.
You might know this book is a retelling of The Little Mermaid, but of course in a much more violent and at the same time modern way. There is diversity (well incorporated and genuine), sarcasm and sass, a romance (enemies to lovers, my friends) that is for once not instantaneous but realistic, friendship and family, magic and adventure, betrayal and tragedy. In short: Everything you could hope for in a fantasy book.
I had high expectations for this book and am so happy to say it even surpassed them! If you’re remotely interested in Liras and Elians story, I can only urge you to pick it up. To Kill A Kingdom is one of my favourite books of 2018!
Now I need all your recommendations for siren/mermaid themed stories. The book hangover is so real, I might just read it again.