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Published: 6 March 2018
Publisher: Feiwel Friends
Category: Young Adult/Fantasy/Mythology
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?
Rating: 2 Stars
CW: self harm
I was really looking forward to this book because so rarely have I seen a story with sirens that are not physically more like mermaids, beautiful beyond belief and more like typical mermaids. I liked the promise of a bloodthirsty princess that hunted princes, even of the prince that has been seeking revenge for humanity.
There was clearly a lot of time spent on the look of the worlds we visit in this story. From the underwater kingdom of Keto to the land kingdom of Midas, everything was very detailed, refined in a manner befitting the inhabitants of each whether it be shells or gold. For my part I preferred the underwater kingdom, frightening as it might be because there was more a sense of peace there than in Midas. The beauty, whether traditional or brutal, that existed in Keto was amazing. Lira’s scales, the eye differences that mark the sirens, all of it had a murky kind of attraction that I enjoyed.
I liked how the author drew parallels between Lira and Elian. Coming from two different worlds, you might think they’d have nothing in common but there were elements that tied them together before they ever met. These elements weren’t direct side-by-side comparisons, more structure wise with different coverings.
I’m surprised to not have seen any other reviews touching on the self harm aspect of the book. It only occurs once, so perhaps it wasn’t picked up on, but there is a scene where Lira uses jellyfish to inflict pain upon herself and talks about how doing so muddies her mind and takes her away from her present. These are the hallmarks of self harm and just because she’s using methods that a siren might use rather than a human doesn’t mean it isn’t potentially as damaging.
END CW DISCUSSION
An observation I had about Lira and Elian is that while I liked them, I noticed that their voices were very similar and initially I didn’t realize that the point of view narrator had switched between them. If I weren’t aware that one was on land and one was on sea, there was very little differentiation between the two. I wondered if this was done deliberately to enhance the similarities between them, the princess and the prince, but by the end I couldn’t be sure whether it was that or carelessness.
Elian, while he had some good qualities, also turned out to be a fool in a major way. In order to bring these two together, the author threw Lira into his path via almost drowning in the ocean when she’s been turned human. The circumstances of finding her in the middle of the open ocean, naked and yet not harmed by the cold, wearing a necklace that he admits is only possessed by monsters…I really couldn’t see how he didn’t figure out what Lira was. She spoke the language of the sea, for crying out loud, and it was already stated that no human knows how to speak it. Even his crew were wary about her when this was revealed, but Elian disregarded their concern. There were huge red flags flying left and right, yet not once did he clue in.
Then there was the romance between Elian and Lira. It was so mindbogglingly uninteresting that I really wish it had been dispensed with completely. There was no real connection between them and the whole “Elian is immune to the siren’s song because Lira gave him her heart” was cheesy in the extreme. It felt like Lira was this strong and powerful siren and Elian’s presence took that away. I think this would couple would end up on my list of least liked in all of YA.
As for secondary characters, the crew members of the Saad, Elian’s pirate ship, were very one dimensional. There was some banter tossed about, very familiar lines, and I just couldn’t care about any of them. Heck, I’m not sure I could name all of the ones who were actually named. They were very much relegated to the role of supporting cast and while they allowed Elian to run about and do what he wants, their presence was negligible.
Here’s my problem with the book overall. I liked the characters well enough on their own, especially Lira when she was being particularly vicious. Elian was alright though he was by no means my favorite. That said, I think To Kill a Kingdom was better at characterization that is was at actual storytelling. The first fifteen percent of the book really dragged, being heavy with details that were not told in an effortless manner. It felt more like an info dump and that made the book suffer.
Once the action begins, once Elian knows what treasure he’s seeking and Lira is human and trying to get home, it didn’t get any better. The action was dragging and taking entirely too long to get to a point. There were side quests and whatnot that didn’t feel at all important to the core of the story and yet these were given more page time than anything that would get us to the end. The revelations of identity, the battle between the “good guys” and the Siren Queen, none of that happens until 83% of the way through and then everything rushes to the end. I felt more interest when Lira and Elian were fighting a thief named Rycroft aboard his ship than in the final showdown, which seems really off.
The more I write about this book, the more I realize how disappointed I was. The premise was amazing, but the execution just made me sad.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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