Sunday, September 2, 2018

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Here's the thing about my reviews. I will never hype something up just because it's the "in" book of the season and I want to be BFFs with the popular reviewers and publishers. I read a book, and then I say in my review why that book did or didn't work for me, and why, and then I say why it might not work for others. This puts me at odds with the legions of squeeing YA fangirls who seem to think that all praise should be both effusive and unequivocal, but what can you do? Block me or unfollow me, I guess. #YOLO

TO KILL A KINGDOM is one of those hyped up books that was gaining a lot of steam among book "influencers." Which, okay. I tend to take that kind of praise with fifty grains of salt, because one person's idea of "the best book ever," is another person's "who decided to publish this without sending it to an editor first?" My luck with YA and especially YA fantasy has not been stellar. Most of my favorites were published 10+ years ago, and I blame Tumblr in part for giving authors warped ideas about what "everyone" (e.g. people on Tumblr) wants to read. Still, the premise behind this book was intriguing enough that I decided to tackle the task. I mean, a blood-thirsty mermaid and a murderous prince? Um, yes, and also, yes. Nothing is better than a twisted fairy-tale, in my opinion. Count me so in.

The first 150 pages or so of TO KILL A KINGDOM are 4- or 5-star worthy. Lira is a vicious siren known as "The Prince's Bane," because she steals the hearts from princes in order to prolong her own life and extend her powers. Her mother is the vicious Sea Queen, a character right out of GoT, who thinks nothing of murdering family members to teach a lesson, and rules the sea with an iron, er, trident. Prince Elian, on the other hand, is a pirate prince who roves the seas killing sirens, and he enjoys killing them because he is a bit of a psychopath. Lira almost kills him but is stopped at the last moment and then punished by her mother, who thinks making her a human would be an excellent idea. Elian ends up dredging her up from the waters and reluctantly taking her aboard his ship, where she finds out that he's looking for a priceless artifact that has the power to destroy all sirens -

Or give the wielder power over all the oceans. You know, whatever floats the bearer's boat. Literally.

Elian, you see, comes from fake-Greece and has made a deal with a princess from fake-Japan in order to get access to a Forbidden Mountain where the artifact is hidden. And while Lira connives to steal both the artifact and Elian's heart, she slowly finds herself feeling something that isn't quite hatred as far as he is concerned. Maybe violence... isn't the only option? Gasp, what a novel idea. How quaint! How drole! But unfortunately, the Sea Queen may have other ideas...

As I said, the first 150 pages are amazing. Lira is written as a total bad-ass - basically, the kind of girl Celery Saltine-thin from Throne of Glass can only dream about - and Elian is just as ruthless. I loved reading about the depraved things they got into. It was dark. How often is a YA targeted at young women allowed to be dark? But then, right about the time that the end up on that love island, or whatever, things start to fall apart. Lira loses her "gives no sh*ts" attitude and Elian starts to be all, "hurr, durr, girls" and after a fight scene that is simultaneously too long and too convenient, we get the mother of all fanfiction-y endings (and yes, I've read the last Harry Potter book, and this may have been worse than that - this is "I've written a totally original character and her name is Opal Phoenix Melody, and she's half-angel, half-mermaid!" bad). Oh my God, that ending made me mad.

Alexandra Christo is not a bad writer but man, that ending sucked and all but ruined the whole book for me. I was expecting something daring and ruthless and unexpected and got... more YA romance packaged as fantasy. Man, what a disappointment. I'm rating it a little higher because the beginning was so good, but I'm actually kind of furious.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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