To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo - 4⭐

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo - 4⭐

 

Alexandra Christo taps into the darkness of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic The Little Mermaid in her own retelling, To Kill a Kingdom. If there’s one thing Little Mermaid fans know, it’s that the writers behind Disney’s script took many creative liberties with their own retelling. If you’ve read the original story by Hans Christian Andersen, you know The Little Mermaid is quite a dark and grim story. True to tradition, Alexandra Christo taps into that same realm of darkness with her own rendition of this classic fairy tale in To Kill a Kingdom. Lira is a siren, princess, and heir of Diávolos, a kingdom under the sea ruled by the Sea Queen. In this underwater kingdom, the culture is ruthless and cruel. Sirens are conditioned to be vile toward each other and more so with humans, who are held responsible for the death of their Sea Goddess, Keto.

Every year for her birthday, Lira steals the heart of a human prince for her collection. And by “steal,” I mean, she literally rips their hearts from their chest. This is a tradition she’s become so adept at that she’s known in the human world as The Prince’s Bane.

Days before her eighteenth birthday, Lira steals the heart of another prince just for the fun of it, unleashing the Sea Queen’s wrath on her. To get back on the Sea Queen’s good graces, she attempts to steal yet another heart as an offering, but a mermaid fights her for it. In a fit of rivalrous fury, Lira kills the mermaid instead.

Killing one of their own worsens Lira’s status with the Sea Queen, so she banishes Lira from the sea kingdom. To drive her point home, the Sea Queen turns Lira into a human and strips her of her singing power that helps her lure humans into the sea. If she wants to return to the sea, she must capture the heart of Prince Elian, but she must do so as a human.

“How strange that instead of taking his heart, I'm hoping he takes mine.”  Alexandra Christo, To Kill a Kingdom

The catch is that Prince Elian has also been on the hunt for the infamous Prince’s Bane. He seeks to end her reign of power over all human princes once and for all. When Lira meets him in her new human form, she must conceal her real identity until she can figure out a way to kill him, collect his heart and return to the sea to beg the queen’s forgiveness.

In a twist of fate, Lira ends up aiding Elian in his search for the one artifact said to contain the power to destroy the Sea Queen. There is friction between them, but where there’s friction there are also sparks. Now, Lira must decide with whom her loyalty rests: the Sea Queen, who rules by conditioning through fear and violence, or Prince Elian and his crew, through whom she’s come to understand the power of loyalty through friendship.

Christo holds nothing back in her retelling of this classic children’s fairy tale which is better described as a story tailored to entertain lovers of flawed heroes. When we meet them, Lira and Elian are both ruthless murderers, each trying to extinguish each other’s kind. They’re believable characters and realistic as one-track-mind beings who are so set on revenge that they forget to look around at the bigger picture and the collateral damage caused by their ruthless quest for revenge. They both have their own plausible reasons, and it’s difficult, even from the very beginning, to choose sides.

Christo’s talent shines in that she tactfully takes her antiheroes through a gradual change into heroes. We know from the start that the aim of the story is to set up Lira and Elian, not just fighting on the same side, but as romantic counterparts. The story’s hook lies in that we start on such a dark end of the spectrum that we wonder whether the story can ever see the light — whether Christo can actually get these characters through to the end in a believable manner. The answer is that she definitely does.

For anyone who loved the Disney version, is now a little older and prefers their fairy tales to contain and a bit of violence and blood, To Kill a Kingdom may be exactly what you’re looking for.
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