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They Weren’t Kidding When They Called Me, Well, A Witch

A story that invites you to ponder what would have happened if Ariel was raised by Ursula.

They Weren’t Kidding When They Called Me, Well, A Witch

BOOK REPORT for To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Cover Story: Montell Jordan
BFF Charm: Caution, Meh
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: Ruthless
Bonus Factors: Under The Sea, Standalone
Anti-Bonus Factor: Licorice
Relationship Status: Part Of Your World

Cover Story: Montell Jordan

I never thought tentacles would be featuring in a Montell Jordan-worthy cover, but look at that thing. The moody deep blue and contrasting gold type, the way the tentacles seem to be reaching in to suck the book down into the watery depths. It’s striking and yet quite foreboding.

The Deal:

Lira is no Disney Princess. Sure, she’s got a killer voice, but she’s not singing songs about making hairbrushes out of forks. And she doesn’t think her collection—collection of dead Prince hearts, that is—is by any means complete.

For Lira is a siren, and heir to the legendary Sea Queen’s throne. Up where they stay all day in the sun, Prince Elian knows Lira by the nickname of Prince’s Bane, as her infamy has spread throughout all kingdoms. And he’s got his own reputation among the humans as being a bit of a wayward Prince: he’s the heir to Midas but prefers sailing with his loyal crew to ruling. His rationale is he's keeping the waters safe for his people by hunting down sirens...sure, let's go with that.

When Lira kills one of the Sea Queen’s subjects, her mother turns her into a human and demands she get Prince Elian’s heart before she returns. How convenient, then, that Prince Elian is the one to scoop Lira's drowning human-self out of the ocean. But as she gets to know humans as more than just bloody, beating hearts of magic and youth, will she stay her course or change her mind? Ultimately, it might not matter...especially if Prince Elian finds out who she really is first. 

BFF Charm: Caution, Meh

Well, obviously before her transformation, NO NO NO, Lira and I would not be friends. Granted, she’s a little picky and will only take Prince hearts, so maybe she’d ignore me, but am I really going to take that chance? After she becomes human, werll, Lira’s still kinda vicious, but her tools of murder are greatly reduced without her pointy claws and teeth and hypnotic song. Underneath her killer exterior Lira IS hiding some morals and a loyalty to her siren-cousin, but as long as she’s under the Sea Queen’s control I am staying FAR away from her.

Prince Elian is a wanderer at heart. He doesn’t necessarily enjoy killing sirens, but he wants to protect his—and all—people from becoming their victims. It weighs on him that he will eventually have to give up what he loves—his ship and his friends and his freedom—to rule. There’s nothing inherently wrong with him, but it’s a few days after reading the book and he didn’t leave much of an impression on me. It’d be cool to be the friend of a Prince who’s kingdom is covered in gold, but it’s more casual "we all met up for dinner and you happened to be there, too" then true bestie material.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

This is definitely a slow-burn of a romance, since for much of the book Lira is contemplating how she can remove Prince Elian’s heart from his chest cavity. Their interactions are initially filled with mistrust and hostile sparring, but the thing is, sometimes feelings can shift when you truly start listening to what other people have to say.

Talky Talk: Ruthless

Christo certainly didn’t hold back when it came to describing the sirens; the Sea Queen is a tentacle-y, murdery, hateful horror show and the descriptions of the merpeople may give you nightmares. The sirens themselves are as predatory as they are beautiful. It’s not often I’ve read a loose retelling of The Little Mermaid (one of my all-time fave movies as a child), so this was a fun foray into a new world with some familiar touchstones cleverly twisted to fit a more adult story. Overall I found the book fairly engaging, though I will say I was getting a bit confused in the last quarter when everything was coming to a head. People made decisions and things happened in a way that didn’t feel organic to how the characters should have acted; you could see Christo laboring behind the curtain to get everyone where she wanted them to be. Still, it was a solid effort for a new author, and I would be open to seeing what else she comes up with in the future.

Bonus Factor: Under The Sea

We didn’t get a very long glimpse into the fathoms below, but what Christo did show was a twisted kingdom full of cutthroats and the kind of creatures we’d only find in the darkest parts of the ocean (think mutant sentient anglerfish).

Bonus Factor: Standalone

This book is one and done! Standalones are such a breath of fresh air. I would’ve been fine going deeper on some parts, like seeing more of the kingdoms above and below the water, but like the Disney movie it’s loosely based on, I was fine with what I got.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Licorice

There is many-a-mention of Prince Elian smelling of licorice or anise. He apparently really likes the flavor, and I think it may be gross to sirens (or maybe I was just projecting). I’m generally a semi-picky eater, but there are some things that I hate with a fiery passion, and one of those is licorice-flavored anything. Random storytime: Just recently, thanks to Guy Fieri and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, I finally realized why I hate Pho when ostensibly I should love it (because it's fancy Ramen): the broth is heavily spiced with anise/fennel and coriander, which becomes cilantro, AKA the Devil’s lettuce. I have spent many a night defending my opinion that Pho broth tastes "weird", so this was quite validating. In conclusion, it’s hard to really crush on the romantic lead when you’re literally cringing away from the book as it describes his breath.

Relationship Status: Part Of Your World

Thanks for showing me a whole new world, Book—oops, wrong movie, uh, well, anyway, moving on! I enjoyed our journey across your oceans and lands, and while I may not want to be your swimming buddy (cause, no offense, but you might kill me while we breast-stroke) I will wave to you from the safety of my very tall and hopefully very stable ship.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Feiwel Friends. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. To Kill A Kingdom is available now.

Stephanie Johnston's photo About the Author: Stephanie is an avid reader who moonlights as a college Educational Advisor. Though she now calls Orlando home, she grew up all over the U.S. Aside from her obsession with YA books and book-related activities, Stephanie loves watching way too much television, reading organizational/DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.