If you’re looking for a quick, darker spin on The Little Mermaid, Alexandra Christo’s To Kill a Kingdom might be a fun read to pick up.
The story follows two alternating POVs: Lira, the siren princess pushed by her mother, the Sea Queen, to be the perfect killer and weapon in their age-old war against humans, and Elian, the human prince who would prefer to be a pirate, sailing the seas hunting sirens to protect his people. Their paths cross when, as a punishment, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into a human and decrees she must either bring back Elian’s heart by the solstice or be killed herself. “Rescued” from the sea and brought aboard Elian’s ship, Lira bargains her way into the crew and gradually gains their trust. Though Lira has no love for humans, she begins to recognize parts of herself in Elian’s struggle between his duty as a prince and his love for the sea, and questions if there might be a middle ground to be found in this war, if she could only succeed in unseating her powerful mother.
The worldbuilding had me intrigued, with hints of magic in each of the kingdoms we hear about, all with a unique strength or emphasis, but unfortunately hints are all we ever really get. The story itself, interesting in its emphasis on the deadly siren legends over the more romanticized idea of mermaids, also seems to only scratch the surface of what it had to offer. I would have enjoyed seeing more development of the secondary characters in Elian’s pirate crew, more build-up of the slow-burn romance between Elian and Lira, and more reflection on the manipulative and twisted dynamic the Sea Queen created between herself and her daughter. To be fair, we do get some of that, but the book is mostly event-focused, so the majority of development and detail is given only in how it relates to the action at hand, rather than letting it’s deeper exploration provide more breathing space between the bigger plot points.
While I was a little let down because I could feel the potential for a deeper story, I’m still giving To Kill a Kingdom 3 stars for a solidly entertaining, if somewhat light, story.