To Kill a Kingdom
by Alexandra Christo
Published by Feiwel & Friends on March 6, 2018
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fairy Tales & Folklore, Mermaids
Buy on Amazon//Barnes & Noble
Lira, a famous siren, must prove herself by stealing the heart of the man, a prince, threatening their race in this dark and action-packed debut.
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 and 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?
Alexandra Christo's debut is a dark and richly imagined take on The Little Mermaid that will leave readers breathless.
To Kill A Kingdom Review
To Kill a Kingdom is a YA fantasy novel by author Alexandra Christo. The story follows Lira- a seventeen-year old siren who is infamously known as the Prince’s bane due to her morbid task of ripping the hearts out of prince’s every time she ages a year- and Prince Elian, a young man who have notoriously earned a reputation as a siren killer. Lira makes a grievous mistake in the beginning of the story which forces her malevolent mother, the sea queen, to issue an ultimatum- either retrieve the heart of Prince Elian while in the form of a human, or risk being a human forever. Prince Elian, learning about the death of a dear friend to the nefarious Prince’s Bane, sets out on a quest to not only find her, but find a jewel that is thought capable of ending the lives of ALL sirens.
A twist of fate throws both Prince Elian and Lira into each other’s paths. What results is an epic adventure filled with devious pirates, daring sword fights, treacherous travels through snowy mountains, and a generous dose of love and friendship.
*Review below may contain some spoilers*
The story starts out with Lira ripping the heart from the chest cavity of a young prince while his mother screams in terror. After reading this, I thought, “Well. Not sure how I feel about this siren.” A part of me was reluctant to move on, not sure how comfortable I was with the actions of Lira. However, I decided to push through it, hoping that I would have a better understanding of her actions. Thankfully, this happened early on. Lira’s childhood was a tragic tale of a twisted, evil mother who was basically emotionally abusive. Lira had been forced to do an unspeakable thing as a young girl that resulted in the hardening of her own heart and the staunching of any emotions that can be construed as “good”. While this understanding does nothing to negate the horror of her actions towards princes, it does provide a nice scandalous premise for the story.
Prince Elian escapes his duty as a prince destined to rule by recruiting a loyal crew of pirates and sailing the seas in search of sirens to kill. In Elian’s mind, all sirens are evil and must be vanquished. He does not understand their actions, their culture, or their language, yet seeks to end them all anyway…even chasing the idea of mass genocide of their entire species. It is while on this quest that Elian fishes Lira out of the sea, believing her to be a human in need of rescuing. Lira unsuccessfully tries to attack Elian upon meeting him, which makes her untrustworthy in the eyes of his crew. Lira eventually learns of Elian’s plan to end all sirens and decides to join him on his quest so that she can steal the jewel for herself and usurp her mother as the sea queen.
The chemistry between Lira and Elian is constantly charged. Their dialogue was amusing, and I constantly found myself grinning by their witty repertoire. Both characters were strong, with Elian not the only one playing “savior”, but Lira finding herself in that position as well. I enjoy stories with strong female protagonists and To Kill a Kingdom delivered in that respect. I can hardly say any woman in this story was “weak”. In addition, I LOVED that two women ended up marrying one another and equally ruling a nation- as same-sex marriage is often underrepresented in stories- especially those in the YA genre.
To Kill a Kingdom left me with a major book hangover. And for that, I give the story FIVE stars!! Unhooked
by Lisa Maxwell
Published by Simon and Schuster on February 2nd 2016
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Action & Adventure, Pirates, Fairy Tales & Folklore, Adaptations, Juvenile Nonfiction, Activity Books
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From “talented wordsmith” (Publishers Weekly) Lisa Maxwell comes a lush, atmospheric fantasy novel filled with twists and turns about a girl who is kidnapped and brought to an island inhabited by fairies, a roguish ship captain, and bloodthirsty beasts.
For as long as she can remember, Gwendolyn Allister has never had a place to call home. Her mother believes they are being hunted by brutal monsters, and those delusions have brought them to London, far from the life Gwen had finally started to build for herself. Gwen’s only saving grace is that her best friend, Olivia, is with her for the summer.
But shortly after their arrival, the girls are kidnapped by shadowy creatures and dragged into a world of flesh-eating sea hags and dangerous Fey. And Gwen begins to realize that maybe her mother isn’t so crazy after all…
Gwen discovers that this new world she inhabits is called Neverland, but it’s nothing like the Neverland you’ve heard about in stories. Here, good and evil lose their meaning and memories slip like water through your fingers. As Gwen struggles to remember where she came from and tries to find a way home, she must choose between trusting the charming fairy-tale hero who says all the right things and the captivating pirate who promises to keep her safe.
Caught in the ultimate battle between good and evil, with time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to finally face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But can she save Neverland without losing herself?
Review of Unhooked
Unhooked is a standalone novel by author Lisa Maxwell. I will admit to being intrigued by all the unique and fresh re-imaginings of the more popular fairy tales. Peter Pan has always been a favorite of mine; so, when I saw this book sitting on the shelf of Books-a-Million in Portland, Maine, I just had to check it out. There were quite a few things about this novel that piqued my interest- first, the brooding, seafaring Captain Hook. Unhooked’s captain is nothing like the one in Disney’s animated Peter Pan, or is he anything like Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal in the 1991 film Hook. This Captain doesn’t sport a long, curly wig or sport an obnoxious handlebar mustache- the only thing he sports is a wicked hook, a brooding disposition, and looks that tempt a girl to never want to leave Neverland, despite how dark and ominous this version of the land is.
The second thing that caught my interest was Neverland itself. Lisa Maxwell’s description of this whimsical world is imaginative, that you almost feel like you’re there with the characters. The mermaids in this tale were blood-thirsty and frightening, the fairies weren’t glittery and sweet-they were tricksters whose skills were more aligned with manipulation and deceit. The lost boys weren’t young boys who longed for a mother- Nope. They operate solely on mayhem and violence. They are more apt to terrorize someone’s mother than to ask to be read to and tucked in at night. Even the land itself is dangerous. With it constantly shifting and changing, you could end up being the victim of a harrowing survival tale, rather than the heroine of a dashing adventure. Finally, Peter Pan himself is a character worth noting- This Peter isn’t the fun-loving, brave hero that we were introduced to in “Peter Pan” or “Hook”. This guy might be considered handsome and charming- but he’s as bad as the Fae that I described above.
The heroine of the novel, Gwendolyn “Gwen” Allister describes a strained relationship with her mother because she feels her Mom’s ramblings about monsters is ruining their lives. After all, they have just moved to London in the beginning of the story to escape them. Luckily, Gwen gets to bring her best friend Olivia along to help her get settled in to her new home. We begin detecting something “off” in the beginning of the story by the situation with the lantern Gwen is told to keep on in her room, and Gwen’s strange encounter with a beautiful, albeit ominous, woman (Unhooked’s creepy version of Tinker Bell). My suspicion that this story was heading toward a more dark re-telling was confirmed when Gwen and Olivia are snatched from their room in the night by monstrous creatures and swept away to Neverland, where Gwen nearly drowns.
This retelling of Peter Pan is brilliant! The characters are three dimensional, the imagery and descriptions were extraordinary, the romance was tantalizing, and the story developed perfectly. I found myself chuckling at a few parts, fanning myself after a few encounters with Gwen and Hook, and anxiously gripping the book during the more tense, bone-chilling moments. Unhooked is the perfect blend of adventure, mystery, horror, and romance.
If you’re looking to be swept away into another world, pick up (or download) your copy of Unhooked today!