Riding the waves in his mighty ship, the Saad, his Royal Highness Sir Elian Midas has left his kingdom for a life at sea, the only place where he feels he truly belongs, his trusty crew at his side, Madrid, Kye and Torik, loyal, fierce, occasionally unruly and frequently disrespectful to the heir to the throne, which is just the way he likes it as they hunt down the sirens who have blighted the ocean.
Deep below, the Princess Lira sings a very different song; daughter of the vengeful Sea Queen, a tyrant whose time is coming to an end, once a siren herself but now transformed as is the burden of the throne, a tentacled regent who has become known as the Sea Witch, a mother as cold as the waters of the Diávolos Sea.
The war between the two realms having been fought for centuries, the sirens lure sailors to their deaths, claiming their hearts as prizes from which they draw their magical strength, but pushed by the unyielding hatred of her mother Lira has a special fondness for the hearts of princes, and as her birthday draws near so she will draw another heir to the water’s edge for a final embrace.
The debut novel of Alexandra Christo, To Kill A Kingdom is a tale of two worlds colliding in the crashing of the waves, the characters drawn vividly but broadly: Elian, a man of the people who longs for the freedom of the waves rather than the stifling palaces of responsibility and who is granted great leeway by his supportive father King Radames, Lira counting the days until tradition holds her mother should abdicate but knowing she will continue her bloody reign.
Told in short, punctuated phrases, the lives of the two contrasting royals are tied together across the oceans, from the high seas to the high altitudes of the land of the Cloud Mountain in the land of Págos, rumoured to hold the Crystal of Keto, the mythical weapon with which the rule of the Sea Witch can be broken, both Lira and Elian seeking it for their own purposes.
A world where magic and technology co-exist, with stories told of distant Efévresi, land of invention, they are as unlikely companions as Lira and Elian, but as she learns honour, loyalty and the true meaning of family on the deck of the Saad there is no reciprocity, his inevitable drift towards her unexplained; is it because she is a mystery, because she is irresistable, or simply because the nature of such books demands that it happens?
It is perhaps unfair to accuse what is ostensibly a fairy tale to be set in a world which never feels real, but even by the standards of young adult fiction To Kill A Kingdom feels unsophisticated with too little to distinguish the personalities of the crew, given bold physical characteristics but all speaking with the same voice as they switch between sarcasm and flirting, while the Sea Witch is quite literally a Disney villain in appearance and temperament, specifically Ursula of The Little Mermaid.
Lacking sufficient twists, excitement or depth to truly engage the reader before arriving at an overblown finale full of sound and incongruous pyrotechnic fury stretched over seven indulgent chapters, To Kill A Kingdom is an adequate effort, passing the time without grating or causing offence, but nor is it particularly unique, unremarkable flotsam in an already crowded and competitive sea.
To Kill A Kingdom is available from 6th March from Hot Key Books