Princess Lira is siren royalty and has been conditioned by her mother, the Sea Queen, to be ruthless and is revered across the sea. But when she kills one of her own, she is punished and transformed into a siren’s hated enemy–a human. Without song, she must deliver siren hunter and prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen to regain her standing.
Prince Elian loves the sea more so than his kingdom, and although siren hunting is unsavory, it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the sea, she has more than meets the eye and promises to help him end sirenkind for good. But Prince Elian doesn’t know if he can trust her.
I was so excited for this one and was absolutely thrilled to be approved for it. After seeing all the glowing reviews and reading the summary and falling in love with the premise, I was ready for some vicious siren human relations and a The Little Mermaid retelling.
But I’m in the minority here, and this one just didn’t really float my boat across the high seas. It just kind of stayed docked at shore for the whole journey.
I enjoyed the plot and premise a lot, but I had some issues with the story that detracted from the reading experience and made it unenjoyable, especially during the first part.
In the beginning, around the first 100 pages, the writing style just felt so awkward to me. I know a lot of people didn’t mind this (see: all the amazing, raving reviews), but there were elements to the writing style that made the narrative feel kind of forced and took away from the passion and intensity as well as the storyline and characters.
I got used to it as I read on, but it felt almost stilted and I don’t know if I just managed to adjust to the narrative flow or something changed with the writing style as I read further on.
The narrative got really weird sometimes near the dialogue. It’s hard to pinpoint the problem sometimes, but it felt like what happens before and after a piece or a couple of pieces of dialogue doesn’t always line up cleanly or was foreshadowed at the beginning of the line.
For instance, in a scene where the prince and his crew are interrogating someone for information about the sirens, the dialogue begins with him questioning the man, and then it ends with everyone laughing, but it felt like there was no transition between the two moments–there wasn’t really any signal that the prince was amused. There wasn’t enough mixture between the narrator stating what’s happening, describing things, and personally analyzing them, and so I felt like these elements of the narrative were kind of separated.
This might be a little confusing to understand, but a lot of the time it’s either description with a tiny relation on how the character “likes this” or “has some relation to that” or it’s personal angsting about their morally grey areas–there wasn’t really an overlap between the different “types” of narration by the character. It felt like it was kind of divided between “description/exposition,” “stating of what’s happening,” and “analyzing what’s happening.”
It didn’t feel genuine to me.
Obviously, a lot of other readers didn’t have a problem with this so I feel like this is just a uniquely me issue, or maybe everyone is able to ignore it? I just feel like the way the story was told didn’t balance description and personal musings/angst well enough and it felt a little forced to me.
Or, maybe it was just the fact that it was told in present tense. The present tense and I have a long, disastrous history. There have been tons of stories that I totally enjoyed present tense, while there are others where it just affected the narrative style for me and I ended up not liking the book mostly based on the tense. The most similar example for this is Spindle Fire where the tense hindered the story and made the narrative stilted for me.
I definitely ended up noticing the present tense throughout the whole story, despite the fact that I wanted to enjoy the story, not recognize the tense the whole time. It got better and the dialogue issue smoothed over, but I don’t really know what happened during those first pages that made the writing so unenjoyable for me.
The other critique I have, and this applies to the whole novel, is that it’s confusing trying to distinguish between who’s who in each chapter because their voices are so similar.
There’s no label like “Elian” or “Lira” and not only did this contribute to me forgetting the character’s names (something that unfortunately happens often with me and first person), but it also made it confusing because there was no pattern to the changes in POV except that they switched with every chapter.
It’s just that their voices were so similar, especially how they were in this morally grey area, that it took at least a couple of paragraphs to tell who’s who, making it a little confusing if you read fast.
But after those first 100 pages, I ended up getting a lot more into the story. The plot is fun and it’s very much a journey/adventure, which I always love reading. I also didn’t really mind the characters and their internal conflicts–although I might have wanted it to be different execution-wise, I enjoyed reading about them as people and the conflicts they possessed.
It was also paced well and it never really lagged, although the beginning took a little bit to get to the juicy parts and the action.
There could be a lot of reasons why I didn’t enjoy the writing style, but it ended up being not the book for me in this aspect and it detracted from the reading experience for me.
That’s not to say that others won’t like it, and after reading all the reviews, I know a lot of people really did enjoy this. I’d say give it a shot because there’s a good chance you’ll end up being part of the majority.
I think, after comparing my experience to others, that if this story appeals to you, you should definitely give it a shot. It just came off as a little funky to me, and that might just be because I’m not as compatible with Christo’s writing styles as other people are (i.e. how I had lots of trouble with Zora Neale Hurston but grew to love her writing).
My experience with this book is one of many and although I didn’t enjoy it as much as other people have, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a good book.
Thank you so much to Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan and Netgalley for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review!
Have you read To Kill a Kingdom? Are you considering reading it?