Illness lay me low last week, so I am still reading ‘Into the Crooked Place’ by Alexandra Christo, and I’ve decided to split my reviews for that and ‘To Kill a Kingdom’ which I finished over the weekend. In addition, I also read ‘Where I Left My Soul’ by Jérôme Ferrari (4*), which was ‘beautifully written, and incredibly powerful. The entire book was incredibly thought-provoking, and some parts will stay with me for a long time. This was a book I’d picked up on a whim, and I am delighted that I did. I’ve also just purchased ‘The Eye of the World’ by Robert Jordan, so I will be giving the Wheel of Time a try for the first time after having it recommended to me several times.
In other book news, there are two announcements that I was excited about over the past week. First was the cover revealand opening of pre-orders for Sarah’s Chorn’s second novel ‘Of Honey and Wildfires’ – it looks beautiful, and I am love with her writing so I pre-ordered immediately and I am now counting the days until it is released. ‘Seraphina’s Lament’, her first novel, remains firmly at the top of my favourites list, and I can’t recommend it highly enough, and while this new book is in a different world, I am just as excited for it. This week also saw the announcement of a new trilogy from Anna Stephens, who is the author of the Godblind Trilogy, which is wonderfully dark and one of my favourite series of all time. Again, this is a new world, and I am excited to see what it will bring.
As a ‘valentine’s’ gift to myself, I have been to the bookshop to pre-order a bunch of books this week, all some of my most anticipated reads for this year: ‘The Empire of Gold’ by S.A. Chakraborty, ‘The Black Song’ by Anthony Ryan, ‘The Burning God’ by R.F.Kuang, ‘The Stone Knife’ by Anna Stephens, ‘The Court of Miracles’ by Kester Grant.
In other more personal news, I am aiming for releasing my first novella at the end of May – so there will be some more news and sneak peeks about that over the next few months, so stay tuned (I am both excited and terrified, and it is the most wonderful, nauseating feeling… and I still hate editing).
So, on to the review:
It’s been a while since I read modern YA (I often reread ones that I grew up with, and there is a comfort in that), and I could tell that influenced some of my views while reading this. However, what a reintroduction to YA. I first discovered this book at MCM, and after attending a panel featuring the author, I certainly wanted to read it, and I wasn’t disappointed. Now, I am not a huge reader of romance – and I would typically avoid it, and I would have missed out.
Firstly, on a purely aesthetic note, I absolutely adore the cover, and I feel as though I would have looked at it in any bookshop, let alone when it was right in front of me at a con. It has a simplicity while being incredibly eye-catching (and I would say much the same for ‘Into the Crooked Place’s cover).
It is a darker YA fantasy, although there was plenty of humour to offset that. And it provides an interesting take of Sirens and Merpeople and their relationship with each other and humans (I adored the encounter with the mermaids in Pirates of the Caribbean, so I was always going to enjoy this), with an added dash of Pirates. However, even here, this book took an interesting approach because these weren’t Pirates focused on treasure and raiding, but on hunting sirens – and the crew was a family. It would have been nice to get to see more interactions with the broader crew, but the members that we did get to see were bound by more than just their goal – and I wound out rooting for all of them so that even when I disagreed with them or thought they were being a bit obstinate at points, I didn’t stop caring.
‘A Princess must have her Prince.’
Elian is a fascinating character and probably my favourite in the entire book, and I particularly enjoyed the exploration of his thoughts and feelings about the life he was making for himself and the life that he was expected to follow. Most of us can empathise with the weight of expectations vs reality, and it made him a character that I could understand and root for – that he also wasn’t a classic ‘Prince’ or even ‘Pirate’ only added to his depth, and I enjoyed his interactions with the different people (both in terms of closeness, rank etc.) around him. On the other hand, Lira, it took me a while to warm to, although again the exploration of her questions about her role and what she wanted was what drew me in. However, while Elian remained my favourite throughout, by the end, I was rooting for.
There were some places where I felt it was a little rushed getting from a-b, but I am mostly putting that down to the fact that I am used to reading epic fantasy that has the space to explore specific aspects in much greater detail than YA which is much shorter. That is a minor grumble though because even in those places, it worked for the story that was being told, and I didn’t lose the thread of the story. It wasn’t flawless, but it was fun – pirates and sirens, who could ask for more?
Similarly, the world-building was a little simpler than what I would usually look for. However, I really enjoyed the world, and would happily read more set in this world. Págos, in particular, intrigued me, especially with the mythology, and the way that the Royal Family used that same mythology to maintain their reputation – an intelligent solution, that was completely different when the topic of the Cloud Mountain and how to survive it had first risen.
The reason I couldn’t give it that fifth star was that there were a couple of moments – such as Lira’s reveal – that was a little rushed, to the point where the emotional impact that should have occurred was off-kilter. The reactions, which had been built up to throughout the rest of the book and everything we knew about Elian and the other characters, were muted and it meant that the scenes that followed felt a little lacking.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone with a love for sirens/ocean mythology, and who are wanting to venture into YA and want a story with characters that exist beyond the romance. And I am very much looking forward to reading the rest of ‘Into the Crooked Place’ and any further books from the author.
To Kill a Kingdom – Alexandra Cristo (Hot Key Books, 2018) **** (4/5 Stars)
(You can order the book HERE)
If you’ve read it or read in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book. Or if you have any recommendations for similar books, please shoot them my way.