Author: Alexandra Christo
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: 6 March 2018
I have a heart for every year I've been alive.
There are seventeen hidden in the sand of my bedroom. Every so often, I claw through the shingle just to check they 're still there. Buried deep and bloody.
Princess Lira is siren royalty and revered across the sea until she is cursed into humanity by the ruthless Sea Queen. Now Lira must deliver the heart of the infamous siren killer or remain a human forever.
Prince Elian is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world, and captain to a deadly crew of siren hunters. When he rescues a drowning woman from the ocean, she promised to help him destroy sirenkind for good. But he had no way of knowing whether he can trust her...
I was kindly sent a copy of this book for review from Allen & Unwin in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
A spin on the tale of The Little Mermaid, minus the singing animals and mermaids in fact...
Lira, a siren and heir to the throne of the Sea Queen, steals the heart of a human prince every year for her birthday - it's how she gained the name The Prince's Bane. But while helping her younger cousin secure her sixteenth heart, Lira steals a heart two weeks before her birthday. Her mother, the ruthless Sea Queen, is not pleased and punishes her - if she's truly The Prince's Bane, Lira should be able to steal the heart of a prince as a human. Transformed into a human, she is found in the middle of the sea by Prince Elian, heir to the Midas throne and also a pirate, sailing the seas killing sirens with his crew on the Saad. Elian is on the search for an ancient crystal that is said to have the power to kill the Sea Queen and make all her sirens weak. He's intrigued by Lira, but also very cautious, but when she offers to help him find the crystal and shares knowledge about the siren's, Elian can't just let her slip through his fingers. Neither truly trusts one another, but they need one another if they want to survive.
What an absolutely fantastic read! Told in alternating perspectives, I was instantly hooked once we were introduced to our two main characters, who both have intriguing stories that soon become very intertwined. Both a very strong characters who have secrets they keep close and are a lot more similar to one another than they truly realise - the weight of a kingdom on their shoulders that they don't necessarily want. Throughout the story, you can see how their world perspective changes, particularly that of Lira.
Naturally, there is a romance bubbling under the surface, but it was slow-burning and one you could only just see developing - none of this 'insta-love' the moment characters sets their eyes on one another. Romance is not the central part of this novel, so don't worry about this being a soppy love story - we are following a bunch of misfit pirates after all, and there's a few battle scenes that'll have you on the edge of your seat and cheering for our pirate crew.
While you can see where The Little Mermaid has influenced the story, Alexandra takes the inspiration and turns it into a story that holds it's own, which was really great to read. The inspiration/retelling is only the surface of this story - there's so much happening in this world that you aren't expecting until it's happening. I think my favourite connection to the original tale (and by original, I mean the Disney version), is the Sea Queen who is meant to be Ursula - she's an infuriating villain that you naturally hate but love the drama she causes. I definitely thought/said a few choice words whenever she made an appearance!
The world that this story takes place in is vast and very intriguing. It's a world of one hundred kingdoms, and one hundred royal families, who all have their own special attributes. While we only get to see a very small section of this magical world, what we got to see was so enjoyable to read about - I desperately want another book set in this world so we can learn more about some of the other kingdoms and their backstories!
The only thing that I can really fault this book on is it's ending. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with the ending at all - it was actually a good ending - it was just not where I wanted it to end, not that I'm really sure what I wanted in the end anyway. I think it's also because I wanted so much more of this story and wasn't ready to close the book - I really wish this wasn't a standalone! I'd love to have another story set in this world, following some of the crew of the Saad, who were all interesting characters that I'd love to know more about.
If you're looking for a new retelling to read, I really recommend this one - it's such an intriguing take on take on The Little Mermaid and you'll be left wanting more. This is Alexandra's debut novel and she's definitely made a splash in the world of YA - I for one can't wait to see what she brings out next!