Well guys. We’re back at it again. (The compulsion for me to make a devastatingly outdated Damn Daniel reference was almost insurmountable. But, with a heroic amount of strength, I resisted. You’re welcome.)
As we all know, I hate many a book. (2.96 average rating — yes, it dropped! — on Goodreads, tons of one star ratings, etc etc, we’ve heard it all before.) I also read a lot of — dare I say “mostly” — popular YA stuff. You know, the stuff I hear about from blogging and Goodreads and Bookstagram.
Basically what I’m saying is I read the books my friends really like and then I hate them.
Here are some examples.
More unpopular opinions -> here
Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza—but who knows what they’ll find seven months after the invasion?
Meanwhile, Kady’s cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza’s ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys—an old flame from Asha’s past—reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.
With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heroes will fall, and hearts will be broken.
Don’t get me wrong, I see the appeal. Space battle. Romance. Unique formatting but it’s like 700 pages long so you feel accomplished. The occasional joke. What’s not to love?
Except for all the things there are not to love about it, and also that all three books are exactly the same, following the exact same plotline and just throwing a couple more characters in for flair, like if the Lunar Chronicles followed the same arc every time but for some reason an ever-growing cast of kids with fairytale-y names were along for the ride.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t well and truly call these books out for being the exact same thing every time. Here’s Illuminae AND Gemina AND Obsidio in one go:
- ragtag group of space citizens is ruthlessly attacked by corporate greed
- there are some teens there
- the teens are funny and edgy and heterosexual
- two of these unrelentingly straight teens should not be together, because they probably have been together previously or otherwise one has been sexually harassing the other (shoutout to Nik!)
- they will be together though, and flirt a lot in order to cruelly detract from the book’s waning entertainment value
- the teens must do CRAZY, ORIGINAL stuff, like crawl through ventilation ducts and brush with death
- like wow guys seriously they are really close to dying!! one of them is even shot, maybe. someone is definitely seriously injured
- this makes people realize they are in love with each other! cool.
- insert chat logs with the same banter structure here x 1000
- insert summaries of surveillance footage with quirky jokes and physical descriptions x 2000
- someone else gets shot at. more almost-death
- wow they narrowly saved everyone, or at least a good chunk of everyone, against all the odds and using a complicated pseudo-science principle
- the teens win!!! until next time, corporate greed!!!
Boom. That’s the series. If you ever felt like reading it, gauge your interest based on the spot-on synopsis I just wrote – but be advised my wit and charm is NOT included.
I didn’t LOVE either Illuminae or Gemina, but Obsidio felt like an especially weak installment to me. As mentioned, each book in the series takes it upon itself to bring on another quirky-in-the-exact-same-way-as-every-other-character Heterosexual Duo, who will take it upon themselves to fall in love over the course of 700 pages of chat logs and confidential documents.
In the first book, this was Kady and Ezra. In the second, it was Hanna and Nik. (I’m not checking names or spelling but god I think these are right. Tragically stuck in the ol’ memory. Why do I retain what I retain?)
I didn’t really care for any of them, but when do I care for anyone? (Too real?) Basically, these characters were meh to me, but they felt like characters at least.
Can’t say the same for this book!
This book gives us Asha and Rhys. (I did have to look up those names, because those two lovebirds left zero impression in my brain.) Asha and Rhys are exes – and if you’re saying, wait, weren’t Ezra and Kady in Illuminae exes? Isn’t that their whole thing? The answer is yes! This book didn’t even try to distinguish itself!
Both of these two, but especially Rhys, have all of the characterization and boisterous personality of a saltine cracker. And absolutely none of the delicious yet affordable snacking appeal.
Also – and I hate to say it – doesn’t the name Rhys just need to be retired from YA? Say what you will about the A Court of Thorns and Roses series – and I’ve sure said a lot – but that name has one association and one association only. Hang the jersey from the ceiling of the stadium and retire the number my dear boy.
Yes, I know sports. I’m overwhelmingly multifaceted.
Which leads us back into this formulaic, characterization-less bummer of a finale. (Because it is not at all multifaceted.) (Sorry if that was hard to follow – it’s 2:23 a.m. and now I’m mostly thinking about saltines.)
More complaining to be done.
The nicest thing I can say about this book is that it was exciting throughout, and I can only say that because past-me kindly wrote it down as one of exactly six bullet point notes on the subject of this review. Thanks for looking out, future me. I would not have remembered this book as exciting.
Anyway, it’s allegedly exciting throughout, but…a few of the major plot points are solved wildly quickly? Like, so quickly I expected something to go wrong and then omg actually the major plot-deciding issue is even WORSE now will we ever be able to pull this off??
But it wasn’t that. It was just boring.
One of my other notes is the extremely helpful and detailed “sexism.” That’s all it says. Luckily, some of these moments are seared into my memory! Moments when characters are crowded around card games and laughingly gossiping about their hyper-misognystic conquests.
How sweet. How very modern and 2018 and YA-pretending-to-be-inclusive-and-progressive!
Bottom line: I wish I liked this book, just like I wish I liked this series. But I just don’t see much to like.
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 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?
I am proposing a new law: Books that are not good should not be allowed to have really good opening lines. Because then I open them in Barnes & Noble and am like “wow I should buy this” and then I do (except not immediately because I don’t have B&N levels of money honey) and then I’m disappointed and I hate it and it’s honestly bad for all of us.
This law is for the good of the people, you know?
LISTEN TO THIS OPENING LINE YOU GUYS. And by listen to I of course mean read. But like, come on: “I have a heart for every year I’ve been alive.”
Tell me that doesn’t seem like the rest of the hundreds of pages that follow it should be good!! Tell me! You’d be wrong. It seems like they should be good and yet they aren’t and that is an injustice so massive I will dedicate the rest of my life to getting legislation on the books that will prevent it from ever happening again.
Hahahaha. “Legislation on the books.” Get it? Like that’s what you say about passing legislation successfully, but also it would be legislation on books? God I’m funny.
But let’s talk synopsis. To Kill a Kingdom is (allegedly) a high fantasy about this gal Lira. Lira’s a siren – the princess of the sirens. Sirens RIP the HEARTS out of dudes!! Pretty rad stuff, violent af, we love it. Lira is especially badass, and she ONLY steals the hearts of princes. F*ck the system, girl, I get it. Take down the patriarchy/our capitalist oppressors/etc etc. I’m still into it.
Here’s where you lose me.
This is a Little Mermaid retelling (okay actually still rad) in which Lira is given human legs because she takes a heart without it being her birthday (she can only take a heart for every year yadda yadda) and her mom (the queen, a Very Bad Lady) says oh you think you’re so tough??? Okay. Get me the heart of an Extra Special Prince – the Siren Killer.
Dun dun dun!
This might sound good, unless you’re like me and cynical and well-versed in YA and you know what that actually means. Because if you guessed “Lira will now participate in a not-so-slow burn but absolutely teeming with sh*tty banter romance with the Siren Killer himself, Elian,” you’re today’s lucky winner! Congratulations. Your prize is universal suffering.
This should have been violence and revenge and piracy and maybe some cool monarchical world-building if there’s time. Instead, it was boring and romance and boring and terrible banter and boring and confusing info dumps and boring and weird flat writing and oh my god you guys this book was so f*cking BORING!!!
I hated this book!!! It’s been so long since I’ve read garbage YA fantasy that I almost forgot why I don’t read YA fantasy like ever!!! Contemporaries can be worse than fantasy could ever be but they are never so horrible to read.
Like, let’s talk about the basic requirements of high fantasy that this book does not even BEGIN to satisfy. For one, language??? It’s not that hard to not use slang!! And like I’m SO sorry but when you’re pretending you’re writing high fantasy while using the word “okay” it doesn’t work for me again I’m SO sorry.
And if you’re going to write a standalone about a world with one hundred separate island kingdoms and do this bad of a job worldbuilding, honestly please at least give me a map so I can gaze lovingly at it and pretend to enjoy it. This world could have been so cool but we get basically zero geographical or historical or general information, just weird random details about specific island-nations, and I’m quite seriously sick of it!!!
I hated the romance. It was mostly banter that was just uniquely terrible, really just a whole new level of unfunny and bad but with characters being like “Wow…she is very funny…I quite like her…ha ha dare I say she is one of the gang…lol you may have met your match, dear sir…sounds like someone else I know…ha ha ha, I kid, oh yes, we have fun, lmao.”
Also as established, the language is like one step above using text abbreviations anyway.
Anyway once we get past the banter stage of the romance, we jump straight into “icky gross touchy feely lovey dovey I hate it get it away from me.” And then betrayal, and then more of that again! It’s painful in a hundred different ways and it never gets better.
Part of this is because THE CHARACTERS ARE AWFUL!!! Lira is nowhere near the cool violent siren I EXPECTED and DESERVED. She’s just mean and prissy and thinks she’s really funny and badass but god she is not at all. A lot like another red-haired fishy nemesis of mine.
And Elian is just…boring. The siren song of the YA male love interest. A real poor little rich boy type situation. SO SORRY YOU MIGHT HAVE TO RULE OVER AN ISLAND MADE OF GOLD, ASSHOLE. WE WEEP FOR YOUR SUFFERING, WE REALLY DO.
Speaking of boring, this sh*t had absolutely no right to be and yet here we are. This is the most boring book in the history of ever. I don’t get it! The world-building was god awful, half the characters were flat, there was no setup or explanation or exposition of any kind, and yet NOTHING HAPPENS IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE BOOK. I got halfway through and thought I was only a fraction of the way in! Nope, just bad writing!
How do you pitch a violent siren/pirate high fantasy YA retelling of the Little Mermaid and somehow make it boring? That’s almost so awful it turns in on itself and becomes impressive.
Plus this wasn’t violence-y anyway. It was just “““character development.””” Elian spends half the book crying about how it’s so mean of him to kill sirens (they’re only killing his people for no reason, guys!) and Lira spends half the book thinking about how it’s too mean of her to kill someone as
sexy great as Elian even though she should be planning that grand revenge plot on her mom she swears is happening and will def involve murder for sure.
We get no violence. We get pondering and crying and more pondering and the ultimate condemnation of violence and it is a hundred thousand million times worse than if this were a straightforward Little Mermaid retelling with no violence at all.
Bottom line: Boring. Bad characters. Bad romance. Bad world-building. Weird bad writing. Bad, inaccurate synopsis. Boring boring boring, bad bad bad.