What books would you rate a solid four stars? To Kill a Kingdom was a good book. But not the best. A solid twist on the story of the Little Mermaid. But not perfect. The characters were well-done. But not without flaw. The world-building was okay. But it wasn't amazing.
If we lived in a world where all books were solidly average books, I wouldn't be disappointed. There are plenty of average books out there with excellent storylines and good characters I could enjoy again and again. They aren't perfect. They don't measure up to many of the books out there. But they are the solid foundation upon which most of our libraries are formed. After all, not all books are The Lunar Chronicles, the Grishaverse books, or Serpent and Dove.
I did love the concept of To Kill a Kingdom. The Little Mermaid is a classic enemies-to-lovers story waiting to be written. In the original, when the mermaid cannot get the heart of the prince, she is given an enchanted blade. Since she doesn't kill the prince, she is turned to seafoam. Pair this ending with the myths and legends across continents and time about sirens drowning sailors and you have a great story.
What if the Little Mermaid always intended to kill the prince. But he won her heart?
If To Kill a Kingdom were one of the Twisted Tales, this would be the question I'd expect to see on the cover. In the book, Lira is the next in line for the throne of the sea kingdom (and not the youngest princess). She kills princes for fun and saves their hearts for power. But one day, she kills someone she's not supposed to and the Queen punishes her by binding her to the legs of a human. She must kill the Prince before her time runs out or else. It is only when he saves her and, grudgingly, lets her join his journey, that she sees the fault in her plan and recognizes that there might be a better option. One that might even save her newfound friend.
I did really enjoy the twisted fairytale portion of To Kill a Kingdom. Christo has deceased mermaids turn to seafoam, has the princess after the prince's literal heart (instead of his love), and maintains an evil sea witch (though, in this case, it's Lira's mother). Her book is linked to the original tale in plenty of ways which makes it a fun read. There isn't the same depth of weaving as in Little Thieves and The Lunar Chronicles. Where Owen and Meyer sneak in tidbits that are reminders of their tales at every turn, Christo's tale is more blatantly that of the Little Mermaid and her smaller references to the story are less common.
I am also a sucker for the enemies-to-lovers trope. If you weren't tipped off by the fact that I'm editing an enemies-to-lovers story (which I'm about to start querying again), I'll tell you outright: this is my favorite trope. It can be overdone or done terribly wrong. But when two people who are right for one another start off in situations where they can't be together, deny their growing feelings for one another, and then finally fall for one another, I can't help but fall for the romantic plot. Christo moved the romance at an even pace that worked for me. It wasn't too fast or too slow. I wasn't killing myself to have the two kiss. Nor was I questioning why they were kissing when a second before they'd been at each other's throats. She did a good job of the end reveal (I'm not who I said I was) and the forgiveness that inevitably comes afterward.
Overall, though Christo's story wasn't the BEST I've ever read, it wasn't missing anything or doing anything wrong either. It was a good story with all the necessary elements. If you are looking for a quick and easy read and enjoy fairytale twists, I'd suggest picking this one up!