To Kill a Kingdomby Alexandra Christo Published 06 Mar 2018
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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?
"To Kill a Kingdom" Reviews
Meet our two main characters--
Lira: In one move, I plunge my fist into the prince’s chest and pull out his heart.
Elian: Technically, I’m a murderer, but I like to think that’s one of my better qualities.
That should give you a sense of what to expect. To Kill a Kingdom is a pretty dark fantasy for YA and it tells a compelling, vicious story without falling into all the usual tropes. I was pleasantly surprised.
Lira is a siren princess, daughter of the Sea Queen, and known amongst humans as Princes' Bane - because of all the princes whose hearts she has ripped from their chests. I mean it literally; not talking romantics here. When she disobeys her mother, the Sea Queen punishes Lira by turning her into a human. Floating out on the sea with her new pair of legs, Lira is picked up by Prince Elian's ship.
Elian is a siren killer and adventurer. He does not want to be bound to the throne he is set to inherit. What he wants more than anything is to put a stop to the Princes' Bane. When it seems like an old fairy tale might hold the secret to finding the Crystal of Keto - and putting a stop to the Sea Queen and her sirens forever - Elian sets out on a perilous journey to uncover it.
These two unlikely companions are thrown together by their strange circumstances. Each wants to kill the other but only Lira is aware of both of their identities. I really enjoyed the developing relationship between them that grew through sarcasm-laced banter. Both are somewhat morally questionable and Lira is a murderous anti-heroine bordering on straight-up villain. There's also a band of lovable and funny secondary characters onboard ship.
“That’s the thing about risks,” Kye says. “it’s impossible to know which ones are worth it until it’s too late.”
A romance grows but it is extremely slow burn. I would not recommend this book for readers who like their fantasy heavy on the romance. And, despite the obvious parallels that can be drawn with The Little Mermaid (Lira loses her siren song instead of her voice), I wouldn't recommend this for those looking for a retelling either. It's very different, and this "mermaid" definitely doesn't want to be human and bag a prince - unless by that you mean killing him. This prince is far more badass, too.
There's lots I like here: anti-heroines, slow-burn romance, fairy tales that contain prophecies, fun banter and strong friendships. I only hope I don't get burned out on this influx of sea fantasies after I read my arcs of Sea Witch and These Rebel Waves.
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Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh.
I am just sitting here in shock and full of feels and alskfjal;skdjfa;lksjf GO ORDER THIS BOOK RIGHT NOW. How am I supposed to write a coherent review? Gah!
So if you haven't seen the description, this is somewhat of a little mermaid retelling, except there are lots of creatives spins that pull from other folklore as well! (For example, Midas ;))
Lira is a siren known as the 'Prince's Bane' - and she's infamous for killing princes. Yep, that's what she does. She rips out their hearts. Not to mention, she's the daughter of the mighty Sea Queen who is pretty much terrible all around. She's Ursula if Ursula was chewed up, spit out by the devil himself (but still manages to be attractive). Poor Lira's upbringing, and the reason she is a killer, is actually horribly sad.
Annnyyywayyy, Lira is unashamedly brutal and hunts with vicious intent.
Elian is a prince whos pastime is piracy. Yep, you heard me. We have a pirate prince on our hands, ladies and gentlemen. Nikolai Lantsov, meet your brother from another mother. Anyway, Elian is hilariously sassy and all around amazing. But why does he patrol the seas, you ask?
He hunts sirens. And he kills a great deal of them.
So we have a prince killer and a siren killer - the makings of a perfectly delicious story.
Anyway, after an event that royally pisses of the Sea Queen, she changes Lira into a human as punishment and orders her to go kill the siren-killer prince (but without her siren powers.) Elian finds Lira, who looks like an ordinary girl at this point, conveniently drowning in the ocean. But instead of trying to kill him right off the bat, Lira has another idea - and decides to stick around for a while.
That's all I'm going to say.
Here's what you need to know:
Elian is everything. His crew is everything. The WRITING is everything. (Seriously, all aspiring authors need to read this and revel in its beauty. I have SO MANY LINES highlighted.) There is romance, banter, pirates, action, drama, adventure, strong character arcs, and lots of fun kingdoms. I don't want to spoil anything else. Just read it.
Alexandra is a master of creative writing, character, and storytelling. I honestly loved every bit of this book, and you can bet I'll be shoving it at everyone I know.
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Dark, seductive and oh so beautiful.
Dark as a stormy night.
Seductive as the call of a siren.
Beautiful like the bluest sea.
I marvel at how wonderful most of the 2018 YA releases have been. Even though the time I dedicate to reading is far less than what my heart desires (thank you adult life, really), discovering books that sing their melodies to my soul and enchant me to oblivion is a fair compensation. Reading To Kill a Kingdom was last week's highlight. A blessing. It was a retelling of the Little Mermaid made of foam, blood and stars. So, I simply devoured it.
“I’ ve made a mistake. It started with a prince, as most stories do.”
But Elian is not a prince like the others. He's a pirate at heart, and the only place he feels at home is the ocean and his war ship. His kingdom and his responsibilities suffocate him, and so he roams the seas, hunting sirens and making the seas a safer place. Lira, on the other hand, is the daughter of the Sea Queen, known as the Prince's Bane. Each year she harvests a prince's heart on her birthday, as a way to prove her ruthlessness to her cruel mother and secure the loyalty of her future subjects. Monstrous and inhumanly beautiful, the sirens only exist for power, and every other feeling is considered weakness. Until the Prince's Bane and the Siren Hunter cross paths. An unpredictable turn of events brings the Sea Queen's wrath upon Lira, and she ends up exiled, having two legs instead of a tail, and an order to rip the heart out of Elian's still warm body. Elian wants to exterminate the sirens and their Queen. Lira wants to take the throne that belongs to her. In order to achieve their goals, the two sworn enemies need each other. Until the final confrontation, that will probably end with one of them dead. Which one, well that is the question.
“So many hearts. You'll soon run out of room to bury them all.”
“Maybe. But a princess must have her prince.”
To Kill a Kingdom is a dark and slightly twisted fairytale. During the first half of the book, I couldn't shake the notion that it's not a typical story about the prince saving the princess, or vice-versa. Lira and Elian were both anti-heroes, two souls who seemed beneath salvation. Lira begins her narration stating nonchalantly that she collects the hearts of princes, while Elian claims that he's a murderer, and that's not his worst trait. Their hands are stained with blood, something they do not crave, but accept nonetheless. But as the story progressed, something cracked inside of them, and thus inside of me. Lira tasted freedom for the first time in her tragic life, she tasted humanity, and compassion she could not comprehend. Elian found himself trusting this venomous girl with the secrets, and somewhere along the way realised that maybe death is not the only way. In the end, I came to the conclusion that no, it was not a story of anti-heroes. It was the story of the forging of two heroes.
“Be the queen we need you to be. ”
I can't pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with To Kill a Kingdom. Maybe it happened during the very first chapter, maybe halfway through. Alexandra Christo has the uncanny ability of bringing characters and objects alike to life. My feelings are like the surface of the sea, calm and then tumultuous, and then peaceful once more. My mind is soaked with images and senses. I can taste licorice in my tongue, and inhale the salty air. I can see the deck of an enormous ship where a siren seethes and turns to foam. Two lonely figures gazing at the stars. A song that speaks of undying love and devotion. Black tentacles scraping skin, and evil laughter that pierces my bones. A sea named after the Devil with the colour of sapphires. Every description was heartbreakingly beautiful, and there was something in the narration that made me feel that I was sitting next to Elian and Lira, listening to their soft voices while the sun burned my skin and the cold water licked my feet. Alexandra Christo's prose was magical, her world-building simple yet full of imagination; her lores were entrancing, and her world pulsated with monsters and monstrous humans, brutality and violence, but also a fiery need to belong, to be the person you want to be instead of the one that was forced on you.
“In my heart, I’m as wild as the ocean that raised me.”
The story of Elian and Lira was pure magic. Two enemies bred in blood, two souls burdened by expectations and invinsible chains, they forged an unwanted alliance, unaware that they would both change in a way they never predicted. There were no flowers and sonnets and love declarations. There were insults, betrayal, lies and deception, that tethered their souls nonetheless. Love didn't make them mushy. It made them strong, and they emerged from their trials better, wiser, more complete.
“He has eyes like vast pools and a jaw made from shipwrecks and broken coral. Every movement he makes is as quick and fluid as a tidal wave. He belongs to the ocean. He is made from it, as much as I am.”
Hearts are at stake in To Kill a Kingdom, a mesmerizing, deeply enthralling story about power, freedom and love. I can't recommend it highly enough!
P.S. My only complaint is technical. Psàriin, the language of sea, is basically Greek. Being my native language, I have to point out that, even though the use of individual words was correct (and I felt really proud because that doesn't happen quite frequently), the sentences had some issues, and to a person speaking Greek they sounded funny. That's all folks!
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ARC provided by Macmillan in exchange for an honest review.
“I’ve made a mistake. It started with a prince, as most stories do. Once I felt the thrum of his heart beneath my fingers, I couldn’t forget it.”
You all, I buddy read this with FOUR of my closest book friends, and we all five starred this amazing story. Please, go treat yourself and preorder this book. Please. Do you like killer sirens? Angsty romance? A+ witty banter? Vivid fighting scenes with mind-blowing imagery? One of the best and strongest protagonists I’ve read about in a long while? And all these things in a standalone? From a debut author? Seriously, we’ve been blessed.
And I can safely say that there is no better feeling than picking up an ARC that is not exceptionally hyped, and that you’re not expecting anything from really, and you come out absolutely loving it. This was perfection and one of the best reading experiences I’ve had all year. I can’t wait for you all to love this book, too, come March 6th.
“I have a heart for every year I’ve been alive.”
This is a magical standalone that surrounds two very different people that are both next in line for two very different crowns:
➽ Lira - AKA: Prince’s Bane, the most feared siren of all time. She has a collection of seventeen royal hearts. She is also the daughter of Sea Queen, who rules the sea kingdom, Diavolos. Yet, the Sea Queen is abusive, a manipulator, a tyrant, and not willing to relinquish her throne anytime soon for Lira.
➽ Elian - AKA: Siren Hunter. He is a royal prince, but also a cutthroat sea captain who sees the world on his ship, The Saad, with his crew. His family rules Midas, the city of gold, and they want nothing more than for him to give up his pirate life and to finally be king. Also, Elian and his entire family are brown-skinned.
“Two kingdoms that come with responsibilities we each have trouble bearing. Him, the shackles of being pinned to one land and one life. Me, trapped in the confines of my mother’s murderous legacy. And the ocean, calling out to us both. A song of freedom and longing.”
In this world, humans fear the sirens that lurk below the water. And under the ocean, sirens are forced to bring back a human heart during the month of their birth and present it for all to see. But our dear Lira has taken to only the hearts of royals. This story is very loosely inspired by The Little Mermaid, therefore, I’m sure you guys can somewhat guess how these two’s paths cross. But after Lira upsets her mother, the Sea Queen wants to find a new way to ridicule and humiliate her, so what better way than to force her to steal the most royal heart of all, but also forcing her to do this task as a human, and while no longer having her siren voice to lure humans towards her.
And what kind of prince in waiting would Elian be if he let this damsel in distress drown in the water? I mean, until he rescues Lira and realizes how much of a damsel in distress she really isn’t. You all, this was some of the best banter I’ve ever read in any book, ever. And you guys know that hate to love romance is the trope that I love more than any other. And this angst? Perfection. These two might honestly end up being my favorite partnership of 2018. From actually laughing out loud, to swooning, to crying, to everything I felt for these two, and all I want is more.
I was astounded by the worldbuilding and how seamlessly it was crafted and presented. Honestly, this entire story’s imagery was so impressive. The last battle was so visually breathtaking, I feel speechless. The last few chapters were perfection, and I feel so honored that I was able to even experience them. Me and Jules both were absolutely astonished by that last battle and how visually pleasing it was to the mind. I honestly could picture this being a movie immediately.
And this book tackles some pretty serious topics, too. We see parental/adult abuse, manipulation, and gaslighting in this book a lot. Kids only want to be loved, especially from their parents, and it takes a lot to realize that sometimes the people who are supposed to protect you and unconditionally love you just blatantly don’t.
“Love is a word we scarcely hear in the ocean. It exists only in my song and on lips of the princes I’ve killed. And I have never heard it from my mother’s mouth.”
And there is such an important and constant theme of how a new generation can change the world. Which is a message that everyone in The United States should be behind right now. As I’m typing this review, high school kids are changing our world, because the baby boomer generation that’s in office currently think it’s more important to protect assault rifles over innocent kid’s lives. Seriously, these teens, who this book is marketed for, won’t be teens for long. They will be voting, they will activists, and they will be changing the damn world for the better. Do you know how powerful it is for them to have books like this? With themes like this? Seriously, this was probably my favorite thing in this book where there was so much to easily love.
This story also beautiful emphasizes the importance of found families. Blood is nothing more than blood. The people who choose to unconditionally love you, support you, protect you, those people are your family. Madrid, Kye, Torik, Kahlia, I fell in love with all of the side characters. And this book beautifully depicts how important it is for you to choose who is worthy of your time and love.
“How strange that instead of taking his heart, I’m hoping he takes mine.”
Overall, this was honestly just a joy to read. The writing was lyrical and beautiful. The world building was fantastic and so impressive, especially for a standalone. The romance was absolutely perfect. Also, my Odyssey loving heart will read any and all books about sirens luring men to their death. I loved being on this adventure and journey alongside Lira and Elian. I absolutely cannot wait to see what Alexandra Christo does next, and this debut novel of hers is one of the best debut novels I’ve ever read.
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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Buddy read with:
🧜♀️ Jules at JA Ironside
🧜♀️ Wren at Fables & Wren
🧜♀️ Lilly at Lair of Books
Everything about this book was a salty swashbuckling GLORY and I loved it. I'm alllll here for pirates and sirens and (dark) Little Mermaid retellings, and this just delivered omg. Plus it was super funny, and if there's something my dark little heart beats faster for: it's people who sass each other to death so lovingly.
(Also, claim to fame 😂, I have been a beta-reader for Allie in the past, so I kneeeew I'd love this and ajfdksald her writing is a masterpiece.)
+ The characters just stole the seawater ahhh I'm so happy!
It's dual narrated by both Elian and Lira. Elian is an anti-prince (like "here is a crown but I don't want it) and Lira is a siren (like "here is a prince what if I ate him"). He's hunting her and she's hunting him, which is obviously the recipe for a perfect romance. And their romance was A++ like this is enemies-to-lovers at its finest! It wasn't rushed or awkward. Seriously such perfect fun to see them go from distrust to distant admiration to snarking at each other to "accidentally" "saving" each other's lives. Like YEAH that's no indication of liking of courseeeee, Lira.
(Lira was in such denial the whole time. So cute.)
I also loved them just as individual characters! Lira is a murderous siren, but also with a soft streak. She takes care of her murder-little-cousin, but she also enjoys the thrill of killing princes. But she totally won my heart too, just by being so complex and compelling. And Elian?! He was the sass pirate of your HEART. I swear. That boy. He was smooth and sassy and absolutely allergic to the idea of being king. Bless him.
+ This makes you truly fall in love with the sea too!
Which is ironic, given that the sea was super deadly but oh well. I love it. I love the descriptions! I could actually see the gorgeous settings, taste the salty sea, and absolutely lose myself in the world. There's plenty of sailing too! And although I KNOW they were all claiming the "pirate" title lol lol Elian you sweetheart. He was a siren killer and really didn't do anything piratey (except for fight with other pirates). But I love pirates. I'll let him have it.
+ Like world building gets a hella yes.
There are SO many different places they went to! Kingdoms and mountains and palaces! It was INCREDIBLY well done too. No getting swamped with mega-long passages of description, yet I could see each setting so clearly. (Plus they were excitingly unique?! With kingdoms of frost and blue-lipped kings, and queendoms of love, with cursed queens on heart thrones.) My opinion is: yes.
+ Also it keeps you entertained with sassy banter the whole time.
This part I truly adored. And smiled a bit like the dork I am. I also loved that Lira/Elian were sassing each other to death, but also the secondary characters were too! Madrid/Kye's banter was amazing!
"If the necklace is that precious," I say, "we should have just killed Tallis to get it."
"You can't just kill everyone you don't like."
"I know that. Otherwise you'd be dead already."
"Remind me not to get on your bad said," Elian says.
+ Was it dark?
It was very bloody (although not gory) and I would definitely say it's a dark one. So pleased. (I'M NORMAL I SWEAR. DON'T BE WORRIED.)
This is definitely the kind of book of sea and ruination that I've been longing for. I'm in loooove. It was perfectly written, with scenery and prose that just leap off the page to DEVOUR YOU (go the siren life) with a fantastic combination of pirates and princes, sirens and curses, and a journey that's always fascinating and fast-paced. With buckets of sass and salt along the way. 😍
3.7/5 Stars ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
“Technically, I’m a murderer, but I like to think that’s one of my better qualities.”
This is a very hyped up book. You all know it. You all did it. Everyone is reading it and I just couldn't resist. Fantasy is not the genre I prefer but a book about mythology and sirens and pirates is right up my alley. I truly enjoyed this book, it was a very strong debut novel, but it contained its faults.
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?
As I promised to some of you, I will rant about the use of my native language, Greek, in this book. Psariin=🐠 , the language of the sirens is basically Greek. When I started reading this book and read the first Greek word, I was pretty fucking excited. Greek isn't often mentioned in books as far as I'm concerned, though it is mentioned more in film and television. When Greek is used incorrectly in film and television, we don't take it seriously. We have made memes out of badly used Greek in film and television. I'm serious. (Γεια σου καλημέρα, γεια σου καληνύχτα, γεια σου καληνότσες.) But it's different in literature. Literature is serious, mistakes like these I'm about to tell you shouldn't exist. They should have consulted a Greek person about it, it wouldn't be so hard. Even an 8 year old could find the mistakes in these. But I will start with the correct usage of my language. Here are some of the kingdoms with Greek names and their translations in English:
Adekaros = Penniless
Diavolos = Hell
Armonia = Harmony
Pagos = Ice
Kleftes = Thieves
Kalokairi = Summer (ΟΛΑ ΜΟΙΑΖΟΥΝ ΚΑΛΟΚΑΙΡΙ)
Eidyllio = Romance
Agrios = Rough
Polemistes = Warriors
Kardia = Heart
Glossa = Language (Αυτή είναι η φάση, δεν είναι αυτή η φάση. Σνιφ)
Psemata = Lies (ΕΙΠΕΣ ΠΩΣ ΜΕ ΘΕΣ ΨΕΜΑΤΑ)
Efevresi = Invention
These are some of the 100 kingdoms mentioned and described in the book. I will give it to them on that, the descriptions of the kingdoms matched their words amazingly and a translation wasn't particularly needed. Although, it should have been added, anyone could understand what each kingdom was about. The way the words were spelled though was incorrect... a Greek person can pronounce them easily but I doubt someone who doesn't speak Greek at all, can. But let's let this pass.
Let's go now to the correct usage of some words and phrases in Greek:
p. 35 Dolofonos = Murderer, Choiron = Pig (it's a lighter version of pig, like penis is to dick, for example)
p. 103 Aidiastiko gourouni = Disgusting pig
p. 105 Parakalo = Please (here in Greece we never beg with only parakalo, we say se or sas parakalo, but I will let it slide)
p. 190 Porni mou= My whore (this is so funny in Greek, I was laughing my ass off for 2 hours)
p. 307 Tha pethanete = You will all die
Well, nothing to say here. These were correct, not their spelling exactly, but they were correct. Some of these had translations, some of them didn't. I think they all should have been translated. Moving on to my favorite part. The butchering of my language. Here I am, reading my book in silence, minding my own business etc.etc. And then comes the dreaded page 104. This is where the magic happened, not in Diavolos Sea. This is where the memes started happening, this is where I started sending these funny af sentences to my friends. Let's go to the paradise:
p. 104 Aschimi ligo skyla. It is supposed to be translated to "filthy little bitch". If you're not Greek, you won't understand how funny this is. It's like saying "filthy a bit bitch" or something. The correct one is "aschimi mikri skyla". We don't really say that here, but it's the right translation.
p. 104 Tha sas skotoso ton eafto mou. It's like she's saying "I will kill myself". It's so wrong, I can't even look at it. The correct one would be "tha sas skotoso" = I will kill you myself
p. 105 Prinkipissa. It's Prigkipissa which means "Princess".
p. 111 Pote den tha. It was supposed to say "I would never" but we don't cut it that way here like in English. It's "pote den tha to ekana".
p. 112 Ego den tha sas prodosei. She's saying "I won't betray you", but the right usage is "ego den tha sas prodoso".
p. 191 Anthropinos. It says "human" but the word "anthropinos" is the adjective. "Anthropos" is the noun.
p. 308 Ilthia anoitos. It's supposed to say "stupid fool" but in Greek it's redundant to use both. So just only say "ilithia" or only "anoiti".
p. 312 Anoitos. Its translation is "fool" and the right usage is "anoite".
p. 312 Parte ton apo ton. Guys, I'm fucking serious, I have no idea what this is supposed to say. It doesn't make any fucking sense! Anyone who knows, comment down below.
I find these mistakes inexcusable and sloppy. This is Google Translate guys. It's fucking Google Translate. If I go to Google Translate right now and search these, these will be the results. Psariin is the language of the protagonist's people, it's so important in the plot, it's a huge part of the book and it was slaughtered this way. I'm very disappointed. I was so excited to see my language written inside a novel and they did me like this. After a certain point, I couldn't take it seriously. I was just laughing. I'm not an expert on linguistics or anything and there were also some other mistakes I can't explain in English. I also don't know if I forgot some part from the book, I'm sorry about that. Anyone who wants to correct me on anything, feel free.
*don't mind the Greek sentences, just some memes and inside jokes for my Greek friends in here to enjoy 😉
Now let's go down to the actual book. Let's start with the writing. ✍️ I adored her writing, She pictured vivid images of the worlds, the dialogue was on point, the characters lovable. The world she created was very rich and beautiful. I loved the mythology, the creatures, the kingdoms. They were all fascinating to me. The politics not so much. But politics always bore me.
Second of all, let's talk about the romance. I loved Lira and Elian. They were both amazing characters. Anti-heros who were so alike and yet so different. I think the romance happened a bit fast. I felt like after Elian came back for her, it was instant. It wasn't that obvious and it didn't bother me, but it was there. I shipped it though. I truly did.
I will talk about the pace of the book a bit. I felt like certain parts that needed more pages were rushed and the opposite. I felt like the book didn't have the best balance. And also I would like to say something about the other characters, except Elian and Lira. While I loved these two characters with a passion, I don't think the author succeeded as much to make the other characters memorable. They were all lovable, but they were just there for me. Like they only served the purpose of being Elian's true family and they weren't something by themselves. It might be only me, but I don't think I will remember these characters after a while.
To sum it all up, this was a thrilling debut. With many mistakes and faults, but the story was enthralling. I will remember it for a long time (mostly because of the Greek lol) but after I remember the butchered Greek, I will remember this beautiful story. So... till the next one K BYE!