Book Reviews

Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

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Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but she’s, in fact, one of Quadara’s most skilled thieves and a liar. Varin, on the other hand, is an honest, upstanding citizen of Quadara’s most enlightened region, Eonia. He runs afoul of Keralie when she steals a package from him, putting his life in danger. When Varin attempts to retrieve the package, he and Keralie both find themselves entangled in a conspiracy that leaves all four of Quadara’s queens dead.

With no other choices and on the run from Keralie’s former employer, the two decide to join forces, endeavoring to discover who has killed the queens and save their own lives in the process. When their reluctant partnership blooms into a tenuous romance, they must overcome their own dark secrets in hopes of a future together that seemed impossible just days before. But first they have to stay alive and untangle the secrets behind the nation’s four dead queens.

An enthralling fast-paced murder mystery where competing agendas collide with deadly consequences, Four Dead Queensheralds the arrival of an exciting new YA talent.

Review:

Four Dead Queens is another of those books that I feel had the potential to become great, but while it was still an okay read, I found myself disappointed by its execution and lack of exploration of its own world and themes.

In this world, the nation of Quadara has four quadrants: Archia, Toria, Eonia, and Ludia, each with their own queen. Even though each quadrant has their own queen, the queens rule together in a sort of neutral section of the nation to symbolize their unity. But, while the queens rule together, each quadrant has their own distinct values and role to play in the nation’s well-being, and they rarely mix.

Archia is separated by water from the other quadrants, and is the land with the most fertile soil. Archians are farmers, valuing hard work, and are allowed no electricity.

Toria is the quadrant of trade and exploration, and most of the people are merchants and seafarers who are encouraged to be curious. They have some, but not much, technology.

Eonia is a frozen land, and their specialty is technology. These people have been trained from young to show little emotion, and hold society as a whole above individual goals.

Ludia is the land of frivolity and celebration. Singing, dancing, partying, theirs is a quadrant that contrasts strongly with Eonia’s lack of emotion.

The story begins with Keralie, a seventeen year old thief in Toria. She meets Varin, a messenger from Eonia, when she is tasked to steal a package containing comm disks (these contain messages) from him. She expected that this would be simpleโ€”she would get the package, give it to her employer, and then think no more of the task. But when something unexpected happens soon afterward, Keralie and Varin find themselves working together as they run from Keralie’s former employer and attempt to untangle the mystery they have found themselves in.

The four queens ruling Quadara have been murdered. Who did it, and why?

As they investigate, not only must Keralie and Varin figure out who the killer was, but face their own pasts and secrets.


I’m going to start off by saying that for a book with a mystery at its center, I was disappointed by it. Maybe it’s because I was actively trying to figure out who the murderer was (isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?), but I wasn’t shocked by the twists and secrets and was able to predict most of them.

Okay, but even if the twists are predictable, the story can still be good if told in a compelling way. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for me. I had no strong love for Keralie or Varin. I didn’t hate them, but I didn’t feel their pain, their struggles, or anything of them much. For lack of a better word, they felt… flat? Throughout this book there was more telling than showing. I was told that Keralie felt a certain way because she was thinking and so and so.

The romance was completely unnecessary and badly done. There wasn’t even any build-up to it. Sure, you have a few inappropriate jokes coming from Keralie to make the poor stiff Eonist boy uncomfortable, and of course Varin is handsome, but the developments of them becoming attracted to each other either come at the weirdest times, or aren’t there at all. In fact, for a lot of the book I thought there wasn’t going to be any romance, until the author hit me with it out of the blue. I’m not going to go into spoilers, but I feel like they had this romance suddenly bloom just to make a following scene more dramatic.

In my First Impression Friday on this book, I mentioned that I was most interested in the world the story was set in. While the reasoning for why the nation ended up with four quadrants and queens isn’t perfect, I thought it offered a lot of potential for things to explore throughout the book.

There are strict rules that the queens are supposed to abide by which don’t make a whole lot of sense, and it is mentioned that they don’t make a lot of sense, but it wasn’t challenged as much as I wanted. Also, for another example, if you’re going to create a world where the nation is divided with walls into four sections, I would be super interested in having some discussion around this. I guess you could say it was touched on with one of the characters, but I wanted to see it talked about more. Is having the nation divided still a good idea? The nation is pretty much pushing its citizens into these predetermined molds, because you’re stuck where you are born. One of the quadrants has no technologyโ€”is this right? I suppose I wanted more from the world because the mystery itself didn’t interest me as much as it was supposed to.

I feel like I tend to come across as harsh in reviews where I give three or even four star ratings, so I’m going to end with some positives. Again, I did enjoy the world. I wanted more exploration of it, yes, but it was still good. I also really liked reading the chapters with the queen POVs, and learning about their lives and their own secrets. (This isn’t a spoiler, you’ll see what I mean if you read the book.) There also is some diversity in this book, including a lesbian couple.

I guess I’m just… I try to be very aware when I read, especially since I have an interest in writing, so I can get nitpicky and opinionated. I am still interested in checking out what other books Astrid Scholte writes in the future!

Well, anyway, there you have my thoughts!

Have you read Four Dead Queens yet? What did you think? Or are you planning to read it?

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