TITLE: Four Dead Queens
AUTHOR: Astrid Scholte
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Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but in fact, she's 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. Varin 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 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 Queens heralds the arrival of an exciting new YA talent.
Setting the Scene:
Mood Before Reading
Pandemic induced reading slump.
Four Dead Queens was an exciting read. And by that, I mean, I don’t know if I can adequately describe how I feel about it. On the one hand, I enjoyed it enough to finish it, which as someone who doesn’t mind DNFing books, says something. But on the other hand, I have so many issues with it.
The premise of Four Dead Queens was intriguing. And it was also intricately told with multiple points of view. The switches between characters allow the reader to piece together the storyline little by little, which is part of what makes mysteries so fun to read. The POV switches also provide a nice break away from Keralie, the main character of the book (I’ll get back to this later). I really enjoyed getting to see the events unfold from each character’s point of view. They’re all vastly different from each other, despite the situation they’re in. Part of that comes with their diverse backgrounds and their region of origin.
This is where complex worldbuilding comes into play. Quadara, where the story is set, is divided into four regions, each with its own queen to represent it, hence the four queens. The quadrants are quite unique and elaborate – I feel like each one on its own could be the setting of a separate dystopian novel. And while I liked the individuality of each quadrant, I also have some problems with it.
My biggest problem with Four Dead Queens is its ambitiousness. I feel like it tried to do too much in the span of this one book that it ended up oversimplifying and glossing over a lot of important issues. The greatest sin it resulted in is the genetic experimenting done in Eonia, one of the four regions. Eonia is described as a region that places an absurd amount of importantness on enlightenment and with that, perfection. As such, genetic experiments take place to perfect human DNA and “fix” any “issues,” which is problematic ableist thinking, no?
The thing is, I don’t think the novel intended to take this path of thinking – genetic experimenting is just one of a like a thousand things mentioned in the course of the plot. But because there are so many other things going on, the idea behind it is never fully fleshed out and explored. Instead, it’s buried beneath a pile of other revelations and never really addressed.
The overly ambitious nature of Four Dead Queens also kind of ruined the ending for me and not in an “I guessed the ending” type of way. There was just too much stuff going on that it all came to a pretty quick stop at the end. The ending felt really rushed and too convenient, which made the payoff (finding the killer) disappointing. The twist was nice, but it wasn’t a “WOW, I did NOT see that coming!” twist, it was more of a “seriously?!?” type of twist, which is not a twist I typically enjoy.
And then there’s Keralie. Can’t forget her! Except she’s kind of forgettable. I can describe her in a short sentence, which is not a good indicator for the character who’s POV is displayed the most often.
As for the romance, let’s just say I don’t think it deserves to be mentioned in the synopsis.
Four Dead Queens is an intriguing fantasy murder mystery set in a complex world. But it’s ambitions lead to oversimplification of important issues and a disappointing and rushed ending.