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Review: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

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.

Goodreads

What is Four Dead Queens about?

This book is about a dystopian world called Quadaria, where four “quadrants” (countries) have been ruling side by side through four queens for centuries. There are strict rules regarding the selection and succession of the queens, as well as dictating their lives. Each of the four quadrants is known for a particular lifestyle, which is preserved by preventing the mixing of ideas outside of the Queens’ court. The chapters alternate between the perspectives of the four reigning queens and a random pickpocket who finds herself caught up in her boss’s queenly assassination plot.

Genre: Dystopian Fantasy

This book takes place in a fantasy world, though not quite one featuring magic. There is advanced technology with little explanation of how it was developed. The world itself has a long history, including warfare and political machinations. It is somewhat of a utopian dystopia, though. Whereas some characters chafe against the constraints of the queenly laws and the way Quadaria is set up, it seems the general populace is somewhat satisfied with their lives–or at least unwilling to question the order of things.

Tropes: But I’m Innocent!

Keralie, our non-queenly perspective, spends much of the book trying to solve the assassination plot she uncovers only to find herself implicated in it as well. She makes a few blunders in an attempt to avoid being persecuted for the crime, knowing that even before she is implicated in it that her “evidence” of the plot is flimsy and difficult to explain.

Plot: Everybody’s motivations are weak

Yeah, basically everybody involved in the actual plot of the story has terrible motivations. The queens themselves are the most interesting characters because they have motivations related to subplots–such as the desire to change queenly law. Keralie’s motivation is convoluted at best, her boss is cartoonish, his boss is cartoonish, and basically everyone else is just inconsequential.

The Good

The world building was surprisingly concrete for such a relatively short time spent in it. A book like this I would have expected to launch a series, and hold back some of the world details for later exposition. Instead, facts about Quadaria are seamlessly churned out by all of the characters in appropriate moments. I also liked the distinct personalities of the queens, and the way each of their secrets were revealed. It added quite the air of intrigue to the story, because although I had a lot of theories, I didn’t pick up on who was actually behind their murders until the villain was revealed. I did like the idea of the plot device that Keralie is just some random citizen drawn into the mess, though the execution of that left something to be desired.

The Okay

I didn’t wholly enjoy the ending. I think if a few details had been changed, and if things hadn’t felt so rushed towards the end, it still could have worked. Perhaps if the story were a bit longer? I also definitely got the impression throughout reading the book that it was almost setting up a series, despite very much being a stand alone. Something about the way the world was built up really felt like it was creating the premise for a series.

The Bad

I did not like the villain, their story, or how they were incorporated into the novel. I don’t want to add spoilers to this review, so I won’t expand too much on this. Perhaps I’ll do a spoiler warned discussion post about it later, I’m not sure. I had come up with a few different possible endings to the story in my head, and unfortunately I was let down by the actual big reveal because… It was just lackluster. With all the creativity that was presented in the beginning and middle of the book, the ending really felt like it just deflated everything.

Final Thoughts

Despite my gripes with the villain and the ending, I did find this an interesting book. As I mentioned above, the worldbuilding is surprising thorough. Exposition is never thrown out in such a way that it becomes uninteresting, and just enough details are given to leave the reader informed and curious. It would have been nice to be able to actually see all four quadrants, but I don’t think doing so would have served the story so it was probably a smart choice for the author to show less of Quadaria off to the reader. The queens were the strongest characters by far, absolutely. I found each of them to have a unique and interesting perspective, their secrets and the ways they keep them intriguing, and I especially enjoyed the interpersonal relationships between all four.

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By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

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