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.
Blood, death, detailed description of murders, hallucinations
To be honest, I totally expected this to be another dystopian trilogy like Divergent or The Hunger Games, but Four Dead Queens blows those stories out of the water. There are aspects of this book that you can compare to those uber-popular series, but Astrid Scholte is making her name known with this amazing standalone that is sure to be the newest YA obsession for many!
Let’s dive into some details now. This murder mystery is told from several points of view yet is done in a way that doesn’t become frustrating by the time you’re a third of the way through the book. Most of the chapters are told from our unlikely heroine, Keralie’s, point of view, during which Scholte uses first person point of view. The other chapters are told rotatingly through the Queens’ perspectives in a third person limited style. This tactic allows the reader to understand the Queens’ lives more easily and even world-build without feeling unnatural or info-dumpy. The best/worst part about the alternating points of view was that it made for cliffhangers that made it difficult for me to tear my eyes away and put the book down.
Speaking of world-building, I absolutely fell in love with Quadara and its history! Even when I wasn’t reading this book, I was thinking about Quadara and everyone in it. (I literally even had a dream about how this story might end, but of course, my sleeping mind was wrong.) One part of this nation’s history that I would like to share (because I loved this detail) is the reason there are four queens ruling one nation is that there used to be one king who ruled and had four wives who basically got tired of his bullcrap politics and banded together to overthrow him. Ever since, four queens have ruled Quadara, each given their own quadrant to focus on. The quadrants of Quadara have their own political problems and resident stereotypes, as any country with states/provinces does. The sheer amount of thought and planning and keeping details straight when writing and editing amazes me. How long has this book been in the making?
One small thing I’m disappointed about is that this book is only a standalone! I want more from this world and from Scholte’s writing right now! Still, I’m not that disappointed because every detail was introduced then wrapped up so well. To go back to world-building and characterization, Scholte manages to give the reader a large view of each character and the culture they come from all in one book. Of course, there is always more to say about them, but it never at any point felt like anything was missing. I can tell you all about Keralie’s childhood and how she got to where she is now. I can recite the stereotypes and major offerings of each of the quadrants. So the real problem is I would love for this to be a series, but this one book was just written so well that I can’t see how it could be one. Do you see why I’m sad to have finished this book now?
On to the plot! I really thought I’d gotten better at guessing how stories will end (which is a weird personal goal that stems from me being notoriously bad at this), but reading Four Dead Queens proved I still need a lot of work… or that Scholte’s plotting is simply amazing! I won’t reveal too much, but I will say that as soon as you think Keralie and Varin and yourself have it figured out, another curveball is thrown. Unless you’re a mind reader or the world’s best detective, you just don’t know what actually happened until the big reveal at the end.
This review is getting so long, but before I go, I wanted to talk about the romance in the book real quick. First off, Keralie and Varin. They’re an unlikely couple–a thief who’s running from the tragic accidents of her past and a messenger from Quadara’s most elite (and most brainwashed) quadrant, Eonia. Keralie is having trouble figuring out who she is outside of Mackiel’s scam auction house and Varin’s Eonist upbringing leaves him stumbling through emotions he was conditioned to suppress for 18 years. These two having their own issues to work through lets their relationship develop at a slower pace that thankfully doesn’t take over the plot of this science fiction mystery novel. Additionally, there are a few romances between the queens and the people in their lives. All of these romances are forbidden as it is stated in Queenly Law that no queen may marry because romance is deemed a distraction from their queenly duties. However, that doesn’t stop two of the queens from sneaking around the castle together and one from encouraging her boyfriend from back home to apply for the position of her new advisor. These romances add to the finger pointing and chaos of the mystery in the castle and fit into the story so naturally. Plus all of these ships are just really cute together?? So it works!
Final thought: You NEED to preorder this book! This book is living up to the hype
and chaos it caused at BookCon. (Trust me, I was in that line!) Astrid Scholte’s Four Dead Queens is going to be one of the most talked about debuts of 2019!