I’ve been reading a lot of debut authors by big publishing houses recently. I came across the newly-released Four Dead Queens by Australian author Astrid Scholte, and immediately loved the cover, which screamed romance and magic and fantasy. Anything with “queen” in the title catches my interest at once, so I pre-ordered the paperback and eagerly awaited its arrival.
It’s so pretty!
“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.”
The book is an interesting blend of sci-fi dystopia and fantasy. Every other chapter was from a queen’s perspective and another from Keralie’s. This was fascinating as I expected the queens to be dead right at the beginning of the story, and learning about their intricate lives and secrets gave them details that made me care about them even when I knew they were going to perish.
I was actually more interested in the goings-on of the palace than in Keralie’s story, partly because the queens were more fantasy and the MC’s was more dystopian/sci-fi. The seventeen-year-old, whose personality and storyline is very reminiscent of the Divergent trilogy, is a fairly typical YA tough girl, short but spunky, kicking and punching and always with a smart joke on her tongue. I suppose she was likable if you like those kinds of characters, but I cared far more about the queens, who seemed much more vulnerable and real, and the identity of the mystery assassin.
My favourite queen was Corra: her past, the pressures of pretending to be a stoic Eonite, and her secrets that threatened to tear her world apart. Every queen had her own motives and personality, and it was bittersweet to find out so much about them to know that they were going to be murdered.
I wasn’t keen on the romance between Keralie and Varin. For all they went through together, there didn’t seem to be much chemistry, apart from her (slightly pervy) attitude towards his perfect body and skin. He was stoic and handsome, but there wasn’t much else to him. The book would have been just as satisfying if they’d turned out to be best friends.
The twists were what made this book really fun for me. Every time I had a prime suspect or assumption in mind, I was proven wrong. Earlier today, I hit a plot climax and had to tear my eyes from the book to go to work. It was all I could think about throughout my shift!
All in all, this was a great debut novel that I’ll probably read again in the future. I loved the world-building, although there could have been more detail about the wars and the quadrants themselves, such as a closer look at Ludia. The palace sounded fascinating, and I loved the relationships between the queens, how they worked hard to take care of their lands even when their clashing personalities sometimes made things difficult. The murders themselves were also thrilling, Ms. Scholte carefully concealing the gender of the assassin to keep our minds open about who it could be. I honestly didn’t guess until it was revealed, and I’m super happy I didn’t see the twist coming.
I’ll be keeping an eye on Ms. Scholte and her work. I give Four Dead Queens four stars out of five!