Review: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

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, endeavouring 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.’

I absolutely loved Four Dead Queens. The pacing is excellent, as is the structure of the novel as a whole, which both seems to play with time and not so in the same instant, leaving the reader delightfully unsure of what exactly is happening in real-time. I raced through the first third or so of the story and then deliberately started rationing it out because I didn’t want the book to end, despite a desperate need to find out exactly what was happening and why. The story is a sharp and clever construction that I enjoyed from start to finish.

I adored the queens themselves and the different roles that they play in the story, along with the presentation of the different quadrants that make up the land of Quadara. Each quadrant has its own unique characteristics, such as a focus on technology or agriculture, and is ruled by a particular queen, the four of which rule Quadara together. The reader gets to know the queens through their own point of view chapters that alternate with others, learning about not only each queen, but their quadrants and the rules that govern their lives and those of their subjects. I loved (I have said loved too many times in this review, but that’s just how I feel about this book) Corra in particular, though I honestly felt attached to each of the queens and invested in their own stories, as well as the narrative as a whole.

The romantic elements of the story are handled in a manner that feels like a natural evolution and doesn’t fall into the ‘love at first sight’ trap that many YA novels suffer from. In truth, the relationships in the novel are, on the whole, more about characters seeing themselves in different and positive lights through the gaze of others in a fashion that helps them to understand their own uniqueness and wholeness without having them suddenly seek missing pieces of themselves in others and need to depend on them. There’s also some lovely LGBT representation in several instances that are written beautifully. I love a good fantasy world where all manner of relationships are given equal status and treatment by the characters that inhabit it.

Four Dead Queens is a brilliant stand-alone fantasy that will be published in February 2019. If you’re a fan of political intrigue, mystery and smart storytelling, Four Dead Queens is the novel for you.

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