Title: Four Dead Queens
Author: Astrid Scholte
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 4th March 2019
Synopsis:A thrilling debut YA fantasy novel for fans of Red Queen and Three Dark Crowns.
Four Queens. A divided nation. A ruthless pickpocket. A noble messenger. And the murders that unite them.
Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington is one of Quadara’s most skilled thieves, but when she steals an unexpectedly valuable package from a messenger she is soon entangled in a conspiracy that leads to all four of Quadara’s queens being murdered.
With no other choices and on the run from her former employer, Keralie teams up with Varin Bollt, the Eonist messenger she stole from, and together they race to discover who has killed the queens. But when dark secrets threaten their reluctant partnership and put everything at stake, Keralie and Varin must use all their daring to stay alive and untangle the mysteries 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.
Keralie Corrington lives in Quadara, a land ruled by four queens – one from each quadrant – and no king. It has been this way for many years, and the citizens of each quadrant are used to being ruled by the queens: Ludia, ruled by Queen Stessa, is the fun quadrant, Eonia is the frozen quadrant, reliant on technology, ruled by Queen Corra. Queen Marguerite rules Toria, the isle of commerce, and Queen Iris rules Archia, where all Quadara’s produce is grown. When thief Keralie, is caught stealing something for Mackiel to sell at the auction house by Eonist messenger, Varin Bolt. This item holds something that will change the course of Quadara forever – the plot to kill all four queens – which comes to pass, as the title suggests. Keralie and Varin set out to stop the killer, or, if they can’t, catch them in the act.
Using the alternating perspectives of Keralie in first person and each of the queens in third person, the story evolves at a decent pace, revealing secrets, twists and turns as it goes – from relationships between characters, to the history or Quadara, and every other aspect of the mystery surrounding the deaths of the four queens. In doing so, Astrid appears to weave a recent past together with Keralie’s present, and whether this is the case or not, I shall let readers discover for themselves. Either way, it is cleverly done, and clear – and it works well for this story and allows for a mysterious feeling about when in the timeline of the story we are, and a clever look at how each queen is murdered.
Four Dead Queens is Astrid Scholte’s debut novel, and it is a fine debut. It is complex and intriguing, and filled with mystery woven throughout the story, and on every page. Not only the mystery of who kills the queens and how, but the mystery and secrets that each character whose perspectives are present and all those who speak on the page, even if not the primary characters. It is filled with fantastical aspects as well as technology and touches of what could be science fiction, but primarily, this is a fantasy novel even though it crosses several genres.
It is a very female driven novel, which I really enjoyed. It was a powerful read because it showed female characters along a spectrum – in so many different ways that to list them all might be a bit spoilerish, and I want to avoid that but I absolutely loved the diversity of the characters and their personalities and who they were. On top of this, there were so many twists and turns that kept coming right up until the end, and constantly had me guessing at what was to come and questioning what I knew.
The mystery and the big reveals are cleverly plotted and revealed right when they need to be – like any good mystery or crime novel should do. Overall, I really liked this book and it works well as a stand-alone, where everything is concluded but also left a bit open-ended for readers to imagine what happens next.