Author: Astrid Scholte
Published: February 26th, 2019 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Genres: fantasy, mystery, young adult
Format: Hardcover, 413 pages
Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but in fact, she's 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. Varin 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 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.
In a palace ruled by four queens (one for each quadrant of the kingdom), an assassin is taking out the queens one by one. Veiled in mystery and intrigue, this story of multiple POVs follows each queen leading up to her death, while also divulging the secrets each of them kept, and also follows our unsavory anti-heroine, Keralie.
The chapters of Keralie that ran parallel to that of the murdered queens were quite boring to me. Keralie was a problematic character all around for me, as she was a petty, childish thing. And when she teams up with Varin, who is her “love interest”, the interactions just made me visibly wince. It felt forced and there was no chemistry, so double whammy for me.
The queen’s chapters, however, were way more interesting because each queen kept the façade that they’re all doing what must be done to keep the kingdom, and the way they rule it, in order – yet each queen holds a massive secret that goes against everything it means to be queen in Quadara.
The world was underdeveloped, though, and I would’ve liked more background about why each quadrant was the way it was. I felt a disturbing fascination with Eonia – the technology they birthed in their quadrant was amazing, yet its people were just as robotic. They breed perfection, and they have their “death dates” predetermined. Oh, and if you have an incurable illness? You die sooner. It’s all very unsettling. I would’ve liked to see more of Ludia, the quadrant of entertainment and beauty and pleasure. That is the quadrant I probably would’ve liked most.
As far as the mystery goes, the story used very clever devices to keep you reading – the main machination was to find out who the assassin was, and why they were killing all the queens off. An investigator gets involved, and Keralie’s storyline ties in by her ingestion of these Eonia-made “comm chips” which allows her to see visions of the deaths of the queens. When she and Varin, an Eonian, team up to find out what’s going on in the palace, it’s a break-neck race to figure out who the killer is before every last queen is dead and the kingdom falls into chaos.
If you’re looking for a fantasy-slash-mystery with an interesting sovereign system, then you may like this book. If you’re prepared for a whirlwind romance thrown in though, you’ll be sorely disappointed at how forced and wrong the relationship feels between Keralie and Varin.
I give Four Dead Queens three stars for having the interesting kingdom and the aspect of four queens ruling over four quadrants together, paired with the mind-gripping mystery of who the assassin was. But when it came to the characters and the impoverished explanation of the kingdom, I had to knock off two stars.