After the crazy intense situation of obtaining this ARC from the Penguin Teen group at BookCon (I’m sure you’ve probably heard all about that by now), I was really excited to pick up this book. It was incredibly hyped and I’ll admit that I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Unfortunately, Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
A divided nation. Four Queens. A ruthless pickpocket. A noble messenger. And the murders that unite them.
Get in quick, get out quicker.
These are the words Keralie Corrington lives by as the preeminent dipper in the Concord, the central area uniting the four quadrants of Quadara. She steals under the guidance of her mentor Mackiel, who runs a black market selling their bounty to buyers desperate for what they can’t get in their own quarter. For in the nation of Quadara, each quarter is strictly divided from the other. Four queens rule together, one from each region:
Toria: the intellectual quarter that values education and ambition
Ludia: the pleasure quarter that values celebration, passion, and entertainment
Archia: the agricultural quarter that values simplicity and nature
Eonia: the futurist quarter that values technology, stoicism and harmonious community
When Keralie intercepts a comm disk coming from the House of Concord, what seems like a standard job goes horribly wrong. Upon watching the comm disks, Keralie sees all four queens murdered in four brutal ways. Hoping that discovering the intended recipient will reveal the culprit – information that is bound to be valuable bartering material with the palace – Keralie teams up with Varin Bollt, the Eonist messenger she stole from, to complete Varin’s original job and see where it takes them.
Scholte’s world-building in this novel was probably the most interesting part of the story. I really liked how the kingdom is split up into the four different sections and how each one is focused on only one aspect, with interactions between them very limited. While it kind of reminds me of other fantasy or dystopian worlds, I liked how it was different in that each section is ruled by a separate queen and yet they all rule together. Unfortunately, I wished that we had gotten to experience more of the different quadrants. Instead, we only get to see two of the four, which I think really takes away from the experience. You have such an interesting world and yet, the reader doesn’t get to experience it fully.
Our main character, Keralie, was pretty much your standard YA heroine who just happens to be the greatest thief. Yes yes, I’m quite aware that this is definitely not a new trope by any means. And it’s not helped at all by the fact that Keralie just doesn’t stand out much on her own either. I felt like her personality was kind of all over the place. Sometimes she would be flirty and confident, while other times she was closed off and emotional. I could never get a read on what the author wanted her to be. This made it really difficult for me to connect with her character. Then you have the love interest, Varin, who was ever more closed-off due to the environment and quadrant he was from. Other than him being super attractive, he didn’t really contribute to the story. The only interesting characters were the four queens, as they each had very different personalities and I feel their chapters were the strongest by far. But I won’t say much more about them, as that will ruin some of the story.
I did like the murder mystery aspect and how it was played out by the alternating POVs. It kept the plot moving along and was the only thing really keeping my attention. I was genuinely interested in who the murderer was and their motive. I thought Scholte did a good job of building the tension while giving a few plot twists and reveals to keep you guessing. I was personally a little underwhelmed by the big reveal though. I felt that after such a good buildup, the reveal just wasn’t able to pack as big of a punch.
Overall, I feel like this book was fairly forgettable. It had a lot of interesting parts but they were never expanded on enough to really pull the book together. The main character lacked any depth and I feel that focusing the majority of the story on the palace, we are never able to really experience the world that Scholte created. I feel like maybe some of the issues with the story could’ve been fixed if it wasn’t limited to a standalone but I applaud the author for trying to write a fantasy standalone, as those are few and far between.
Final Verdict: 2/5 Stars
Have you read Four Dead Queens yet? If so, what did you think of it? Did you enjoy it more than I did? What did you think about Keralie as a main character? Do you think this would’ve been better suited for a series rather than a standalone?