Four dead queens. Three days to catch a killer. Two forbidden romances.
One shocking twist you won’t see coming.
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.
An enthralling fast-paced mystery where competing agendas collide with deadly consequences, Four Dead Queens heralds the arrival of an exciting new YA talent.
|Publisher:||Books on Tape, Inc.|
|Edition description:||Bot Exclusive ed.|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 6.80(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||12 Years|
About the Author
Astrid Scholte's fascination with all things fantasy began at the impressionable age of one while on a family vacation to Disneyland. Her desire to be surrounded by all things magical led her to a career in animation and visual effects. She received Honors in BA (Film, Media and Theater) and a Bachelor of Digital Media from the University of NSW. She's spent the last 10 years working in visual effects production as both an artist and an artist manager. Career highlights include working on James Cameron's AVATAR, Steven Spielberg's THE ADVENTURES OF TIN TIN and HAPPY FEET 2 by George Miller. She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her cats Lilo and Mickey. FOUR DEAD QUEENS is her debut novel.
Read an Excerpt
Queen of Archia
Rule one: To protect the fertile lands of Archia, the queen must uphold the society’s humble but hardworking way of life.
Iris shifted uncomfortably on her throne, rearranging her stiff skirts. The midday sun streamed down from the domed ceiling, hitting the elevated golden dial beneath it. The nation of Quadara was engraved upon the face, with thick ridges representing the walls that divided the land. An amber globe sat in the center of the dial and fractured the sunlight into rays, highlighting hundreds of cursive words etched into the throne room’s marble walls. The words reminded each queen, and those who visited court, of the approved transactions between quadrants and the strict rules the queens must abide by. Queenly Law.
The four thrones, and their respective queens, sat in a circle around the dial. While the quadrants remained divided, the queens ruled from the same court.
Together, yet apart.
Each looked out upon her section of the circular room, a painted crest to signify where her quadrant began.
Iris’s next appointment stepped from around the partition that separated court visitors from the queens. She glanced at one of her sister queens, Marguerite, sitting beside her. Marguerite raised an eyebrow in amusement as the man bowed, his nose grazing the polished marble at his feet. He stood upon the Archian crest: a rural island bordered by branches, leaves and flowers with a stag atop a mountain, depicted in bold golden swirls.
Now thirty years old, Iris had not seen her homeland of Archia for twelve years. But for as long as she lived, she would never forget the crisp air, the lush forests and rolling hills.
When the man straightened, he still wouldn’t meet her eyes. A shame, for she had lovely eyes.
“My queen,” the man’s voice trembled.
Good. Iris cultivated fear. A time-consuming but worthwhile pursuit.
She knew Archia could easily be perceived as the least formidable of all the quadrants, as Archians mostly kept to themselves, rarely crossing the channel to the mainland due to their general distrust for machinery. They focused on physical work and living good, if somewhat modest, lives.
“Speak.” Iris waved a hand at the man before her. “I don’t have all day.”
A trickle of sweat ran down the man’s brow and onto the tip of his nose. He didn’t wipe it away. Iris twitched her nose in sympathy—the only sympathy he’d get.
“I have come here to ask you for power,” the man said. She scowled, and he quickly clarified, “Electricity—we need electricity.”
Iris had to remind herself he was the Archian governor, although the title held little authority in her eyes. The queens were the power. No one else.
Power was a game, and over the years, Iris had perfected it. “Need electricity?” Iris leaned forward. “No.”
While the other quadrants had electricity, Archia continued to use only what could be wielded by hand and heart—a traditional Archian proverb.
Finally, the governor brought a shaking hand to wipe his brow.
“Electricity would allow for machines,” the governor continued. “The workers are struggling to keep up with this year’s delivery schedule set by Toria. Please consider, my queen.”
She sat back and let out a breathy laugh. “You know better than to ask this of me.” It was true that Quadara’s population continued to grow, and no matter what they’d tried, all quadrants other than Archia remained barren.
Quadara’s divided nation was an ecosystem, each quadrant playing its part. Archia provided crops and natural resources; Eonia developed medicine and technology; Ludia provided art, fashion and entertainment; and Toria arranged imports and exports between the quadrants. And Queenly Law upheld the system.
Archia was the nation’s only hope. Which was why Iris needed to protect her homeland at all costs. She couldn’t risk overharvesting the land with the use of machines. If they destroyed Archia, Quadara would starve.
While some might still consider Archia primitive, it was not weak. Not while Iris ruled.
The governor’s bottom lip jerked outward. “I know we are not meant to take technology from other quadrants, but—”
“Then you bore me with this conversation because . . .?”
“Perhaps you should allow this?” Marguerite asked. At forty, she was the eldest and longest-reigning queen, and often the voice of reason. Even though her last appointment for the day had been canceled, she continued to watch court with interest. Like all Torians, her curiosity for other cultures could not be satiated.
An utter waste of Marguerite’s time, Iris thought. She snapped her gaze to her sister queen. “This doesn’t concern you, Marguerite.” Her tone was forgiving, though; meddling was in the Torian queen’s nature.
Marguerite tucked a graying curl of auburn hair behind her ear. “You’ll remember I asked Corra to have her doctors develop an inoculation to prevent the blood plague from spreading further. Sometimes we must bend the rules, but not break them.”
Iris tilted her head to see Corra’s braided black hair, tied up in the common Eonist way, her gold crown gleaming against her dark brown skin. But the twenty-five-year-old queen of Eonia did not glance back at the mention of her scientists. Stessa, however, the queen of Ludia, looked over and grimaced, as though Iris was annoying her. She probably was, for everything Iris said or did seemed to annoy the sixteen-year-old queen.
“An entirely different situation,” Iris said to Marguerite, ignoring Stessa’s glare. “The plague threatened to wipe out your people. The inoculation was a one-off intervention; it did not significantly alter your quadrant. Even if I allowed machinery for a short amount of time, how would we return to our old ways? I can’t risk it.”
Marguerite gave her an understanding, but amused, smile, as though she thought Iris was being stubborn for the sake of being stubborn.
“No,” Iris said, turning her attention back to the Archian governor. “Electricity is not from our quadrant; therefore, we shall never have it. We will not be aided by machines and their automatic witchery.”
Iris had seen what technology had done to Eonia, and she would not have the same happen to her quadrant. With their mostly frozen and inhospitable land in the far north of the nation, Eonia had no option but to focus solely on technological advancements, and even genetic alteration, to survive. In turn, they had lost a part of their humanity. Or so Iris thought. She couldn’t help but look at Corra once more.
Iris did not miss the governor’s glance to the string of electrical chandeliers hanging in the four passages that led to the central throne room. Iris knew it appeared as though she enjoyed the pleasures of all the quadrants, but the governor didn’t know that Iris still read by candlelight and bathed in the natural warm springs in her private garden rather than use the palace’s heated water system. She wasn’t about to discuss her hygiene regimen with him.
When he failed to respond, Iris raised a brow and asked, “Anything further?”
The governor shook his head.
“Good,” she replied. “And if anyone wishes to quarrel with my decision, then they know where to find me. The palace is always open to my people.”
With that, she stood and stepped down from the dais, leaving court to her sister queens.
IRIS DECIDED TO SPEND the remainder of the day in her cultivated palace garden. Growing up, she had enjoyed countless hours in the immaculate grounds that surrounded her childhood home. It was there where she had imagined her reign and how she would rule an entire quadrant. Iris had been a solitary child, and while she had thought she’d prepared herself to be queen, she had not expected anyone could be capable of influencing her reign.
Or her heart.
The garden was located in the Archian section of the palace, split in four as the nation itself. The garden sat outside the golden dome, perched on the cliff overlooking the channel toward the neighboring isle of Archia. Long ago, one of her ancestors had demanded access to nature—to life. Queenly Law decreed the queens were never to leave the palace—for their safety and to ensure they weren’t moved by external influences.
Iris would never set foot in her quadrant again, never soak in the beauty of Archia or see the stags and deer roam the mountains.
She sat back in her wooden settee; it sank into the grass while her black skirt swallowed the frame. She removed her heavy crown and placed it on the table beside her. She tilted her head, enjoying the sunlight on her pale skin. The warm springs bubbled nearby, reminiscent of the gentle brook that trickled not far from her childhood home.
This would have to do.
Also dictated by Queenly Law, Iris had been raised by adoptive parents outside the palace in the region she would one day rule. But while she’d been raised in a humble stone cottage, she’d never wanted for anything. She didn’t know how to want for things she’d never seen, never experienced. She learned all she could about her land, the animals and her people. And Quadara’s dark past.
Archia had been an untouched refuge from the nation’s troubles for hundreds of years; in fact, it wasn’t until Toria had built their boats and traveled to the west that the lush island was discovered. The rest of the nation had grown desperate, their natural resources nearly depleted. And there was Archia, ripe for the taking.
While the distinct regions had each developed strengths and resources, they shared the same weakness. Jealousy.
And so began the Quadrant Wars. They lasted nearly a decade, with thousands of lives lost. During this time, the other regions attempted to conquer Archia. But their plans were foolish. As rearing livestock was foreign to Eonists, Torians grew restless and wanted to discover new lands, and Ludists didn’t want to dirty their elaborate outfits by tending to the crops.
Then the founding queens of Quadara built the walls to separate the regions, finally ending the Quadrant Wars. The walls provided space to breathe, allowing the quadrants to continue to evolve independently, and harmoniously.
Archia was once again safe.
Iris left her homeland for the first time on her eighteenth birthday, when she had been informed her mother had died. She sailed across the channel on a Torian vessel toward the palace. She took to her new world and throne without blinking, insisting she attend court minutes after her mother had been laid to rest beneath the palace. That evening she had stayed awake until the early morning, reading books on Archian history and diplomacy. Nothing could shake Iris. Not even the death of her mother.
Iris opened her green eyes to the vibrant blue sky—enjoying the break from the enduring golden palace. With the palace enclosed by a glass dome, every room, and everything within it, was cast in a golden hue. Even at night, the corridors blurred into a deep amber, as though darkness would not dare caress the queens with inky-black fingers.
When Iris looked to the clouds in the sky, she thought of her father. Not the father whose blood she shared—a man who’d never been identified by her mother—but the man who had raised her in Archia. When she was a child, he’d told her about the queens above, the deceased queens who lived in the quadrant without borders, watching the relatives they’d left behind. When she was alone, she would look to the clouds and share her gravest fears and most wondrous dreams, knowing her secrets were safe with them. Her most loyal confidants.
Then she came to the palace and met the queens. They spent every evening together—often staying up beyond a “respectable” hour to discuss their childhood, families and quadrants. Iris was no longer alone.
Still, she often looked to the sky, but now she spoke to her father, long dead.
“Father, I have not wavered,” she said. “Queenly Law is, and will always be, paramount. However, there are certain rules that pertain to the queens, to me, that I have come to see as irrelevant over the years.” Even speaking the words aloud felt wrong. Iris shook her head. She would need to be stronger, be a woman with an iron backbone. “We are the queens. We should be able to change the rules that do not affect the quadrants and the peace we uphold. We should have some control over our own lives.” She shook her head. “I will continue to fight for Archia and protect all we have, but I want more.” She shook her head again, thinking of the governor’s request. “Not more for Archia, but for me.” She hated how weak she sounded.
“I have a plan.” She let out a weighted breath. “I’ve been too many years silent. But no longer. Tomorrow things will change. Queenly Law will change. Tomorrow I will—”
A bee pricked her throat. An intense bite, followed by a dull ache. Bees, and all other bugs and insects, were supposed to have been eradicated from the garden by a spray. Another wonderful Eonist creation, Iris thought wryly. Iris didn’t object to sharing her garden with the creatures that should come with it. But the advisors had insisted it was best, for Iris’s safety.
A smile appeared on Iris’s face; perhaps nature had conquered technology in the end, beating out the spray. She couldn’t wait to gloat about her findings to Corra at tonight’s evening meal.
The bee’s sting grew more painful, to the point where Iris was unable to swallow. Saliva pooled in her throat. Was she allergic?
She brought a hand up to the bite and found a gaping ridge of skin. When she pulled her hand back, it was darkened with blood. A wail gurgled from her lips.
A figure loomed over her, teeth gleaming with menace and delight. A thin knife reflected a slice of sunlight, dripping red.
Fury flashed through her as hot blood spilled down her neck. Her arms flung backward, knocking her crown to the floor.
An outrage! I am the Archian queen!
How dare someone cut my thr—
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I just finished this book and I'm at a loss for words, let alone a review. My mind is still spinning and I haven't quite left Keralie and Quadara yet. It takes a lot to really wow me as a reader anymore, mostly because it feels like everything we read has been done before in some way with authors adding their own touches. This novel blew me away. It's wholly unique and original with everything I love in a good story. Unforgettable yet realistic characters, a story with lots of twists, turns, and surprises that will get you up until the very end, and beautiful writing to top it all off. I can't believe this is the author's debut novel! I never would have guessed in a million years. The entire story is so well thought out, written, detailed, and original - there's seriously nothing bad I have to say about it. There were so many things I loved about this book, but I don't want to ramble on forever. I'll attempt to keep it as concise as possible, but I will say that this is one of my favorites so far this year. Keralie (Kera) is a fantastic main character for the book. She's incredibly realistic with strengths (although some of them involve stealing) and flaws just like everyone else. I immediately connected with her from the beginning of the story. I loved getting to know all about her - her backstory, current life, family, friends, feelings and thoughts, all of it. Kera's portion of the story is told in the first person point of view, from her perspective, so it made it that much easier to identify with her. I really liked getting to see her grow and change throughout the course of the story. The secondary characters were also very well written and realistic, especially Varin and Mackiel. Then we come to the four queens themselves and I'm not even quite sure what to call their characters. Main? Major? Each queen gets her own part of the story, told from her own perspective (but in the third person). In this way, we get to know each of them personally - their likes, dislikes, fears, hopes, and secrets. All of the differing stories intertwine to give us the overarching plot of the story, which sends the reader on one heck of a ride. I loved the multiple narrators and points of view, it definitely kept me on my toes and fully engaged the entire length of the book. This story itself is masterfully told with tons of detailed descriptions and vivid imagery that brings Quadara and it's four quadrants to life in front of your eyes. I could easily envision each of the quadrants as I read and learned about them. It was like I was beside Kera throughout the story, seeing through her eyes at the madness going on around her, which is another thing I adored about the novel. There's so much happening all the time - with the four queens and both their political sides and personal sides, so many different secrets being kept by everyone, not to mention the events that happen outside of the palace in the four quadrants and among their people. We learn about it all and then some, but it's never confusing or overwhelming. The author did a fantastic job keeping things fascinating and full of intrigue - and murder! - without losing any other details or the reader along the way. That's another thing I loved about this book - it's nothing short of genre-breaking. You can't label it as one particular genre. It has elements of fantasy, science fiction, action and adventure, mystery, suspense, thrillers, and even romance. There's literally something for
When I first picked up this book, the title and summary caught my eye. Four dead queens was such a great, entertaining read, it did not disappoint! First I loved the cover and it grabbed my attention! I enjoyed the story line and loved how the different “quadrants” or how the four queens stories were told, how does one attempt to assassinate four of the most powerful ladies in the country? This follows the story of Keralie who is caught up in the palace intrigue and above her ‘station’, Keralie is a wonderfully unexpected “hero” – that at first I was not to fond of but she really came into her own. There was a lot of twists and turns to actually hold my attention in the book. And some surprises along the way! I would recommend this to friend and family!
I just hate leaving negative comments, and put this off for so long because this book I looked forward reading it. The more I read, the more I realized, it just was not for me. I think maybe one of the main issues was that it was a standalone book when there is A LOT going on. I want to know more about everyone and I want to learn more about the world. I wasn't quite able to connect with the characters or the events that were happening to truly engage with the narrative. Again, this isn't because the book is necessarily bad, it just wasn't quite for me. Also, it's a debut novel. I know I'll look forward to reading more by her though in the future because the idea was interesting and I look forward to seeing how Astrid grows as an author.
The story structure of “Four Dead Queens” pleasantly surprised me. Rather than solely seeing the aftermath of the murders, it follows two timelines in close proximity. In addition to Keralie and Varin’s hunt for the truth, readers meet the queens while they are still alive. Within pages of their introduction, the first queen is dead, kicking off a frantic palace investigation to forestall what readers already know is inevitable. We aren’t told how much time has passed between the final murder and Keralie’s discovery of the crime, which builds a layer of suspense - after all, how long could such a secret be kept? There were several times I thought I knew what was coming, only to be surprised when the story's twists did not take the predictable route. The second half in particular was wholly unexpected; saying anything more would be a serious spoiler. That said, I have very divided opinions about "Four Dead Queens" overall. The book's chapters are largely split 50/50, with half going to the Keralie/Varin duo and the remained from the perspective of a host of supporting characters, including the queens. The leading duo were my least favorite characters, but my high interest in the secondary perspectives kept Keralie and Varin from completely dragging the book down.
I don't think I've ever read a fantasy/ murder-mystery novel before, and apart from the intense positive buzz and brilliant reviews from other authors I DEEPLY ADMIRE, I think the genre-bent element of the Four Dead Queens was what made me NEED to read this book. I'm not the biggest murder-mystery fan, but SFF is my FAVOURITE genre and I'm always looking for new twists to it. Four Dead Queens in a nutshell: I loved the fast pace of the book, and the alternating viewpoints and learning about the quadrants and the queens, but I feel like the structure of the book was lacking THOROUGHLY. IN MORE DETAIL: 1) So, OBVIOUSLY going into a book with one country divided into four different parts with four queens, four mottos and four personalities/ ways of life AND SOME OTHER VIEWPOINTS was disorienting. For the first 50+ pages, I was frantically flipping back from the page I was currently reading to the one where it was all broken down to make sense of the story. I don't enjoy ANY fantasy very much when I'm in the nervous/ what is this world stage and it was the same for Four Dead Queens. 2) After the initial 50-75 pages, I got a little more comfortable with the world and started enjoying the pace and the story. Filled with short, action-packed chapters in which there was almost always a twist, development or a shocking revelation which was enjoyable. 3) I LOVED learning about the queens and seeing the quadrants through their viewpoint. As the story (and their secrets) unraveled, the book got more and more interesting. 4) I did not, however, enjoy Keralie's viewpoints much, and she had A LOT of book-time. --a) Her backstory was filled with holes in reasoning. If she destroyed the boat (and her family business) because of which they were struggling, wouldn't they be left with nothing at all and then would REALLY DEFINITELY BE STRUGGLING? Isn't that why it's called a livelihood? It was this event that made her leave and become a thief and enforcer and I JUST STRUGGLED TO WRAP MY HEAD AROUND THE REASONING OF IT ALL. --b) She, really, didn't seem like a master thief. No cunning, no drive, just luck and a plot with holes. I guess I just didn't understand her character motivations and that was quite important to me. 5) MY GOD THE STRUCTURE MADE NO SENSE. And also, the device used on the assassin to carry out the murders. I found the science, or at the very least, THE EXPLANATION NOT AT ALL SOUND. I know it was intended to shock, but it just left me confused. Would I recommend this book? Honestly, I'm still hung up on the fact that it was a fast-paced, twist-filled novel that is also genre-bent and YES, I would recommend it despite its faults.
A thrilling, fast paced story with twists and turns enough for anyone. I found the main character, Keralie, to be extremely interesting as she wasn't exactly heroine material because she was an unrepentant thief, but you come to understand her so we'll that you realize she is more than she initially seems. This book is well worth reading, in my opinion. I was given a "sneak peek" of this book by Netgalley, and found it so interesting that I got the book when it debuted.
Keralie prides herself for being a skilled thief. So when she was tasked to steal something, she never knew the importance of it because it ended the lives of the four ruling queens of Quadara. I am not a fan of fantasy. But I did take on this book because there was a lot of buzz for this book and I happen to get my hands on an ARC. Here are some non-spoilery good points: - the world is pretty well made - it's a stand-alone, and you barely see a fantasy book that's a stand-alone - the story is freaking amazing! - the twist will get you off your seat - it'll keep you guessing And here are some non-spoilery not-so good points (and why I only gave it three stars even though I have good points above): - too dragging, especially in the beginning - although the switching of point of views are nice, I am not a fan of it. It gives too much cliff hangers that you just want to get it over with, and the progress of the story keeps stopping - this book prides itself with the romance, but it fell short for me - too many flashbacks by different characters, that makes it dragging There you have it. Those are my pros and cons for this book. But overall though, it was still a good read. * I received an ARC of this book
A story that kept me hooked! It's an amazing YA Murder-Mystery novel. This story. The characters. The setting. The world of Quadara is one of my favorite places I've read about! I wanted to dive into the world to help Keralie and Varin on their investigation to find out who killed the Queens. I was stressed reading, but it was worth it! Loved it!
Four Dead Queens could be categorized as a sci-fi murder mystery with a fantasy style political system. It has 6 separate perspectives, but that does not seem to bog down the pace of the plot. The timeline of the was well done and unique to other books I have read. The romance felt a bit like 'insta-love' since the plot happens only over a few days. I liked the main character with her competence and confidence. I was surprised by the twist that happens about halfway through the book; I was expecting it to go in a different direction. With it being a stand-alone, the ending did feel a bit rushed and similar to older murder mysteries where everything is explained in a detective's monologue. I would recommend this book to other YA fantasy or murder mystery lovers. Actual rating 3.75.
When Keralie is sent on a task to steal from a messenger, she had no idea what she was actually taking. To stop her boss from getting the info she obtained, she inadvertently found herself in the middle of a conspiracy that could cost the kingdom it's queens. Can Keralie get to the truth as well as save her own life? My favorite part of Four Dead Queens was how Astrid was able to create a book that is such an interesting mesh of genres. The biggest part of the book would most certainly be mystery, but there was also science fiction and even a hint fantasy and romance. I would have a hard time picking one category to fit this story into and I feel like that makes this a unique read. One random comment though is that this is categorized as YA but there was nothing YA about the book (nothing inappropriate, just not YA really either) and most of the narrators were adult age. I also found the delivery of the story to be unique, not like any other book I have read. The story is split into four parts, each with a different focus of the overall plot. But not only that, the chapters alternate between Keralie, a con-artist/thief who I would call the main character of the book, and the four Queens of the region. The Queen's chapters alternate between all four of the queens, telling snippets of their lives and court intrigue- and sometimes their murder. I will admit that the chapters narrated by Keralie kept me more engaged than the Queens, I cared more about her than anyone else so I kind of wished the first two parts of the book did not include the queens. I had a hard time getting through the first half of the book since the plot did not move very much, more world building and death plotting than any real action. Once the third section began, the pacing of the book picked up and I was able to speed through the rest of the story. There were some nice surprises that took place at the end that I never anticipated and overall the story wrapped up just about perfect. Astrid was able to create an entirely new story and developed a world that existed within a single volume (which makes me happy since I hate waiting for answers!). I look forward to more from Astrid to come- what a great way to debut!
This is a book that I was really looking forward to and was excited about, and then was totally disappointed in. There are several reasons why. The four queens are probably the most interesting characters in the entire book, and they are basically all dead by the end. Keralie, the main character, is boring, unlikeable, and stupid. She has the chance to save all the queens by telling them what she saw on the comm chips, and what does she do? She keeps that little detail to herself. Like an idiot. Varin was such a stiff and brooding character and their romance just did not work at all. I kind of wish that had been left out. It would have been a better story. This book jumps around a lot, but you don't realize it until you get to the middle. Keralie's chapters first take place before the queens are dead, but that alternates with chapters from the queens POV as they are being killed. So by the time the middle of the book comes, all three queens are still alive from Keralie's perspective. It was so confusing. Quadara sounds like the worst place ever to live. I mean, it's supposed to be dystopian I guess, but it's not like they really do anything to fix it. There's a lot of stupid rules and the way the queens are treated is also kind of dumb. You don't even meet the mastermind behind the murders until 3/4 of the way through the book. And then the way things ended was how the murderer wanted it to be, but with a different person in place. I just felt like they did a whole bunch of stuff to try and solve these murders, but ended up back in the same place. I'll be honest. I got halfway through this book and then skimmed the rest of it. I just didn't care anymore, especially about Keralie, the worst character ever. This might be exactly the kind of book some people like, but it was just not my cup of tea.
Title: Four Dead Queens Author: Astrid Schotte Release Date: February 26, 2019 Genre: YA, Fantasy, Mystery, Dystopian LQBTQ?: N/A only partial read People of Color?: Yes Bechdel Test: Yes Trigger Warning:s: None in the first 7 chapters or so. Disclaimer: I received a sneak peek of Four Dead queens in exchange for an honest review. The first several chapters vacillate between Keralie and the Queens of Quadara. These chapters are heavy on world-building of Quadara and its history to catch the reader up to speed. It is a lot to take in but I feel like the stage is set and the narrative can begin to move with much more fluidity. Schotte gives us a view from above and a view from below. Karalie is one of the best "dippers" (pick-pocket) on the streets. When we initially meet her she is stealing a package from a royal messenger and Mackiel, her friend/boss, congratulates her on the achievement. That night at the black market auction, things go very wrong when the messenger shows up to retrieve his stolen package and Mackiel turns on them both. Meanwhile, in the palace that the four queens reside together in, the unthinkable happens - a queen is murdered. The remaining three are left to decide what to do her the throne without an heir apparent. The sneak peek ends here, but I suspect we'll end up with three more dead queens. Quadara's society is highly rigid and structured and with each empty throne, the world seems on the brink of chaos and a possible war. Four Dead Queens reminds me of Divergent and Six of Crows so far. I would recommend it for fantasy, YA, and dystopian fans. So far it is suitable for teens and up. I cannot wait to read the rest of Four Dead Queens! I've already preordered the book and look forward to staying up way too late reading it!
Won Paperback ARC from BookishFirst.com! I'm struggling with what to call this book. A murder mystery it is. A fantasy book it is not. A dystopian it doesn't feel like but I guess that's the closest it is. There's nothing fantastical about the world Scholte has created. The Eonists don't have magic, they have highly advanced technology. But since it's set in an unfamiliar place, it feels less dystopian. It's very foreign. Also, the cover is killerrrrr!! The unique crowns piled haphazardly is very intriguing even if the title already tells you what happens. I enjoyed this book a lot. There was murder, there was intrigue, there were a lot of unique aspects like having four queens and four quadrants make up a kingdom. Each quadrant has something they make or do that is different from the other quadrants. Ludia for art and music, Eonia for technology, Archia for agriculture, and Toria for...I don't remember. lol. There's a lot going on. The history is a little muddled and confusing. There once was a king with four wives. He was bad. The wives killed the king (I think?) and decided to rule together but separately over each quadrant and to make Queenly Laws, which don't always make sense. The queens aren't allowed out the palace for fear of being influenced? People can come in and petition them but once the queen becomes the queen, she is forever kept isolated within the palace with the other queens. What? I really liked Keralie, our thief extraordinaire. I was quite suspicious of her for most of the book. I mean, if you're the best thief and liar in Quadara, no one is going to trust your truths. The timeframe got a little confusing in the book and jumping around to 6 POVs. Also, *pet peeve*, where is the Oxford comma?! There are lesbian couples in this book. This is not a spoiler nor is it a pivotal point in the book. It's just a normal occurrence,as it should be in life. I enjoyed this book and look forward to more from Astrid Scholte. And am kind of disappointed that this is a standalone.
Kept Me Guessing! I received an ARC of this book through BookishFirst in exchange for an honest review. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte! It promised me a "fast-paced murder mystery" on the back blurb and I feel like it really delivered. The book is set in the nation of Quadara which is divided into four quadrants and ruled by four queens. The queens rule "together, yet apart" and work to preserve the culture of their individual quadrants. It's interesting how different the quadrants are and the contrast in important values and levels of technology between them. The story is told from its main character Keralie's first person perspective interspersed with third person perspectives for each queen (Iris, Corra, Stessa and Marguerite). Keralie, a professional thief (or "dipper"), is an interesting character and I enjoyed learning more about her and her bigger role in the murder plot. Honestly, this book kept me on my toes far more than I was really expecting. It kept me guessing with all its twists and turns right up to the end, and kept my nose glued to the page!
This is a promising start and I want to read more. Some wordbuilding seems tired and familiar (quadrants, for example) but it is not so much of a problem if the rest of the book delivers. This excerpt offers the first five chapters. Based on this, I want to continue reading. Three and a half stars for now.
Four Dead Queens is Astrid Scholte’s debut novel; though she’s not new to the world of writing. Before she decided to dive headfirst into books (which I can already tell you was a brilliant decision) she was a writer for film and television. What first caught my attention to Four Dead Queens had to be the cover. I love the bright turquoise over the dark background, with the silver font. Having all the crowns be in different styles was a nice touch as well. Though I’ll confess that for the briefest moment I thought this was another book by Kendra Blake thanks to all of the crowns on the cover. That misunderstanding didn’t last long though, I can promise you that. The novel is based on a nation divided into four. Thus the need for four queens. Each queen rules her district, and there’s very little crossing that happens between each one. The districts are; Toria (the intellectual quarter), Ludia (the emotional quarter), Archia (the agricultural quarter), and finally Eonia (the futurist quarter – not to be mistaken for Toria). Naturally the nation is named Quadara – nothing else really would have made sense, now would it? The queens all rule from the same throne rule, also split into four, but they don’t make joint decisions. At least not about the individual districts. Warnings first: There are some scenes, both ones that actually occurred and those pictured or described that are fairly graphic. They all pertain to the plotting and murdering of the four queens. For the record, you can usually tell when one of these scenes is about to happen, so if it is disturbing to you it could be easily skipped. I’ll confess that I was somewhat hesitant to read a book titled ‘Four Dead Queens.’ While I’ll admit that I could tell, from the title alone, that it could have a lot of potential for intrigue and fascination…I was worried that it’d be a heavy tale. I’m sure that’s understandable, since the title sort of implies that four queens will be dying imminently. But then I went and read the except over at BookishFirst, and I was immediately enthralled. I just knew I had to read all of it, and sooner rather than later. My favorite part about Four Dead Queens is that I walked into it with an assumption being made; that four queens were dead or going to die, only to have that thrown into question. For a while nothing was clear, not even the accuracy of the title. And I really liked that. Scholte managed to throw some surprises at us with what seemed like the only part of the plot set in stone. That I couldn’t predict how the rest of it would go from there was wonderful. It was all masterfully done. I was pleasantly surprised by the choices made for perspectives in this book. While I would have assumed that the queens would be shown in their own perspectives (and I was right on that count) I wouldn’t have expected Keralie at all. She’s seemingly uninvolved in any of it, but somehow ends up in the center of the mess before the end. I really enjoyed Keralie’s character in particular, though there were one or two queens that I was fond of as well. Keralie absolutely had the most character growth during the course of the novel. She took some blows, both emotionally and physically, and she came out stronger for it in the end. I love it. I can’t wait to see what Scholte does for her next book. Hopefully we’ll get some hints soon! I don’t think it’ll be a sequel to Four Dead Queens, but then again I could be wrong. Regardless I’m looking forward to hearing
Thank you to BookishFirst and the publisher for providing me a copy to review. My opinion was in no way affected by this. *minor spoilers* Since this is a murder mystery, I don’t want to spoil anything so I will split this review into two sections to prevent any spoilers. First thing first, I am not sure what genre this book goes in. It is a murder mystery with science fiction and fantasy elements. I enjoyed this blend of genres and it was interesting to see both of those genres mixed. Before I got to the first plot twist of the book, I will admit I was not enjoying it. I actually debated about stopping because I was not enjoying it, though I am glad that I did stick it out until the end. .Keralie was a pretty forgettable character. I actually forgot her name when I was reading, though I think that partly me being exhausted and also the book being not really intriguing me. I feel bad saying this but she felt standard. I did not see any qualities that made her stand out from other characters. My favorite characters was the villian and Varin, Keralie’s companion, was a close second. I absolutely loved the villain. Their reason for killing the queens was so they could change the way the government was run. They were also ruthless and knew what they wanted and how to get it. As for Varin, he was just sweet and dorky. I loved his character arc. As for the queens, whose chapters are interspersed into the story until they are killed, really did grow on me. I wish we got to see more of Iris because she was a fireball. When she was killed, she thought “I am the Archian queen! How dare someone cut my throat,” which I felt really summed up her personality. Corra was my favorite because she reminded me of myself; loving but an intellectual. The government was flawed to say the least. The quadrants could not share freely with each other because it was believed that sharing ideas and goods would ruin the ideals of each quadrant. The best way I can describe is like the factions from Divergent, each quadrant had their own schtick, such as entertainment, technology, agriculture, etc. But unlike the factions, there was no sharing between them. All fruits and vegetables had to be imported making them weeks old before people outside of the quadrant received them. Any technological advances, such as electricity, or medicine were strictly controlled or not allowed at all. One thing that I thought was weird was that people could travel between each quadrant, which is strange because there is such a tight control on the interactions between the quadrants. Also, the queens had to devote their whole lives to their positions and could have very little in the way of personal connections. A queen could not marry or keep her own children and this caused a lot of tension in the book. If you didn’t guess there are going spoilers, though I am going to give the barest of details so even if you do read it there are at least some surprises. CAN WE PLEASE TALK ABOUT THOSE PLOT TWISTS!!!! For the ending, I was satisfied with it. But because I hate myself, I wish that it had not gotten wrapped up so nicely. I was so mad, but it was also satisfying, to see The Villain winning and Keralie paying for the deed that she did but not something that she was willingly apart of.
Looking forward to the release of this new fantasy. The sneak peak is so good. Hope the book continues the momentum.
This book turned out to be nothing like I expected. It started slowly for me with the different view points and trying to keep my mind focused on what was happening and who these characters were. But once I was introduced to Keralie, this book instantly became a page turner for me. The pacing picked up and the mystery unfolded in layers that came with twists and turns down darker and darker lanes. This book does contain some violence (just the title alone implies this), but nothing I couldn't handle with my dislike of violence. The scenes with bloodshed and death were written well and not overly gory. In other words, it fit just right for the plot. I loved Keralie and found myself rooting for her and feeling her happiness, anger, fear, confusion. The romance in this book is slow burning and just the type I prefer. The world building is amazing and I was pulled right into this setting without ever looking back or thinking something didn't fit to pull me out. The suspense and mystery made this book a fun read. I will seek out this author's future books.
There are definitely some staple fantasy tropes that are sure to draw me in: dragons, women disguised as men, sisterhood, fairytale elements, etc. etc. Included in these is “thieves as protagonists.” While nothing has ever topped Megan Whalen Turner’s “Queen’s Thief” series, I’m still always on the lookout for a new favorite take on this theme. Not only does “Four Dead Queens” meet that criteria, but it was given an extra boost in that it’s a stand-alone novel. Rare, indeed, in this YA fantasy climate! But while there were definitely some good elements and legitimate surprises to be had in the story, in the end I was left feeling a bit flat after getting through this book. Keralie is just your typical thief, happy to continue her life of petty crime and freedom. The politics and greater movements of the complicated city that she calls home, made up of four quadrants each ruled by its own queen, exist largely outside of her life and she’s fine with that. Until, that is, one of her jobs goes side-ways and she finds herself caught up in a murder mystery that is greater than could be imagined. Not one. Not two. Not even three. No, all four queens have been brutally murdered. And now Keralie and the mark she hit that lead her into all of this mess find themselves wrapped up in a conspiracy that goes further than they could have ever imagined. I really liked the complicated world-building that was constructed for this story. The four quadrants and the various cultures and philosophical approaches they take were well-established and interesting. The world felt “lived in” and fully realized in a way that I think is fairly impressive given the fact that there have been, again, a sort of over-abundance of this type of world-building in YA fantasy in the past (ascribing generic traits to regions/cultures and calling your world good). Given the fast-paced nature of the book and the fact that it was a stand-alone, I was pleased to see a decent avoidance of info-dumping to convey this type of background information. Could more have been done? Yes. But it’s hard to both rant about how there aren’t enough stand-alone novels out there and then ding the ones that do come out too heavily for having a restricted word count within which to do their work. So I’ll give that a pass here. As I mentioned, the story was fast-paced. The action starts from the very first page and there is very little let-up as the mystery unfolds. I was able to guess at a few things here and there, but there were also a surprising number of twists and turns that I failed to see coming. That said, the fast-paced nature of the story could also work against the plot as well. Time itself didn’t feel very well delineated or established. Some of the action felt like it was all happening at once and then a bit later I would realize that no, several days had actually taken place. Again, kind of a weird complaint, but the fact that I was buzzing through the book as quickly as I was almost worked against it. I couldn’t quite settle in, at times. So while I didn’t guess some of the reveals, I’m not sure whether this was because they were truly surprising or because I was so off-balance by the speed of the book that I didn’t have time to think about it. I also only felt marginally attached to our main characters. While Keralie had many of the traits that I like to see in my thief protagonists, she also felt a bit like a cardboard cut-out of everything we’ve come to expect from a character
This book drew me in from beginning to end and was really fascinating to read. However, there were a lot of spots in each chapter that jumped off course with the plot and it made a few moments were I was scratching my head thinking that I am lost and it was hard to follow along. Once I got back on track, the book was at its breaking point and the climax hit and then it really started to get good. I am so intrigued when I read books of two unlikely heroes joining forces together and they become stronger than ever just like how Keralie and Varin. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
Wow! Four Dead Queens is a thrilling ride from start to finish! Set in world where resources are found in specific territories, and strict enforcement limits trade and technological growth, a black market flourishes. Enter Keralie, a street-hardened thief who is more than she seems. Readers will instantly connect with Keralie as she navigates who she sees herself as and who others believe she can be, all while uncovering the conspiracy of the dead queens. The plot doesn’t disappoint, with twists and turns this English teacher and YA enthusiast didn’t see coming! The use of multiple narrators is an interesting and effective way to fully engage in the world and people of Quadara. Readers are in for a satisfyingly fast-paced murder mystery!