Second Hand Pages

Murder, Mayhem and Fantasy: A “Four Dead Queens” Book Review

WOW! This will be difficult to review without spoilers, but here we go!

This book was like a roller coaster ride from one side of death to another. Scholte has given us a story full of twists and turns, literally, to the very end. There were times I thought I totally knew where the book was going (and on a few rare occasions, I have been right) but over all — boy was I wrong!

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Author: Astrid Scholte
Publisher:  G.P Putnam’s Sons
Format/Source: Audiobook
Goodreads, IndieBound, Amazon, Book Depo

From GoodReads: 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.

The Book Dragon Breaks Down…..

Plot: ★★★★ 1/2
World: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Character Development: ★★★★

…the writing…..

The writing was one of my favorite parts of this novel. Scholte’s writing is both quotable and direct. I was not sure what to expect going into it – reviews had mentioned middle grade quality, etc. However, I LOVED it! Over all, the writing was good, but the world building was amazing! It was descriptive, vivid and immersive. The pacing, staging and the wit of her conversations was great! I think the wit is probably my favorite part of my favorite part! ha!

…the plot….

As the title tells us, the novel is the tale of 4 dead queens. How they died, and who did it, of course. The 4 queens are killed off, one by one, by a mysterious assassin that could not be traced. The story is propelled forward using this plot. There are an insane amount of twists that happen during the novel, pushing the trajectory off in a direction you weren’t really expecting. I enjoyed this, as I was pleased to just allow the events to unfold and surprise me as we went. I did not do much “investigating” between the lines as I was too wrapped up in just enjoying it!

The book is told from MULTIPLE POV, which I thought would be tedious, but Scholte does it in a way that is almost seamless. All but Keralie’s chapters are in third person, letting you know that these are events that are happening outside of Keralie’s knowledge but still important parts of the story. I actually really enjoyed this form of writing. It was well done, and mostly organized.

...the characters…

When the story opens, we are introduced to the four ruling queens of Quadara: Iris of Archia, Corra of Eonia, Stessa of Ludia and Marguerite of Toria. She introduces us to each queen, dives into their personal lives and forces us to care about them. While each of the queens had their own personality, I still felt like I could relate to SOME part of each one of their struggles or secrets. Secrets seem to be what made the palace thrive, each quadrant holding onto something.

Marguerite’s secret was most surprising to me, but once I thought about it — not really. Those that protest the loudest usually have the most to hide. There is another secret that made me very happy, but to release who’s it was would give it away too easily, so this is where the secrets end.

The primary character of the book (I wont say MAIN character, as there were so many moving parts of this story) was Keralie. She was a spite fire! I adored her character and her drive to do the right thing, even if it was solely fueled by saving her father. We learn early on that he was in a terrible boating accident – and that’s all I will say, my darlings. Keralie knew who she was through out most of the novel, but it took her a while to ACCEPT that. I felt like that was a huge take away from the story. Letting people tell you who you are only makes recognizing the real you harder. Keralie was wild, reckless and spirited – everything I was a child. This made me root for her even more. While it may not have been the most appropriate response, it was mine nonetheless.

The side characters are very interesting, Mackiel, Varin, and the last character we meet are all suitable side characters, each one adding a layer of depth to the story. The way Scholte used relationships and emotions in the novel was captivating, allowing us to be torn between logic and heart, survival and sacrifice.

I would have been happy to give this novel a solid 5 stars but… the romance seemed entirely unnecessary. I understand that people love romance, but the book worked beautifully without that forced attraction. I do understand that purpose of it, Varin’s ability to feel despite his upbringing, the need for Keralie to be vulnerable — I just felt like the romance was force and did not truly add to the story.

….final thoughts…

Over all – this was a novel that I will likely reread, or relisten to – as I switched back and forth from audiobook to my physical copy. This is a 4 star read for me! I encourage anyone with a love of fantasy, mystery and intrigue to jump in feet first. You will not be disappointed!

tl;dr

Four Dead Queens is a masterfully crafted novel of political advancement, cunning girls, and the longing for a place in the world. Keralie tackles her world with a force that we lack in this world. With an original story, multiple points of view, and twists that will keep you guessing to the last chapter – I recommend this book for all fantasy lovers! While it does not contain magic, the magic the characters bring are more than enough to quench that thirst! Scholte’s novel is a solid 4/5 stars! I encourage you to visit Quadara as soon as you can.

About the Author:

Raised on a diet of Spielberg, Lucas and Disney, Astrid knew she wanted to be surrounded by all things fantastical from a young age. She’s spent the last 10 years working in film, animation and television as both an artist and 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 fiancé and two cats, Lilo and Mickey. Her debut YA novel, Four Dead Queens, was an international bestseller.

You can find her posting about books, cats and Disney on Twitter and Instagram @AstridScholte

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