“May the queens forever rule the day. Together, yet apart” (10).
Astrid Scholte’s Four Dead Queens is a YA Science Fiction novel that takes place in Quadara: a dystopian world ruled by…wait for it…four queens (!!!). Quadara is separated into four “queendoms,” with each “queendom” following a unique set of rules and ways of living:
Archia – Ruled by Queen Iris, Archia is an agricultural island that values hard work, simplicity, and nature. You won’t find any electricity in this queendom
Eonia – Ruled by Queen Corra, Eonia is a frozen quadrant that values evolution, technology, and a harmonious society. Nothing grows in this land.
Toria – Ruled by Queen Marguerite, Toria is a coastal queendom that values exploration, curiosity, and commerce.
Ludia – Ruled by Queen Stessa, Ludia is a “pleasure” quadrant that values music, art and entertainment, and frivolity.
I found the four queendoms of Quadara to be very similar to the five factions in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, with each area focusing on a specific trait: nature, technology, exploration, and frivolity. While the people living in the quadrants are allowed to move freely between each one, the queens cannot. Once they ascend the throne, a queen is not allowed to leave the palace due to “Queenly Law:” thirteen rules that all queens MUST obey.
Four Dead Queens is told in multiple POV through the eyes of the four queens (third person), and the main character, Keralie Corrington (first person): a seventeen-year-old thief who gets involved in this murder mystery when she steals a package from an Eonist—Varin—that contains comm chips. When she swallows the comm chips, she discovers a plot to kill the queens.
I have to say, I thought the murder mystery part to this story was well done. There were so many twists and turns. Just when I thought I knew who the culprit was, there would be another twist that had me second guessing myself. I also liked how Scholte included the perspectives of the four queens as it added depth to their characters and made you really feel for them.
That being said, the world-building was sadly lacking. This is a dystopian world, and the story barely scratches the surface. We get a glimpse of Toria and Eonia because Keralie and Varin hail from those quadrants, but Ludia and Archia are only mentioned. They don’t serve a purpose in this story other than to add two other queendoms.
Four Dead Queens is a standalone, but I think it could’ve benefited as a duology. There’s just too much to this world that isn’t explained or used. Near the beginning, we’re told there was a king of Quadara 400 years prior who took a wife from each region, and that’s how they ended up with four queens, but that’s really all you get from the narrative. 400 years is a lot of history that could’ve been utilized.
Then there’s the romance…
Keralie’s romantic interest is revealed in the synopsis, so this isn’t a spoiler, but even if they hadn’t divulged that little detail, you would know right away that it’s Varin. As soon as he shows up, she’s ogling him.
Eonist’s like to play around with genetic engineering in their quadrant, and Varin is one of their perfect specimens:
“He had the Eonist look, evenly spaced eyes, full lips, high defined cheekbones and proud jaw. Curls of black hair framed his tan face. His skin was delicate, but hardy” (7).
And just in case you forget how beautiful Varin is, Keralie is going talk about his cheekbones and lips for the rest of the book:
“His sharp cheekbones, defined jaw and perfect skin stood out among the grimy faces” (50).
“Coming from his perfectly shaped lips, I found that hard to swallow” (75).
“His brow was low, his full lips turned downward” (176).
“He pressed his full lips together as though he didn’t quite believe my reasoning” (267).
“…his cheeks darkening at his words” (319).
I have no idea how someone’s cheeks can darken. I guess mine aren’t sharp enough. Can someone with sharp cheekbones tell me how this is possible?
The romance really didn’t make any sense and was completely unnecessary. For Keralie, it’s almost an insta-love, and for Varin…well…I’m not 100% sure why he falls for her? Keralie tries to be an anti-heroine, but she just ends up coming off as selfish and unlikable. She does go through a bit of growth as the narrative progresses, but the pair don’t spend enough time together to warrant a romance. Not only that, but this story is mainly a murder mystery—the romance just doesn’t fit when queens are being offed every few hours.
Overall, Four Dead Queens strength lies in the mystery. Everything else is underdeveloped and never has the chance to grow in this standalone. The writing is fairly decent, but even then, there are issues with dialogue tags and weird adverbial phrases (nodded infinitesimally?) among other things.
Four Dead Queens
I give this book 3 out of 5 stars. It had the potential to be so much more than it actually was. If there had been more world-building and less romance, I think it could’ve been a new favorite.
lip biting: 6
One thought on “Four Dead Queens”
Great review! I’ve been curious about this one.