February 26, 2019

Review: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

Four Dead Queens
Author: Astrid Scholte 
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: February 26, 2019
Publisher: Putnam
A divided nation. Four Queens. A ruthless pickpocket. A noble messenger. And the murders that unite them.
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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.
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 every reader inside the pages of this amazing debut and I can't recommend it highly enough to everyone how wants something fresh and exciting.

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