Review: Four Dead Queens

In a world bombarded with duologies, trilogies and series, it is refreshing to read a stand-alone book. It is one of the reasons why I loved Four Dead Queens. While I love returning to beloved characters, sometimes a series is too much to commit to when there are so many wonderful new books coming out and old favourites to read. And while I would love to see these characters and Quadara again, it was kind of freeing to jump on this one knowing that I didn’t now have a line-up of books to read after it. If anything, it has made me hungrier for more great stand-alone novels. Recommendations, anyone?

I am shocked to admit this but it actually stole me away from another book. I’ve tried to be a bit more of a book purist lately, pouring all my focus into reading one book at a time. Four Dead Queens got me in a moment of weakness – stuck on my commute without my current read. I thought I would jump in noncommittally and pick it back up later. Next minute it was Sunday afternoon, I was more than halfway through, while my previous book lay unloved and unfinished on my bedside table. I finished Four Dead Queens that evening.

Four Dead Queens is YA meets murder mystery meets a splash of fantasy. There isn’t a stand-out genre with this book, as Astrid blends and weaves so smoothly. This was one of my first forays into genre-mashing and I think I’m a convert. The play between the genre elements is seamless and nothing feels out of place in the story or in the world. It all just fits.

Four Dead Queens is YA meets murder mystery meets a splash of fantasy.’

The world is wonderful and each quadrant has been carefully imagined and built. Astrid has taken elements from true cities and their influence really shows, with each quadrant bursting with details and depth. They felt familiar and real, while still being exciting and new. What a feat to accomplish!

While I lament I didn’t get to see as much as some of the quadrants as I would’ve liked (hello, Archia!) the descriptions and the characters that represent these quadrants are so vivid that Quadara still feels full and expansive (especially amazing since the majority of the book plays out in limited locations).

Every step of the way I thought I knew what was going on and it was refreshing to be wrong for most of them. Astrid surprised me in many ways and it was delightful to feel completely at the mercy of the author. While I questioned some of the character and plot developments, as well as some of the reveals, it wasn’t for long and they definitely paid off in satisfying ways that I was not expecting. The book is twist after twist, and while you may think you know what’s coming, in some cases it is nearly impossible to guess right.

‘The book is twist after twist, and while you may think you know what’s coming, in some cases it is nearly impossible to guess right.’

I was worried about this book given the hype it has received but now I can see, for me, it was totally deserved. There was very little I didn’t like about this book. While I was confused for the first half, it was a pleasant mysterious confused and at no point was I stressed that Astrid was going to leave me with unanswered questions or unsatisfied grumblings.

The only thing I can pick out was that some sentences became a little too repetitive. While Keralie’s motives and character arc needed to be clear to the reader, I fear maybe the reader was reminded a little too frequently. Her backstory was brought up quite regularly and while it was clearly a driver for the character, it may have been a touch overdone.

‘It is books like Four Dead Queens that remind me not only how much I love reading but also how much I love writing.’

That being said, I will most definitely pick it up for a re-read in future. I will champion this book to everyone who brings it up near me. It is books like Four Dead Queens that remind me not only how much I love reading but also how much I love writing. Seeing the passion and care that has gone into this world and the characters folded in it, is inspiring and sent creative sparks stirring through me. It is a true power to bring to life a world and with your passion, encourage others to do the same.

Title: Four Dead Queens
Author: Astrid Scholte
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Extent: 432 pp.
RRP: $19.99
Read If You Like: The Caraval trilogy, Children of Blood and Bone, The Illuminae Files trilogy

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