You never really know what’s coming with this novel.
I kept thinking about that one quote from the book launch where Astrid, prompted by a Harry Potter loving Amie Kaufman, said that Four Dead Queens is a novel about a “Slytherin dragging a Hufflepuff on an adventure”.
Blurb: 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. An enthralling fast-paced murder mystery where competing agendas collide with deadly consequences, Four Dead Queens heralds the arrival of an exciting new YA talent.
I attended the Melbourne launch for this novel which was MC’d by none other than our Queen of space fiction, Amie Kaufman who asked some wonderful questions of Astrid, giving us some wonderful insight into the background and making-of the novel/
Another secret we were privy to is that like us, Astrid herself didn’t know the murderer of the Queens until she was near the end of the first draft. This made it interesting while I was reading is trying to pick the killer and motives, it made reading the novel far more engaging and inclusive experience.
Don’t be fooled by this novel. It may include sparks of happiness and a hidden Disney moment, maybe even a happy ever after, but it is nothing of the sort. Four Dead Queens is a novel that explores the human behaviour and by extension brings to life very realistic characters with emotions, ambitions, secrets and the ability to manipulate others.
Astrid has created an entirely new word that is easy for a reader to digest and which characters that are so realistic, it’s almost a warning to watch the intentions, words and hands of those we hold close to us.
I can in no way add spoilers into this post because the way this novel twists and turns and tells you that every theory you have about what is to come is rubbish, is artistic.
I really loved how Astrid had every Queen’s death detailed out on the page for the reader to experience and theorise over whom the killer could be. It’s no surprise that the Queens die as it’s stated in the title, but the way in which their deaths are told from multiple points of view, both Keralie’s and the Queen’s, really adds depth, meaning and significance to the events.
Four Dead Queens is told from various perspectives, although only Keralie’s is in the first person, all other points of view are third-person to capture the entirety of the story as it unfolds.
We see how each Quadrant of this isolated continent – as I believe it to be – called Quadaria differs as per traditions which are upheld by the Queens who are also governed by a law known as Queenly Law. Although we all have our secrets, only some are taken to our graves more than others.
Each quadrant is respected for what they excel in, whether it be science, technology and truths for Eonia; art, fashion and love in Ludia; agriculture, land governance and preservation in Archia; or curiosity, trade and finance in Toria; they’re all different and have their own influence on the case of the Four Dead Queens.
I was just in awe at how the murderer was uncovered. Such a well thought out plan baffled me so much I had to put the book down because my one bain call couldn’t comprehend that someone could orchestrate such a thing.
I’m watching The Prisoner of Azkaban as I write this and I realised just how much the display of evidence and backtracking over all the events to find the Queen’s murderer guilty has in common with time travel. Such a thought out and thorough plan unfolding as it should, blind to even its target, then being explained in intense detail is like someone travelling back in time. I think it’s just so hard for me to understand how a person can know another’s actions and patterns so well that a plan can be constructed in such a meticulous fashion. I guess it’s hard to comprehend unless you are Mackiel (also I forgot his name because I started GodsGrave and all I could think of was Mecurio).
There is romance, friendship, betrayal, secrets and other emotions that are so very human in this novel enlarging the characters to a realistic five dimension version of themselves. We see people from each quadrant – including the Queens – acting in opposition to the rules of their quadrant. For example: this is much like a person in one Hogwarts house acting in a way that would mean they exhibit traits of another house (further example: Harry Potter – a Griffindor – speaking Parseltounge as a Slytherin would be expected to).
Yes, there is romance in this novel and some people might debate against the necessity of it, but I loved it for two reasons. 1) It shows that Eonists can have and show feelings and desires that are usually stamped out of them at a very young age, and 2) I have met Astrid on a couple of occasions and just by being in her presence, you can understand that without romance – even a hint of it – the novel wouldn’t have been hers.
This novel, unlike the last one I read *cough* Wilder Girls *cough*, ended so nicely. Every event that took place within the novel was nicely wrapped up, all the strings tied and every question answered. I don’t think I had one question or worry as I closed the novel, only a nice content feeling of closure and that everything was going to be alright.
As the Disney-loving Princess that Astrid is, it was no surprise that this novel had such a nicely wrapped up, almost happy ending. I feel like having met her at her book launch helped me understand the novel and the reasons for some of the events a lot better. It is a story for all to enjoy and I hope that is you haven’t yet, that you can pick it up sometime soon.
★ Rating ★
I rated this book a ★★★★★ (5/5 stars) because of how light this novel was while still remaining mysterious and adventurous. I loved the way in which Astrid was able to display very simple aspects of the human nature in such small amount of pages, as well as her ability to create a mystery where the answer is so hard to guess that even when all seems well, it isn’t.
See you back here on Monday’s (book reviews), Wednesday’s (storytime/ writing updates) and Saturday’s (other bookish content).