An intriguing race against time to save four queens from being murdered.
Four Dead Queens is the debut novel of Astrid Scholte. Scholte has a BA Hons (Film, Media and Theatre) and a Bachelor of Digital Media. She has had a ten-year career in animation and visual effects, most notably working in visual effects film production for Avatar, The Adventures of Tin Tin and Happy Feet 2.
This novel has a tantalizing front cover and blurb which immediately draws you to the story.
The immediate expectation is that this is a fantasy novel, and the first half of the book is just that. But in the second half it takes an unexpected turn when the pace picks up and we become part of the race against time to stop the murder of the Four Queens.
The Four Queens each rule a different part of the Land of Quadara, a country split into four different quadrants or states, each with their own rules and way of life. Their skills are not shared between quadrants. These skills are technology, the arts, agriculture and trade. The Queens must work together to ensure peace.
This novel introduces us to 16-year-old Keralie. She is a talented “dipper” or pickpocket, making her living stealing from others. She lives in the quadrant of Toria, where the ships move the goods around the Land of Quadara. One day her “boss” asks her to steal a comm case holding some chips with important information. Keralie accidentally discovers that what is on the chips, is the murder of the Four Queens. With the help of the messenger Varin, who she stole the chips from, they set about trying to save them.
Four Dead Queens is essentially a murder mystery set in a new fantasy world. The first half is slow, but the pace certainly picks up with very unexpected twists and turns along the way. Just when you think you have worked out the plot, things change again. It is a story of betrayal, secrets, romance and intrigue. Who is to be trusted and what alliances can be relied upon?
At 418 pages, this is not a short novel, but as the intrigue takes hold, we are swept along with the narrative. It is mostly seen through the eyes of Keralie, written in the first person, but dotted throughout are chapters about the other main characters written in the 3rd person.
This novel is essentially about finding our place in the world.
Scholte has dedicated this book “to the queen in all of us”. She asks us to “be brave, self-confident, opinionated, unapologetic, and determined to achieve her (sic) dreams”. All are qualities we would like to see in young adults as they navigate this constantly changing world; qualities we see in our heroine, Keralie. It is a story of hope that good will prevail and that we can change our narrative.
It is recommended for ages 12 and up, but my advice would be ages 14+ due to its more mature themes.
Reviewed by Sue Mauger
Distributed by: Allen & Unwin
Released: March 2019