Confliction in Four Dead Queens | Book Review

Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

3/5 STARS

@ozbooksnail

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Author: Astrid Scholte
Published: February 2019
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pages: 432 {paperback}

Review on Goodreads

Big thanks to Allen & Unwin for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review


Initial Thoughts upon Finishing

Hm. What to think about this book? Every page, every sentence, every word was so enrapturing and exciting. But the overall plot, I disappointingly admit, was lacking. So I will say right now that this is worth reading for the world, the characters, the awesome Agatha Christie vibes and murder mystery, but it is not a *satisfying* book to finish. Which is frustrating. It’s sort of like eating an amazing dessert and then you try someone else’s dessert, only for it to ruin the lovely taste in your mouth right at the end. Gah.


Four Dead Queens

This book is an epic fantasy following a thief called Keralie. She lives in a realm divided into four kingdoms, ruled by four queens. Whilst the kingdoms are separated by geography and walls, the queens reside in the palace together and rule from this central point. And the plot of the book is that the queens die, one by one, with Keralie all tangled up in the mess.

We have some nefarious characters, some jaw-dropping plot twists and some stunning world building. But what we don’t have, is anything much more than what is described in the blurb. The blurb is pretty much all you get in this book – it never goes beyond it. And the villain is a huge letdown.


Why I’m Still Telling You to Read This

The journey through this book’s 400 pages was so worth it just for how much I damn well enjoyed it. It wasn’t a terrible ending; the ending made perfect sense, it tied things up nicely, it clarified everything that went on and left us able to sleep at night knowing that all was right in Quadara.

It’s like I said: I just didn’t want the plot to be what it was. Where was our evil mastermind, Mackiel? Pft. What a wimp. Mackiel never really blossoms into a evil genius . . . he just sort of manages to pull of a plan with a bit of luck and is a little too conveniently friends with another important character, to whom we are introduced much later on.

But Mackiel *does* keep our hopes pinned high throughout the story that he is the ultimate evil and we’re so ready to blame everything on him. Keralie’s desperate escape from him, from her past and from herself is exciting and something you’re sure will prove to be a great character arc. And it is in enough of a way that I can accept this book for what it is.


Why it Let Me Down

But my fingers are positively itching to elaborate on what really got my goat with this book.

I didn’t appreciate the easiness of the ‘real’ villain. They felt like an afterthought – as though the story had floundered with no reasonable solution and OH! here the villain comes to make things make sense. It was unsatisfying, not clever enough, and made no sense. Why would this particular person be so set on being so evil? I didn’t believe it. That is probably what it came down to: I simply didn’t believe the villain to genuinely have nurtured such motives to do what they did.

The repetition of the plot caught me out a little, too. The main climax of the story is repeated about four times (I have no idea if that’s accurate but jesus, it felt like 2272 times). So the climax of the story is . . . lost? When you know what’s going to happen from page one, are reminded at page 20, relive it for pages 100-300 and then get a summary of those same events on page 400 . . . eh? The impact is lost.

I think because there was no real a-HA! moment, the momentum of the plot just puttered out and left me harrumphing as I sit heavily on my bed trying to pinpoint where exactly this went so wrong. So let’s discuss spoilers:

Click to See Spoilers

What I desperately wanted was to see the assassin in action and save one queen. Just one. But all die. Not only that, but Keralie falls asleep TWICE whilst on a mission to save the queens?@?#$:#>M@L like . . .EXCUSE ME – YOU HAD ONE JOB?!

Angry feelings aside, I would’ve accepted this if there had been some reward for approximately 100 pages of following her and Varin skulking around the palace for two days. Like, just one thing that they had achieved. But then we find out that Keralie did actually do the killings?! OOooh – this is getting exciting . . . but then truth be told at that point, the punch-y-ness of this plot twist’s delivery is ‘meh’. I don’t know why? I feel like I should’ve liked this more???

Perhaps all it is is that this book just wasn’t for me in the end. I wanted it to be, but it wasn’t. The over-cleverness of the plot reveal dampened its effect. Not only that, but the villain – Arebella – never got a chance to actively do something evil (like, where’s my Ursula creating a manic storm after defeating King Triton moment?)

And then CONVENIENTLY, Queen Marguerite comes back to life. I think I nearly threw the towel in at this point. Keralie was about three seconds away from being hanged, if she hadn’t broken herself out of prison there was a snowball’s chance in hell that the useless (SO USELESS) inspector would’ve proved his point in time. So it’s a thumbs down for the plot reveal from me.


Summary

Okay, I’m going to leave my tangled thoughts there. This book is a great read, a disappointing finish. Ultimately, I’ve probably confused you more than I helped you. I LOVED the murder mystery and how much it felt like reading And Then There Were None – but unlike Agatha Christie, the finale was lacklustre. I will let you decide whether this tickles your fancy – but shall say one more thing, I devoured this book in less than two days and that is FAST for me. So I’m not kidding when I say this is a solid, addictive read.


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Happy Reading

~~ Kirstie ~~

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