Page Count: 408
Release Date: February 26th, 2018
Rating: 3/5 stars – Liked It
Full Disclosure: I received an ARC of FOUR DEAD QUEENS at San Diego Comic-Con. This has not affected my review.
“Your mileage may vary” is a phrase that can literally apply to any book. We all enjoy different things and different genres and therefore get different levels of enjoyment out just about anything in life. FOUR DEAD QUEENS is a read where I have felt that phrase more keenly than most. I unfortunately bounced hard off the initial conceit, which hampered my enjoyment of the read overall. But if the conceit is something that personally doesn’t bother you, you’ll find an intriguing murder mystery to enjoy.
FOUR DEAD QUEENS hinges on the following initial premise: the land of Quadara is divided into four, walled-off kingdoms, each ruled by a queen. These four kingdoms have different areas of focus, and are stereotyped in different ways. The Eonists, for instance, develop technology, but forbid emotions in pursuit of pure logic. The Ludists develop entertainment and fashion and are frivolous creatures. This broad paint strokes world building was too shallow for me to engage with, especially as we barely spend enough time in any of these lands to really justify these arbitrary divisions. But if this kind of world is up your alley, perhaps this book is for you for you!
Keralie is a skilled thief working in the seedy underworld of Toria. When she pickpockets a comm case from a messenger outside the central palace where the four queens of Quadara reside, her life becomes incredibly complicated. The comm chips, you see, contain memories recorded by one person that another person can see by ingesting the chip. Events lead Keralie to swallow the chips and she realizes with horror that she has witnessed the murder of all four queens – and the assassin is still on the loose.
While I struggled through the first half of the book, once Keralie gets to the palace with her victim-turned-partner messenger Varin in tow, the pace of the book picks up substantially. They arrive at the palace just as it goes into lockdown, and race to find the physical proof they need to determine who the killer is before they can escape. It becomes a race-against-time murder mystery, with some fun twists along the way. The ending, however, felt a little too easy when all was said and done.
Keralie herself is a fun protagonist, a glib heroine who is also struggling with guilt over recent havoc she wrought in her family’s life. Her motivation to solve the murders is primarily driven by the hope that the reward will be substantial enough to right the wrongs she committed during a bought of petulant defiance. Her quick wit gets herself and Varin out of trouble on more than one occasion.
FOUR DEAD QUEENS ultimately felt like a book that couldn’t make up its mind about what it wanted to be. It was a murder mystery, a court drama, a statement against Divergent-esque divisions, a futuristic sci-fi world with Victorian era elements. A book can certainly be all of those things, but here the elements played against each other, rather than working with each other. It’s a pleasant enough read, but not one that will ultimately make a lasting impression.