Three reasons Four Dead Queens will satisfy your YA fantasy needs


Astrid Scholte’s debut novel is moving into a crowded space, but Four Dead Queens should carve out a niche on a YA fantasy reader’s TBR list.

Four Dead Queens has a particularly evocative title, one that almost certainly will call up memories of Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns and its sequels. But although Astrid Scholte’s debut might seem like a springboard off of that series, opening it up reveals that its something rather different, and that’s a good thing.

For YA fantasy readers needing a palate cleanser before they dive into their next series, there’s a lot to like about the nation of Quadara (unimaginative though the name is), ruled by four separate queens cooped up in their palace. Each quadrant has its own identity, and generally, never the twain shall meet. If this is sounding familiar, too, it probably should, but Scholte is borrowing more from science fiction here for a work that feels a bit derivative, but ultimately solid enough to fill your TBR list.

Let’s get into why, shall we?

Not just fantasy, but science fiction

Scholte doesn’t just sprinkle some common YA sci-fi tropes in the creation of Quadara, so this feels less like a simple attempt for crossover appeal and more that it actually matters. Moreover, the technological wonders of Eonia actually do get sold in a black market to people who live in other quadrants. The novel is still definitely meant as more fantasy than anything else, considering that it’s about queens, but the nods to how different things are in different quadrants elevate this past something more generic.

A visit to Eonia during the book — and no, we won’t reveal why — helps with this as well. Although there’s still plenty of the usual stereotyping, there are actual reasons for why these four sections became the way they are in the book, not just “because someone way back when decided,” though that’s very much part of the whole issue.

Rebels are everywhere

Normally, when there’s a society that divides itself based on certain qualities, pretty much everyone buys into this system except for one or maybe two characters. Normally, they’re the main characters. But Keralie, our thief-turned-possible-aide-to-the-crown, doesn’t rebel by inherently not fitting into her quadrant so much as just learning from the other quadrants and applying that when she needs to.

However, Keralie isn’t the only rebel in Quadara, and it goes pretty high up. Rather than have Keralie spark a societal change, there are other people who’d like to change parts of how Quadara functions, and a reader even gets to spend some time with some of them, viewing different characters through different lenses and thus providing a more generally complete picture of those same characters and why they want to change the country.

Again, it’s a relatively simple step forward from the typical application of these tropes, but it’s still an important one.

Keralie and Varin (but mostly Keralie)

Ah, Keraline and Varin. Is it any surprise that there’d be a male lead character who has some romantic overtones to our main heroine? No, it is not, but Varin actually has pain and issues that are not caused by Keralie, and vice versa. They absolutely cause conflict with each other, too, though, and that’s good. However, their chemistry and relationship go beyond just being thrown together by chance, and they get to develop together and individually. Is it any surprise that we might prefer Keralie? Well, no. She narrates a solid half of the book, as you may expect, and familiarity, in this case, breeds appreciation.

More. 19 books we can't wait to read in 2019. light

Do all of these changes to the typical applications of the genre immediately make this a good book? Well, that’s not true. As always, execution matters, but the execution of Four Dead Queens even with its occasionally obvious twists and somewhat bland foundations, is enough to make a fantasy fan pick it up.