Amazing Murder Mystery

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I've got to say— for the first 25% of this book, I was really just not feeling it. Everything felt dull to me, it read like one of those classic fantasies, and something just didn't *click* for me the way that I wanted it to. I found Keralie frustrating, the plot unordinary, and the worldbuilding mostly mediocre. I was finding problems with the writing and it was just hard for me to get into.

But damn, y'all, the last 50% of the book deserves ten stars on its own. I mean, the plot took such a turn and it finally really, truly felt like the murder mystery I was told it was going to be. Maybe I'm just still living on the adrenaline of the ending. But like, that ending was really good.

The queens were the power. No one else.

Power was a game, and over the years, Iris had perfected it.

Four Dead Queens follows Keralie, a thief (dipper) who's part of a larger black market network. Keralie steals things from people and gives them to Mackiel, her childhood friend and superior, and Mackiel sells them. In turn, Keralie gets some of the profit. However, Keralie sees Mackiel as more than a superior, but Mackiel... doesn't. He's been manipulating her for his own gain.

When Keralie's assigned to steal a comm disk from a messenger, the operation becomes messed up and Keralie ends up watching the comm disks, seeing all of the deaths of the four queens. However, Varin, as a messenger, needs to retrieve those comm disks— otherwise, his death date will be moved up.

This all takes place in Quadara, a nation with four different sections: Eonia, Toria, Ludia, and Archia. Each plays a different role in the nation. Eonia manages medicine and produces technology, Toria manages imports and exports throughout the nation as well as overall discovery, Ludia is the center of arts and fashion, and Archia is the source of crops and fertile land.

All of these quadrants are very separate, and there's hardly any transferring of citizens from one quadrant to another.

In the exposition of the story, I was honestly just not that impressed; it just seemed like so many other stories that I had read, and the premise of the four quadrants reminded me deeply of Divergent. I wasn't that entertained or as invested in the story as I wished that I was?

But guys... when we hit around 30-40%, it really started kicking in, the plot started moving, everyone was dying and I was here for it. But what I really want to talk about out of all of this is that in the end?? everything started clicking together. What previously seemed like a classic fantasy turned out to be so, so much more and the reveal of the killer?? I was shocked.

I did think that the prose could have been a little bit better, and Keralie kind of frustrated me in the beginning, and Keralie's whole flirting with Varin was too sudden when she was threatening him two minutes ago, but /that ending/.

I probably would have rated this five stars, but there were also some very questionable parts in this novel that I was kind of... iffy about.

For example, on page 131 (of the physical arc) it says things like "Love was the most important emotion of all" & non-romantic love exists, but in this context, it really seems like it was talking specifically about romantic love??? I'm not an aromantic person, so I really can't speak for how someone aromantic might interpret this, but it just seemed kind of concerning to me.

Also, two of the queens were sapphic, who died (along with the other queens) and there was another f/f relationship, but they were very minor side characters and mentioned possibly two times in the entirety of the book. So. That's just a little... :///

Trigger and content warnings for death, murder, poisoning, throat cutting, severe burning, drowning, death by fire, abusive relationship, and imprisonment.

All quotes were taken from a galley & are subject to change.