Four dead queens. Three days to catch a killer. Two forbidden romances.
One shocking twist you won’t see coming.
Seventeen-year-old Keralie Corrington may seem harmless, but she’s, in fact, one of Quadara’s most skilled thieves and a liar. Varin, on the other hand, is an honest, upstanding citizen of Quadara’s most enlightened region, Eonia. He runs afoul of Keralie when she steals a package from him, putting his life in danger. When Varin attempts to retrieve the package, he and Keralie both find themselves entangled in a conspiracy that leaves all four of Quadara’s queens dead.
With no other choices and on the run from Keralie’s former employer, the two decide to join forces, endeavoring to discover who has killed the queens and save their own lives in the process. When their reluctant partnership blooms into a tenuous romance, they must overcome their own dark secrets in hopes of a future together that seemed impossible just days before. But first they have to stay alive and untangle the secrets behind the nation’s four dead queens.
First off, I enjoyed the mystery and atmosphere of this book. From the layered culture that felt like a fun blend of fantasy and sci-fi–kings and queens and carriages mixed alongside holograms and futuristic suits formed from microorganisms that regulate your body temperature, help you heal, etc.–to the murder mystery added into the mix, I was immediately drawn into the concept. After all, fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery are all genres I love to read!
The plot kept me guessing, too. For someone who grew up on Agatha Christie and her ability to ceaselessly shock readers with her books, the ending definitely surprised me. I kept suspecting the inspector, to be honest. At first, I was a little disappointed when Arebella came into the picture…it felt, too obvious. Of course it is Marguerite’s missing daughter! However, I thought the sci-fi-tech twist of Mackiel using Keralie to commit the murders was pretty clever. The clues were all there, and even I failed to see them.
There were, however, a few places where the plot was fuzzy or boring for me. In the beginning, many of the queens’ narratives were slow-paced, because they told rather than showed a lot. There were a few info dumps to explain Quadara’s history, and those dragged for me. A few times I was tempted even to skip the queens’ POV chapters (I didn’t). Then more queens began to die and I was dragged in, wanting to know what was happening and half-hoping one of them would manage to survive.
Another aspect that bothered me was the way time was handled at the end of the story. I found myself a little confused about the passage of time when Keralie and Varin were in the palace–four days passed? It felt like less time. What did they eat? How often did they sleep? It felt a little garbled to me. I understand, now that I’ve read the ending and know what was happening to Keralie, that that was at least partially intentional on the author’s part, but these issues pulled me out of the story a little. It was hard to focus on the action when I was wondering, Where the heck have they gotten food while they’ve been hiding in the palace for four days?
One final thing that really nagged at me was the moment when they overheard the inspector, and he later revealed he’d known they were there. I thought it was weird that he knew but didn’t try to capture and question them sooner. He admitted he thought they were suspicious, but did nothing about it while queens were continuing to die? It was because of things like this that I spent so much time suspecting this guy!
In the end, I found myself desperately wanting Keralie to succeed in her mission to save the queens. It was a bit of a relief to see at least one of them survive, because after it all I felt a little bit more connected to the queens and wanted them to survive. I liked that twist as well, since it gave Marguerite the opportunity to confront her daughter. The plot twists shocked me. I enjoyed watching Keralie’s character develop, and I thought she and Varin were cute together, adding in just enough romance to give us some swoon-worthy moments. Overall, it was an enjoyable read, with a unique genre mash-up that I would like to see more of in books, and I’m interested to see what Astrid Scholte writes next.