Hello everyone! Today, to my upmost pleasure, I will be posting my review of Victoria Lee's The Fever King! The Fever King is by far the debut novel that I have looked forward to the most because of the lush world filled with dark corners that I couldn't wait to explore, and that was just from the description. A book truly unlike any other, the The Fever King is a book that I can't stop recommending to people, and I hope that after this post, you won't be able to stop either.
About the Book:
Release date: March 1st 2019
Hardcover page count: 412 pages
In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia. The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.
Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.
About the Author:
Victoria Lee grew up in Durham, North Carolina, where she spent twelve ascetic years as a vegetarian before discovering spicy chicken wings are, in fact, a delicacy. She’s been a state finalist competitive pianist, a hitchhiker, a pizza connoisseur, an EMT, an expat in China and Sweden, and a science doctoral student. She’s also a bit of a snob about fancy whisky.
Victoria writes early in the morning, then spends the rest of the day trying to impress her border collie puppy and make her experiments work.
She is represented by Holly Root and Taylor Haggerty at Root Literary.
Where to buy the book:
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. All the thoughts below are my own. Quotes featured are also from an unfinished copy of the book and are subject to change*
In Carolina, a country part of the what was once the United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up alone in a hospital bed. Sent there after deadly viral magic swept through his neighborhood, he’s now alone, his family killed. Still, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Now a technopath thanks to deadly magic, his ability to control technology attracts the Minister of Defense. Inviting Noam to train with the magical elite, he’s asked to help serve his country by training to become one of their elite magical soldiers. But as the son of undocumented immigrants in a country whose Prime Minister promotes nothing but oppression of immigrants, the last thing Noam wants to do is help the government and wipe away the years he’s spent fighting for the refugees. So he embraces the opportunity as a way to finally make change, accepting the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic and secretly planning to use it against the government. But when he meets the minister’s ward and all his dangerous beauty, Noam becomes less certain if what he’s doing is right. Stuck between his longing for change and wishes for love, Noam must decide if trust is a thing he can give out liberally, or if the more he lends his heart out, the faster his world might come crashing down around him.
This book was what I’ve been waiting for for so. Damn. Long. Ever since the day I saw one of the author’s beautiful aesthetics on her twitter (which you should definitely check out) I knew that I had to read this book. Why, you may ask, were you hooked on this book from the start? For most books, this might be a relatively hard question to answer. But for The Fever King, I never once questioned my seemingly undying love for its concept, characters, plot, setting, and just about everything else. So, let’s go over a few of these.
“Power’s a nasty thing, and none of us are immune.”
The first aspect that I was completely in love with was one that I feel isn’t discussed that frequently: dark characters. I’ve read many synopsizes and descriptions of books, and I feel like a common theme in many of them is saying that the book contains ‘dark’ characters or themes. As the person that I am, this attracts me to the point where I would do anything to get my hands on the book. The problem occurs when I get the book and finally get to read it. The book that claimed so frequently to be filled with darkness and pain, isn’t, leading me to feel let disappointed. When it came to The Fever King, I was excited because yes, it’s described by having dark characters, but the author also backed this up with amazing aesthetics and excerpts of things such as the first chapter (subscribe to her newsletter for more of this). And when I finally got to read the actual book… well it’s safe to say that excited couldn’t even get close to describing how I felt. Like, WOW. From page one, an almost painful sense of sorrow can be felt through the pages of Noam’s story as he goes through trauma unlike anything else I’ve read before. And even when something ‘light’ occurs, the sense that something can still go wrong is prevalent. This is caused by a few different elements, one of which being articles that the author includes at the ends of some chapters. The true definition of dark and particularly clinical, these articles chronical one of the character’s trauma while helping to promote the overall feel of the book by creating its dark history. Horrid descriptions of terrifying experiments and twisted recorded conversations are featured through these, making the reading wonder just how destructive and horrifying this world is.
“I take back what I said about silence.”
These articles would mean nothing without the setting. In a post-war Carolina, the world is in shambles. Yes, there are some ‘good’ parts to some of the cities, but most of the people live in disease-ridden ruin and struggle to survive because of the poor treatment they receive. So who exactly are these people who are treated so horribly? They’re citizens from the country lining Carolina’s border—Atlantia. Fleeing their home country to purse a better, safer life in Carolina, they’re often treated like disease ridden rats, given little if any rights, treated horribly, and left to die by the hundreds from the viral magic. Being Atlantian is a big part of Noam’s identity. Fighting for Atlantian rights for as long as he’s been alive, all he wants to do is to continue in his parent’s footsteps and help them. I loved how Lee included this aspect into her book and wove it in so beautifully. The way she discusses a topic so current to our world is breathtaking. Readers will appreciate how she didn’t just mention it once and let it be, but fully ingrained this theme throughout the book, showcase the horrid and disgusting lengths that some leaders might go to prove a point or please the wealthy. The way that she discussed fascism in a young adult book was truly unique, and how she dealt with it even more so.
“‘That’s super Atlantian territory now, right? I heard it’s pretty overcrowded, with all the refugees.’
‘Yeah. I guess it’s…’—what the hell was he even saying?—‘super Atlantian.’”
This theme was seen prominently in Noam and how he dealt with things. As I mentioned before, Noam was practically raised in fear of the Carolinian government and all that they might do to his people. But he was also proactive in his fight against them, doing all he could possibly do to help. When he was originally taken to train, he almost decided not to go but changed his mind when he discovered the power that his new role could grant him. And though he learns not to be so fearful of the pain the government could inflict on him simply because he was Atlantain, his pain and motivation doesn’t lessen. If anything, it gets stronger. The character of Noam is one that would appeal to many in this sense because the sheer motivation and anger that pushes him to act. I loved how he embodied all those that are marginalized and pushed down. The way he moves in such fervor to get to his goal, the way he can be blinded by his ambition at times but still fights for what he believes in, is breath-taking. One other aspect that is so refreshing about his character is that though he actively fights, he still feels the pain of being an Atlanitan. In the quote above, he takes part in a conversation with others from the training center where they say things about his people that, while are not necessarily horrible, are degrading and uncomfortable. Readers would appreciate this as Lee shows the various sides of the immigrant, or minority, experience. How these people speak so plainly about another’s people, thinking of them as a nuance and not as a struggling minority group, and can’t comprehend how horrible their words are, is sadly something that happens every day.
“A moment passed, then Dara abruptly turned his face away. His spine was too straight, head bowed like he was waiting for the blade to fall.”
The fight for immigrant rights wasn’t the only aspect of the book that helped make it the masterpiece that it is. Trauma, a thing that Lee showcased beautifully, was heavily present. And though it was written more obviously for some and more hidden in others, it was such a strong aspect of the book that it would not be complete without it. Now this is the part of my review where I WISH everyone already read it because DAMN I NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT THIS. But, I will contain myself and hopefully still successfully explain the absolutely magnificent job Lee did with including this in the book. In the world we live in, there are a few main types of reaction to trauma, including the person who does something about it, the person who allows it to ruin them, and the person who allows it to engrain with their being and take over their world. Each of these people are present in this book. Written in a way that felt oh so real, these characters in no way behaved like Lee just read an article about trauma and decided to write it into her book. Instead, Lee gives them each their own variations and made sure that not a single aspect about them was left loose and sloppy. From subtle things that readers might not notice right away, to aspects of a personality that both the reader and characters won’t realize are destructive until too late, Lee uses this aspect to once again give a new dimension to her characters. This blends in with how she describes the immigrant experience. Many people don’t think much beyond immigrants besides the fact that they are there. Fewer think about helping them. It’s an even smaller group that thinks about what they might be going through once they are ‘safe’ or a full citizen. This is the group of people that Lee seeks to expand. And while this is not necessarily true for all of her characters that experiencing trauma, it’s still an important part them. Lee includes these themes to help educate the youth, something that can’t be said for many books in the same genre. By exposing readers to new aspects of life, she helps turn a simple book into something that means much more.
Lehrer lifted a brow. ‘Do they leave that part out of the history books? He said, and Noam laughed, surprising himself.”
Another aspect that was much needed in the YA world was all the representation it had, in particular the Jewish and LGBTQ rep. I’ll preface this that while LGBTQ+ used to only be popular in contemporary, they are slowly starting to make their way into fantasy. And the same could be said for books with Jewish themes/characters, only much less so in fantasy. And though I like to specifically seek out books that have these themes, it’s quite rare for me to satisfy both my love of fantasy and my yearning for a Jewish/LGBTQ rep book at the same time. Because of this, I believe that it is safe to say that I have actually never read a book that not only showcased LGBTQ characters in a speculative fiction book, but Jewish characters as well. Too say that I was excited would be undershooting how I felt about this. In fact, as soon as I heard that The Fever King was a book that featured both magic, gays, and Jews, I knew that I would have to read it right away. I could not stress this enough but, wow, did the author not only write these aspects in a way that will make readers swoon, but also made them feel heard. As a Jew myself, I couldn’t help but freak out whenever something Jewish-y was mentioned. And as someone who loves LGBTQ representation in books, I couldn’t stop fangirling when an um…certain pair… did basically anything together. And the fact that Jewish references were featured so prominently through this, blew me away. This was particularly meaningful because these two groups are so rarely seen together, so the fact that Lee was able to combine them in a way that didn’t feel forced but meant to be, was absolutely amazing.
“He wasn’t eating a proper dinner, just picking the red pieces from a bag of sour candies. He’s accumulated quite the pile next to his lukewarm potatoes.”
This review would not be complete without mentioning the beautifully crafted side characters. Each with their own characteristics and personalities, I loved how Lee didn’t just write them for the sake of writing them, but wrote them to be a part of the story. I know this sound kind of silly because of course they were written to be a part of the story. But what most readers might not realize is that often times when an author mentions themes like immigration and trauma, or have certain types of representation including, they reserve them for either just the main character(s) or just the side characters. Lee, on the other hand, did not want to stick with that. Readers will appreciate how she took some themes from the main cast and carried it over to the rest of the characters. By doing this, she proves that those themes shouldn’t just be used as a way to make a particular character seem ‘special’, but expand it to show how similar different people could be. Readers will be able to fall in love with her side cast of characters just as easily as with Noam and Dara, slowly, but then all at once.
I would also like to really quickly address the magic system that is featured in this story. Truly unlike anything else I’ve ever read, I was completely obsessed with it from the moment I read about how the viral magic was something people feared, not sought. With most magic books that I’ve read, having magic is something that is wanted and held on a high pedestal. But in The Fever King, it was something to run from. From the very beginning we learn that Noam is the only survivor of the viral magic that swept through his whole neighborhood. And that’s what happens when you have such a low survival rate, only one out of thousands may make it out alive. Readers will find this captivating as it means that for one person to have powers, hundreds of people have to die. I thought that this added yet another dimension to the darkness of the book, but also increased the urgency of which Noam must save his people. Never have I thought that a book’s magic system would serve as almost an antagonist, which was something I enjoyed greatly in this book.
Wow, well that was definitely something. This review meant so much for me to write because I cherished this book so much. Filled to the brim with so many emotions, it’s clear that Lee poured her being into making this book as beautiful and perfect as it could be. From the representation showcased, to the characters that demand to be adored, to the plot that is guarantees to make readers scream because WHY????, Lee wrote precisely the type of novel for me. Utterly perfect in every sense of the word The Fever King is not a book to be missed. If you found yourself interested in any of the themes I mentioned, don’t hesitate to check this book out on Goodreads and maybe even preorder. Inspired by true pain and built in a magical world unlike any other, The Fever King will shock you with the horrors it showcases, but make you fall in love all the same.
Enter the Giveaway:
I hope that you enjoyed this post! This book is definitely the best book I've read in a while and I know I am going to struggle finding my next obsession because AH who could obsess over anything else when you have The Fever King? I hope that you consider checking out Victoria Lee and her beautiful gem of a debut, The Fever King.
Until next time,
Hello everyone, today I will be closing the blog tour for Blood Will Out. This is the first dark thriller I have read in awhile so I was very excited when I found out I was able to take part in this tour! And after my review, stay tuned for a guest post from the author herself!
About the Book:
Ari Sullivan is alive—for now.
She wakes at the bottom of a cistern, confused, injured and alone, with only the shadowy recollection of a low-pitched voice and a gloved hand. No one can hear her screams. And the person who put her there is coming back. The killer is planning a gruesome masterpiece, a fairytale tableau of innocence and blood, meticulously designed.
Until now, Ari was happy to spend her days pining for handsome, recent-arrival Stroud Bellows, fantasizing about their two-point-four-kids-future together. Safe in her small hometown of Dempsey Hollow. But now her community has turned very dangerous—and Ari may not be the only intended victim.
AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY
About the Author:
Jo Treggiari was born in London, England, and raised in Canada. She spent many years in Oakland, California and New York, where she trained as a boxer, wrote for a punk magazine, and owned a gangster rap/indie rock record label. Her novel Ashes, Ashes, a YA post-apocalyptic adventure published by Scholastic Press, was a multiple award nominee and bestseller. Her acclaimed novella Love You Like Suicide, appeared in the Fierce Ink Press anthology Becoming Fierce: Teen Stories IRL and as a limited edition of the long-running zine Cometbus. Her most recent YA is Blood Will Out, a psych-thriller, published by Penguin Teen (2018). She has a second yet-to-be-named thriller coming from Penguin in the summer of 2019.
Photo credit: Madeleine Kendall
Blood Will Out is the bloody and dark horror thriller by Jo Treggiari that will take everything you thought you knew about YA thrillers and throw it away. The book follows Ari Sullivan, a girl who wakes up at the bottom of a well injured and alone. With no one to hear her screams except the person who put her there, she’s not sure she will be able to get out. But as someone who used to spend her days fantasizing over her crush and their future together, Ari begins to realize that she might not be the killer’s intended victim, and that getting out of the well may be the least of her worries.
This was definitely and interesting book. Treggiari wrote a plot perfect for those aspiring sleuths who love examining every angle of the crime. From the start, she flings potential suspects at the reader, adding to the atmosphere of confusion that the author built up. I loved how the author kept this tone consistent throughout the book, making sure everything had her signature touch. Even the flashback scenes of happy times the author included, had this dark air to it.
I also fell in love with the murder’s point of view. Though it did feature some animal abuse, which readers easily triggered should be weary of, the rest of their perspective was still quite entertaining. This is especially so as the author wrote those gruesome details to add to the realism of the book (which I later found out through her guest post featured below). I loved getting into their mind as they told their story, something the killers of stories don’t often get to do. It was also interesting to follow them as they got to where they were during the events of the story, with Ari.
Lastly, I loved the setting of the book. Set in a dark and mysterious small town where things were bound to go wrong, I love how the author put a new twist on it. Because of her writing style, things just felt so much more real then they often do with other small-town set books.
If you are a fan of spine tingling thrillers, this book is definitely for you. But be warned that there are scenes where blood and gore are mentioned along with graphic descriptions of animal abuse. Though, these themes are not frequent through the book, they do occur in a few significant spots. Because of this, I would recommend this book for older readers of at least 16 years of age.
How to write an appropriate psychological thriller for younger audiences
What I tried to do was write suggestively. Meaning that although there are dark themes in the book (which there had to be since this is partially the story of a serial killer told in the first person!) I write around actual occurrences. The action skips from the beginning to the end of some of the more graphic scenes and the reader fills in the space in their own mind. The animal torture scenes in particular were very difficult for me as an animal lover and long-time vegetarian but I knew from my research that animal abuse is a commonality in the serial killers that have been studied. There is a trifecta of warning signs and that is one of them.
A serial killer who is just starting out was one of the scariest things I could think of. The book had to be terrifying—because no one wants to read about a cuddly, charming psychopath— and getting inside the killer’s mind helped me to achieve that. It was important to me that their character be well-developed so that even though they were becoming a monster (as society sees it) there were moments the reader could connect with. Instances where the reader could think to themselves: ‘Well I’ve felt that way.’ Or, ‘I would react that way too.’ Just a tiny hook that brought the reader on side. I needed to cultivate some kind of understanding of what could make a person behave like that.
It was hugely important that the strongest thread through the book was the fierce friendship between my main character, Ari and her best friend, Lynn. I wanted to capture that love, that loyalty, the lightness that comes from sharing all the moments in your life with your closest companion. Through flashbacks I was able to show how solid and strong they were with each other and incorporate some humor and levity. And later it is the impetus Ari needs to act and to take control of what is happening to them. Their bond was a good true thing and it directly counterbalanced the darkness in the rest of the book.
Check out the other stops on the tour:
I hope that you enjoyed this post! I love getting to post things like this to help promote authors books. Reviewing is the best way to help an author, and I am glad that I am able to do that.
Until next time,
Hello everyone, today I will be taking part in the Emma in the Night Nerd Blast! I hope that you enjoy this post and become as interested as I am in checking this book out!
Hello everyone, I am so so excited for today's post! Back in May, I was able to meet the wondering Astrid Scholte whose debut Four Dead Queens is releasing February of next year, was able to interview her! I was completely mesmerized with this book and its twists, and it is safe to say that I was not at all prepared for how good it would be. So in honor of today being exactly seven months until Four Dead Queens comes out, I will be posting the interview, my review of this amazing debut, and I will be hosting a giveaway for one person to win a preorder of Four Dead Queens!
(quick note: as I was writing this, I realized that the book comes out two days before I thought it did, so lets just pretend today is actually on the seven-month mark. Enjoy!)
Publisher: Putnam/Penguin Random House
Release date: 26th of February 2019
Hardcover page count: 416
About the Book:
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.
An enthralling fast-paced murder mystery where competing agendas collide with deadly consequences, Four Dead Queens heralds the arrival of an exciting new YA talent.
Preorder Four Dead Queens through the links below:
graphic from author
About the Author:
Astrid Scholte has loved telling stories for as long as she can remember, writing her first "novel" at age 5. Her desire to be surrounded by all things fantastical led her to pursue a career in the visual effects and animation industry. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Film, Media and Theatre and a Bachelor of Digital Media from the University of New South Wales and the College of Fine Arts in Sydney.
She has spent the last 10 years working in visual effects production as both an artist and an artist manager. Career highlights include working on James Cameron's Avatar, Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin and Happy Feet 2 by George Miller. She currently works as a product support manager in the entertainment industry and dedicates her spare time to reading and writing young adult fiction.
She is also a traditionally trained oil painter and enjoys painting her favorite fictional characters. She lives in Australia with her two Burmese cats among her ever-growing mountain of Disneyland memorabilia.
FOUR DEAD QUEENS is her debut novel and will be released by Putnam (Penguin Random House) on the 26th of February 2019.
Interview with the Author:
2. I saw that you worked on the movie Avatar. Do you want to talk about that?
I worked on that in 2009 for a year in Wellington New Zealand as a model’s coordinator. Basically, I looked after the artists that worked on all the characters and the creatures which was super fun but also a lot of work. I think for me being an author works well with my structural, kind of logical mind because it’s all about putting pieces and character motivations together, so it is kind of like a big complex puzzle just in words rather than visuals.
3. How has your job in film influenced your passion for writing YA?
Hugely! I think very early on, the big motivational moment I can remember was when I was 8 and I saw Jurassic Park and I was like I have to be involved in the magic of movie. I always wanted to do something that had to do with stories so that, and seeing these dinosaurs come to life influenced me a lot. I have to do visual effects and I think I very much write books in a cinematic way, because I see them in my head like a movie, so I try and create it on the page like that, so when the reader reads it they see it in their head like a movie too. So, it very much does tie into my film background and my love for film.
4. What inspired you to write Four Dead Queens?
I often have difficulty pinpointing the exact moment, because I think I’m one of those writers that pulls inspiration from all different areas and kind of germinates a bit before I come up with the idea. One of the things is that I’ve always loved murder mysteries ever since I was a kid. You know, Agatha Christie and the whodunit style of storytelling. And I’ve always been a fantasy/YA lover and reader and writer, so I thought combining the two would be pretty fun. I also had this dream that I was in this awesome car and this silver hovercraft flew by and it gave me the kind of inspiration for what it would be like to have these very distinct cultures, and technologies, and people all within one nation, and why and how would it be that way. Then I just had this image in my head of four queens sitting back to back in one court on their thrones, each ruling the same nation at the same time but their own little regions. So yeah, it was kind of a combination of a few different sparks of ideas and inspiration.
5. How did you get to be a debut author?
Well it's been a long journey, it's been seven years that I've been seriously pursuing. I mean, I've always been writing but seriously pursuing being published. I started with two YA novels that I wrote and queried and also tried to get published in Australia where you actually go directly to publishers as opposed via an agent. I didn't have much luck and I kept getting the same feedback that YA Fantasy is a very saturated market and that my novel sounded too similar to other novels that were out, so I wanted to write something really different. I have this love for murder mystery, so I thought okay, this could work in a fantasy setting. When, I heard about PitchWars, I'd only written maybe 15,000 words in March of 2016, so I was like okay let's aim for PitchWars, let's try and get a first draft. I didn't really understand the competition very well at the time which is not good. I should have read the fine print, but I thought if I at least had a first or second draft, I might be able to get in. But you are actually supposed to have a completed manuscript so... I rushed to write it and then I got requests like straight away for the whole thing and I hadn't even finished writing it. So that was a stressful weekend where I quickly tried to finish and polish it as best as I could in the short amount of time. And yeah, I got into PitchWars and I was part of team Pusheen, which is our team name, and I had great experience and again I was just hoping to have a better manuscript. One thing I hadn't really had with my other books was feedback, real CP [critique partner] feedback. So I got that manuscript into shape and was planning to query after PitchWars, but I ended up getting my agent through PitchWars, so that's awesome. Shout out to Hillary Jacobson, she's awesome. So from that she helped me do some further revisions, and I went out on sub[mission] and shortly after I got the offer from Putnam at Penguin. So PitchWars for me, really ramped up my whole experience and made it a really kind of... well usually you hear people being querying for months being on subs for months but I was very lucky that it all happened really quickly through that.
6. What about this genre made you interested in writing in it?
I mean, I love fantasy, I love speculative fiction, I started reading YA back when... well YA wasn't a thing when I was a teen, but paranormal was kind of the first, and Twilight pretty much created YA. Well, I like to think so, and Harry Potter helped as well. I've loved anything that's make believe ever since I was a kid, anything that takes you to another world, explores made up lands and cultures and people and they always connect back to the real world. So you know, it's escapism but there are always parallels we can draw to our own world, which I always think is very interesting to explore.
7. Talk about your debut. What is it about?
Well its called Four Dead Queens and it’s a murder mystery set in fantasy world where there’s a nation spilt into four divisions, so there’re very distinct cultures and people and have a very different way of life. These four queens start being murdered in very brutal ways. The main character Keralie discovers a communication which basically shows the queens being murdered in these terrible ways, so she tries to uncover why this happened, without getting herself killed in the process. Hopefully. No spoilers.
8. What should readers who are interested in this genre look forward to in you debut?
I think the fact that it is a little bit different with the murder mystery aspect. Thrillers in YA are having quiet a moment right now, so if you love that kind of fast-paced, twists and turns, not knowing what’s going to happen next, I think you would really love Four Dead Queens. And also the fantasy elements. So it’s a fantasy, but it also has a lot of hints of sci-fi. Sci-fi is my favorite film and TV genre, so that’s kind of melded a lot into the fantasy element.
9. What piece of advice would you tell aspiring authors who are unsure of their skill?
I think it's very common for authors and writers to question their skills. I think it's just a way that writers tend to be very analytical and self-critical because that's the way that you write. You're like, how can I make it better, this isn't working, so it's hard to turn that off. But I think that as long as you believe in what you're working on and I think the best thing is to create something that you, well I mean people say it all the time, but write what you want to read. I think that's really the most important thing, to believe in what you're writing. If it's something that you would love to read, I'm pretty sure you won't be the only one out there who would want to read it. And also turn off the inner critic like I... because I'm a pantser, I don't revise in my first draft, I just get it all out in the paper. I mean first drafts are supposed to be bad. Let it be bad and then come back and you'll find it's so much easier once you have something on the page. Trying to edit nothing, gives you nothing. So you've got to get it all out there and then work on it and revise it and make it shine.
*I received a copy of a bound manuscript of this book as a thank you from the author when I interviewed her. All the thoughts below are my own*
In the breathtaking standalone debut of Astrid Scholte, Four Dead Queens tells the story of Keralie Corrington, a thief (called a dipper), for Mackiel, an influential businessman who deals in all things black market. Tasked with stealing anything not found in their quadrant, Keralie flourishes in the job that was seemingly meant for her. But when Keralie intercepts a comm disk from another quadrant, things don’t go as perfectly as hopes as she inadvertently watches the deaths of Quadra’s four queens. Hoping to find the culprit as a way of leveraging the palace, she teams up with Varin, the messenger she stole from, to track them down. But with time against them, and Keralie’s old boss following their every move, victory may be harder than they thought.
Only one word could describe how I felt about this book: wow. I was completely blown away with the sheer beauty of this world Scholte has created. Told in immaculate detail, not one aspect of this story was left underdeveloped or without resolve, with everything wrapping up nicely. This is especially notable because Four Dead Queens is a standalone (unfortunately), something we rarely see in fantasy. Not that Four Dead Queens is exclusively fantasy, as it includes a murder-mystery spin filled with the air of a thriller and the technology of a sci-fi, making it truly genre bending. But this is far from the only reason why Four Dead Queens is a book that demands to be read.
As mentioned previously, I read this book as a bound manuscript, meaning that final changes had yet to be made. But this in no way meant that the book was lacking in anyway. In fact, it contained some of the best descriptions and prose I have ever read. I was immediately sucked into Keralie’s story from page one as she hid in a corner conspiring with Mackiel. And as her story continued, that level of engagement never ceased, I was truly experiencing the golden domes and dark corners of Quarda with Keralie. Whenever I had to put this book down, I instantly felt myself longing to pick it back up, its allure constant and undying. Everything seemed to be alive in Scholte’s world, with not a single thing coming off as flat or half-baked.
But of course, no description would be good without the world it was based on. And Scholte made sure to deliver this with ease. The world of Quadra was complete and filled to the brim with so much detail that it felt real. I loved how much effort the author put into making each of Quadra’s four quadrants, laws, and technology, so real. Like wondering which Hogwarts house people belong too, readers would wonder which Quadrant they would hope to call their home. Some would fall in love with Toria, the trade quadrant filled with curiosity and exploration, or Archia, the agricultural quadrant that emphasizes simplicity and nature. Others would wish to be in Ludia amongst all the passion and entertainment their quadrant has to offer, or Eonia where futuristic technologies are integrated into every part of their stoic and harmonious lives. Either way, once someone is born into a quadrant, they have little opportunity to leave again. This is just one of the laws that dictate the way the queens must rule Quadra, separate but together. These are laws that rule almost as much as the queens do, strict but for the good of the people. And readers would be happy to know that these laws are not just one-off tidbits to help embellish the plot a bit, but important to the progression of the story and fully integrated. I never thought that I would find myself caring so much about a book’s law system until I read Four Dead Queens. And combined with the absolutely amazing technology, readers will wonder just how many twists Scholte has planned.
To navigate these twists, Scholte created a cast of utterly unique characters to run free. Her main character, Keralie, is a girl of bravery yet anxiousness, both trying to do her best to please those in her life, but also unsure if she even can. She is the type of girl who appears tough and faultless, but later reveals that she is full of depth and care. Keralie is the type of girl you would never expect to fall for in the span of just one book, but do without a second’s doubt. There was so much about Keralie that I loved. From her sass, to her badass-ness, to the fact that her backstory was not at all what you would typically find in a fantasy, everything about her was amazing. And it wasn’t just her who was well thought out, with all the other characters receiving the same type of care. Readers will fall in Varin, with his slow-to-warm-up cuddliness and pure-of-heart attitude and Machiel, who knows what he wants and goes for it. Each of these supporting characters received just as much care as Keralie did, with fears and drives and backstories both as well-thought out as Keralie. These were characters with many sides to them and felt, without a doubt.
And of course, with all these aspects going for it, the plot was nothing less than hypnotizing. It was both fast-paced and filled with enough detail that you won’t get whiplash. Bursting with political intrigue, romance, and a murder mystery twist, it was not something that would let readers down. Most of all, it contained something that every reader would enjoy. From good old-fashioned thievery and sneaking through a grand palace, technological contraptions and badass fight scenes, and of course the intricate mystery that readers will struggle to piece together with Keralie and Varin, there isn’t a single thing that will bore a reader.
I would recommend this book to fans of Six of Crows who were enamored with its trickery and setting, and also fans of Warcross, as its plot that wouldn’t be the same without the awe-inspiring technology. Of course, it is very hard to describe this book in relation to others, as it contains so many different aspects, but readers of classic mystery authors such as Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would also enjoy this book. Four Dead Queens is a genre-bending debut that readers will be unable to put down as they sail through it like they were watching a movie.
I hope that you enjoyed this post! I completely fell in love with this debut, and I hope you do too! And of course, I would like to say a special thank you to Astrid Scholte not only for writing such a great book, but for letting me interview you and get a copy of your debut.
Until next time,
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Aspiring author who, along with reading YA, along with other genres, also fosters kittens, and play the piano and cello!
“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”