The Four by Ellie Keel #review

Book cover of The Four by Ellie Keel

Title: The Four
Ellie Keel
Publisher: HQ


Powerful. Sinister. Heart-wrenching. Unmissable. We were always The Four. From our very first day at High Realms.

The four scholarship pupils. Outsiders in a world of power and privilege. It would have made our lives a lot easier if Marta had simply pushed Genevieve out of our bedroom window that day. Certainly, it would have been tragic. She would have died instantly. But Marta didn’t push her then, or – if you choose to believe me – at any other time. If she had, all of what we went through would not have happened. I’ve told this story as clearly as I could – as rationally as I’ve been able, in the circumstances, to achieve. I don’t regret what we did. And I would do it all again.

Storygraph logo
Add to Goodreads button

My review:

While a captivating debut, The Four struggles to balance its ‘fun’ factor with a deeper exploration of themes, leaving me wanting a little more substance. Marketed as the millennial Secret History, the novel falls short of that comparison for me.

The plot is undeniably engaging. The early mention of an accident by narrator Rose fuels the suspense, leaving the reader eager to understand the event and its cause. Ellie Keel is great at building tension as Rose and her fellow scholarship students navigate the treacherous waters of High Realms.

The constant bullying, particularly towards Marta, raises the question of believability. Whilst I imagine that exclusive private schools are likely breeding grounds for such behaviour, the extent depicted feels exaggerated. Surely a staff member would have taken more action, earlier on? Then again, I’ve never attended a school like that myself.

The over-the-top theatricality extends beyond the bullying. Both plot developments and the author’s prose felt a bit melodramatic as the book continued. This creates an entertaining read – the book is a fast and easy page-turner – but left me feeling like it could be developed more. It’s marketed as dark academia so there were plenty of tropes in that genre that I recognised, but the writing style feels targeted towards a younger audience. Additionally, the relentless misfortune piled upon certain characters (whether that’s taking place in the book or incidents we find about in their history) bordered on comical despite their very serious subject matter as it felt too much!

While character development takes a backseat, focusing primarily on the school experience, the diverse cast remains interesting. The intriguing storyline kept me engaged, never allowing me to get bored. Ultimately, The Four is undeniably entertaining, but its leaming towards YA may not resonate with all readers seeking a darker academia book.

My rating: 3/5

Many thanks to the publisher, HQ, for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest review.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *