Court of Fives by Kate Elliott ARC (3 stars)
Kel Thursday, July 23, 2015 review
Court of Fives features a high fantasy world brewing with instability and discord between the ruling Patrons and subjugated Commoners. There are some slow moments, but overall it's a tense, suspenseful ride.
Court of Fives by Kate Elliott
Series: Court of Fives #1
Genres: YA, Fantasy
Published on August 18, 2015
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Final Rating: 3 stars
In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott begins a new trilogy with her debut young adult novel, weaving an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.
Jessamy's life is a balance between acting like an upper class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But at night she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multi-level athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom's best competitors. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between a girl of mixed race and a Patron boy causes heads to turn. When a scheming lord tears Jes's family apart, she'll have to test Kal's loyalty and risk the vengeance of a powerful clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.
Review:Court of Fives is a high fantasy game of intrigue and suspense with lives at stake. The Patron/Commoner dichotomy has a dash of Roman Empire flavoring, and our protagonist, Jessamy, is half of each and must fight to protect those she loves as her family is caught in the middle of a powerful man's machinations.
The book starts a little slow when Jes' father unexpectedly returns home early and postpones the excitement of the Fives, but once we get there, things get interesting fast. I was engaged so long as things kept going wrong until the story plateaued and the pacing and tension dropped. Luckily, it wasn't long before matters got even worse and required immediate daring missions and escapes with a little mystery and magic thrown in for good measure.
I never connected to Jessamy as well as I hoped, and I thought her romance (really all romances, considering the circumstances) was a little forced and given undue attention. I admire Jes' athletic abilities and strategic mind, but, especially having read from her first-person perspective, I was more curious about the other members of her family--particularly her mother and her little seen, but fiercely independent, opinionated (almost scary), twin Bettany.
I enjoyed Court of Fives well enough, but I'm not sure whether I'll continue with the series. There's a lot about the conquered Efean people that Jes doesn't know and many Efean and Patron power struggles that could feature in future installments, as well as some mysterious magic that could come into play. I'm curious, but not necessarily invested enough in Jes at this point. I almost hope the next book is from another character's point of view.