Monday, June 29, 2015

Review: Court of Fives

COURT OF FIVES
Court of Fives #1
Kate Elliott
Young Adult/Fantasy
448 pages
Little, Brown BFYR
Available August 18th
Source: ARC from NOVL Newsletter

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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.


MY THOUGHTS
Court of Fives is one of those stories that needs to be read in small doses, not because it's lacking in elements that hold our interest, but rather because the world and some of the people in it are so appalling we can't bear to be in their presence for long periods of time. Ms. Elliott gives us a society in which women are the lowest of the low, daughters often killed or sent away because they're not everything a son would be, and adult women bricked up alive in tombs with the body of their lord or prince to keep him company in the afterlife. It's a brutal world, one that makes our blood boil at the injustice of the class system, but Ms. Elliott doesn't leave us alone to fume in our anger, providing us with a young heroine who plays the game of life and death so very well.

Jessamy has dreamed of competing in the Fives–a sporting even of sorts in which contestants run an obstacle course and can eventually move up the ranks to achieve fame and fortune–for years, and it's easy to root for her to achieve this one goal when everything else in her life is falling apart. She's strong-willed, smart and unafraid to make her feelings known despite the fact that her voice is viewed as worthless by this society at large, and she proves to be a highlight in an otherwise dark and heavy world.

While Jessamy is a strong character, and one whom by the end has us itching to see how she's going to handle the latest blow she's been dealt, the structure of the story itself seems to fall apart as Jessamy's journey continues. We're led to believe thanks to the first half that after a horrific separation from her family, we're going to follow her as she trains in an official stable for the Fives, but just as she becomes a cog in a political machine she wants no part of, we leave the stable and embark on a completely different and drawn-out adventure. It almost feels as though an entirely separate novella in which Jessamy sets out to bring her family back together exists in the middle of this tale, and we're returned to the world of the Fives with only a few chapters remaining. The details of her training and the complexity of the politics surrounding the Fives are discussed only in short random bursts, depriving of us of the in-depth look at what we previously assumed would be the most dominant aspect of the story.

Additionally, the romance between Jes and well-out-of-her-social-league Lord Kalliarkos is lacking in the same substance as the Fives, their relationship one of hesitant friendship (which is great) before things like holding hands and kissing are casually thrown in without much build-up or aftermath. We remain purely on the surface despite the potential for something painfully spectacular to exist between them, leaving us without some of the obsessive anticipation we'd hoped to feel after the turn of the last page. Ms. Elliott does delight with her villainous character however, a man so righteously loathesome we can feel our lips curl involuntarily whenever he appears on page, and we can't help but long for the moment when Jessamy puts him in his place.

Overall Court of Fives is a bit of a rocky start to this series, but a strong heroine and a political world hateful enough to have us taking short breaks as we read make the sequel something to look forward to.
 

Rating: 3.5/5


Find Kate:


This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

36 comments:

  1. It sounds like a good start even if some points are to be noted. The feeling you had sounds quite different and I confess that I'm curious to see how I would feel myself about the story. thanks for the review!

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    1. There were some really strong aspects to this one Melliane, it just lost me a touch in the middle there when we took off in an entirely different direction.

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  2. I wasn't very much drawn to this one at BEA, so I ended up not getting it. I'm glad that despite some of its flaws you've enjoyed it quite enough!
    Great review as always, Jenny!

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    1. It has so much potential Pili! I'm hoping this is going to be a series that just gets stronger as it goes:)

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  3. Oh boy. I don't think I can read this at all , Jenny. I have to be able to stomach the characters. Lol.

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    1. I wanted to punch some things Joy ;-)

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  4. The world on this one sounds really cool (though brutal, obviously). Bummer that the structure didn't stand up, though, because that's always enough to put a damper on things.

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    1. It could have been me, I've been in a YA funk lately, but I just didn't understand why we took the extended detour with her family. I thought it was going to be maybe a chapter or two, but all of a sudden I felt like I was on a Lord of the Rings style adventure that really had nothing to do with Jes's new life training for the Fives.

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  5. I do like the sound of the villain and the ghastly world, Jenny, but I can't say the way the story was plotted and the romance draws me in. I'm side to hear that they were rather shaky. I'm glad you were still able to enjoy this one though, Jenny. I'll have to think of this one for sure.
    Lovely review, Jenny!

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    1. Ooooo I wished bad things on the villain Nick. Bad, bad things. He was reprehensible but in the best possible way. I'm hoping the romance gets stronger in the next book though!

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  6. I have this one on my wishlist but know some people have DNF'ed it. It's good to know that the worldbuilding is great, but I don't like the sound of the romance or the way the plot seems. I may give this a try in the future, but will go in with lower expectations.

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    1. I'd be interested to see what you thought Z! I liked the beginning and into the middle, and then it lost me in the second half.

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  7. Argh, now I'm not *too* excited for this because I was really looking forward to getting immersed in the concept of Fives. (Also, a non-addictive romance? *sadface*) But Jessamy sounds lovely, and so does the world-building! Awesome review as usual, Jenny! <3

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    1. I was bummed about the romance too. It could have been the kind that rips your heart out and stomps on it before putting it back together, but it just never quite got there for me. Boo.

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  8. Thank you for explaining the plot structure as now I'll beterr prepared when I pick it up. I'm sad the romance didn't have the wonderful build-up that helps a darker book like this out. Still, I'm very curious as I want to know more about the Court of Fives.
    Wonderful review, Jenny!! : )

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    1. I'll be interested to see if it bothers anyone else Kim! The whole sequence just seemed unnecessary, but part of that could have been because the politics of the Fives was far more interesting for me.

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  9. "the world and some of the people in it are so appalling we can't bear to be in their presence for long periods of time" - no kidding. This is precisely why it's taking me so long to finish!

    Jessamy is a great MC so far, but I wish there was more of the Fives (I have a fascination with obstacle courses / mazes, so that aspect appeals to me greatly)!

    Nice honest review :D

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    1. YES LEA! I wanted more Fives too. I just felt like every time she ran in them, the action kind of got glossed over and all of a sudden she was done and we were moving on. I wanted to get a better feel for them and her training.

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  10. Hmm... I am not sure on this one. I like dark, but not to the point where I want to stop reading. The romance sounds a bit lackluster as well. I will wait until the next book comes out and then decide.

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    1. I'm hoping we get to delve deeper into the world of the Fives in the next book Heidi!

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  11. Hm... I may wait for the second book in this series before I start on it. I think this is one that I would have to take in small sips or I'll either throw the book or become too anxious. :) Still, Jessamy has me curious and sounds like a good heroine to follow.

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    1. Heh. I can see you throwing this one for sure Melissa ;-)

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  12. I'm not sure I could read something I had to stop and read in installments. Great review!

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    1. I had to take deep, calming breaths ;-)

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  13. Wow, umm that's quite grim. I don't think I ever knew what this one was about until now, come to think of it. I think as long as the heroine is able to hold the story together though, then it has potential to be a great series. I think I'll hold out a bit until I know how the sequel fares in reviews.

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    1. Yes. I do NOT want to get bricked up alive in anyone's tomb, thank you very much. I'm definitely going to give the second book a go, I'm hoping we don't take a similar plot detour in that one and I think I'll be able to settle in a lot more:)

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  14. Aww, I'm sorry to hear this is a rocky start to the series! I really LOVED Kate Elliott's last trilogy so I was looking forward to this one quite a bit. I'm definitely going to be picking it up because it has a lot of positive qualities I love but I'm definitely going to go into it with fewer expectations. Thanks for such a helpful, wonderful review, Jenny! :)

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    1. I can't wait to see what you think Keertana! I'm early on my review for this one so I'm curious to see how it goes over with everyone else:)

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  15. I've been dying to read this book but after reading your review of it, it looks like I'll have to lower my expectations a bit. The premise itself sounds fascinating - the fact that Elliott is able to produce such strong emotions out of the reader with its unjust system is pretty remarkable, and the concept of the Fives seems plenty fun to me. I'm disappointed to hear that everything else was only mildly fleshed out! I need a good romance in these types of fantasies; additionally, the fact that the story itself is not composed in a unified manner is also disappointing. I'm definitely still curious about what I'll think with this book though, so I'll still be picking it up once it comes out. Gorgeously written review, and thanks for your honest opinion, Jenny!

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  16. I love darker aspects and world building but the disjointed plot makes me so leery. Wonderful review Jenny

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  17. I love darker aspects and world building but the disjointed plot makes me so leery. Wonderful review Jenny

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  18. I love darker aspects and world building but the disjointed plot makes me so leery. Wonderful review Jenny

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  19. Im glad that even though this one had a bit of a rough start for you that the heroine was strong enough to still make it enjoyable. I know what you mean about books that you have to read in small doses. I need to get more patience for books like those, but normally when I sit down to read I want books that just totally grip me. This one has really caught my eye though, so I am still interested in trying it.

    Great review Jenny!

    Michelle @ Book Briefs

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