Court of Fives #1
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.
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.
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.