Court of Fives by Kate Elliott
Series: Court of Fives #1
on July 12th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: Hachette Publishing NZ
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Jessamy's life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family she can be whoever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom's best contenders.
Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between two Fives competitors--one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy--causes heads to turn. When Kal's powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes's family apart, she'll have to test her new friend's loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.
The Court of Fives is like a large obstacle course, made up of 4 segments and a centre. We meet Jessamy shortly before she is going to run the Fives, as an anonymous player, and against her father’s orders. But her father hasn’t been around, and Jes has been waiting for this her whole life. It’s all she’s wanted to do. With the help and secrecy from her 3 sisters, Jes manages to run the Fives, but just as she is about to win, she realises that if she beats the other 3 contestants, she will have to take off the mask that they all wear, and so giving away her secret. She ‘fumbles’ and loses, but Lord Kalliarkos, who is also running, figures out who she is later when they meet.
While he promises not to tell, suddenly Jes’s family is torn apart, her military father essentially ripping them from each other as he moves up the ranks and into the command of a high Lord of the city. When Jes is taken to Garon Stable to continue training to run the Fives, she discovers that her family has been sent to what is essentially an underground prison, and to their deaths. The book follows Jes as she trains for the Fives, and later tries to rescue her family, with the help (obviously) from Kal. Can Jes save her family, and win the Fives? Dun dun dun…
On the whole, I did enjoy this book. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but loved the concept of the Fives Court. It reminded me of the second arena in the Hunger Games series (Catching Fire), with the different trials in different segments. The different sections they have to run through changed each time, making it more exciting and interesting to read about. It’s the kind of game that would look great in movie form.
When Jes has to rescue her family, the book lagged. I found myself getting a little bored, and I think there was too much time spent underground in a situation that could have moved a lot faster.
In terms of the characters, I quite enjoyed Jes as an MC. She was strong and knew what she wanted. Kal was a nice guy, sure, and while he was supposed to be the love interest, there didn’t really seem to be that much chemistry. It was more focused on the the game and then on the rescue, which is fine and good, but then when *mini spoiler alert that you probably knew was coming anyway* they do get together, it’s sort of like ‘meh’. Couldn’t care less if they were together or they weren’t.
The other characters were interesting, and all had their various quirks and personalities, especially the sisters. What I was interested to learn was that Elliott had based the characters on the girls in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Looking back through you could see some resemblance in character to Jo, Beth, Amy and Meg from Little Women. I don’t really know how I feel about the masses of sisters. I’m all for big families, and each girl had their own thing going on, though it did seem a little bit of over kill to me. One of the sisters, Bettany, is barely in the book at all, and while she may have more of an appearance in the sequels, I think I would have liked a little more of her story in this one.
Elliott uses a lot of the setting and the culture around the book and the times they live in from Grecco-Roman days, and that was easily discovered while reading. The setting was really neat, and Elliott builds a great history which we discover as we read along. The complexity of the past is well written, and emerges near the end.
While I did have some issues with book, and have given it 3 stars, I did enjoy it. If you’re a fan of YA and game-like situations, then definitely pick this book up. The concept is really neat, and it’s a good mix of issues around society, hierarchy, and a caste like system, and family, friendship, love and loss.
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I received this book for free from Hachette Publishing NZ in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this post.