Series: Court of Fives #1
Genre: YA Fantasy
Page Length: 448 Pages
Publication Date: August 18th, 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Source: ARC via publisher (Thanks Novl!)
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.
The first think I noticed about this book is its connections to An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. If you liked that one, then you might enjoy Court of Fives as well.
The Patrons are a race of people who rule over the Commoners. It's basically the equivalent to the Patricians and the Plebians of Ancient Rome. Jes is a girl of mixed race, and as such she and her family don't belong with either group. She loves to compete in the Fives, a competition consisting of five physically and mentally-demanding obstacles to complete before the other competitors do. It's a form of entertainment for people, and competitors in the Fives have a chance to make it big and win loads of money. A horrifying tragedy threatens her family's livelihood, and Jes must make tough decisions between love and loyalty to save her family and herself.
The characters in this book really were a positive part of this novel. Although they weren't the most unique, they all possessed something that kept me intrigued. I admire Jes' tenacity and dedication. She tries so hard to be what other need of her. She shoulders so many burdens. I really enjoyed the relationship she had with her sisters. Jes' Patron father is a famous soldier in the army, and he defies society's standards by having children with a Commoner whom he loves and can never marry due to laws. He wants to raise his children as Patron as possible to give them the best life he can offer them. He's such a complex character who shows his cold, calculating side. Underneath it we see the compassionate side, the one who's tormented by the decisions he's been forced to make. Kal's naïveté and genuine good character was a breath of fresh air in a surprisingly dark cast.
The world building is where most of my problems with this book resonate. For starters, the history is a complete mess. There's such a tangle of fighting among various nations who are all ruled by related royal families. I felt as though lots of key points in this book were never explained. We don't understand the society well besides Patrons being better than Commoners. Elliot fails to explain the history well. We never know how or why the Fives came about. It just bugs me how many things are left unexplained in this novel.
Court of Fives contains lots of fantasy elements. The magic is present, and it's bound to play a bigger role later on in the series. There are ties to religion and superstitions and hints to histories, ruins, and cultures long forgotten. I hope Elliot expands on this! The writing was quite good, yet the pacing was severely off. Way too slow in some areas and confusingly fast in others, this book could have been smoother. The romance was pretty bland, and I didn't see any development at all.
With lots of promise and much to look forward to in the oncoming books, I'd recommend you check out this start to a new series.