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Court of Fives Hardcover – August 18, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—Set in an ancient civilization reminiscent of the Egyptians and the Mayans, this is a high fantasy novel that explores race, class, and gender struggles in a patriarchal society. Jessamy is the daughter of a Patron general and a Commoner mother. Even though her parents' union is illegal, Jessamy is brought up with the wealth and privilege of the Patron class. However, that privilege comes at the price of her own independence. The heroine cannot publicly compete in the Fives, a prestigious athletic competition, so she trains in secret. Then her father comes home unexpectedly from battle and the family is given the honor of attending a Fives game. Jessamy competes, but even masked, her identity is revealed. Her family quickly comes under the scrutiny of the deceptive Lord Gargaron who breaks apart the teen's family, even arranging a new marriage for her father. The protagonist is then sent to a Fives training camp while her pregnant mother and sisters are imprisoned. Jessamy seeks help from Lord Gargaron's nephew, a kind nobleman of Patron birth and a Fives competitor. Together, they risk their lives to save Jessamy's family. Elliott has created a world of warring kingdoms where the victors have built their civilization on the backs of the conquered. Jessamy is a loyal and strong female protagonist who fights against injustice. VERDICT This trilogy opener will be a hit with readers who love action-packed fantasy adventures.—Kimberly Garnick Giarratano, Rockaway Township Public Library, NJ
* "Jes will remind readers of fearless Katniss with her skill and strategy for games. But it's the fascinating descriptions of traditions, royal interactions, and, of course, the intensities of the Fives that will enthrall readers most of all. Let the games continue!"―Booklist, starred review
"A gripping, original plot; vivid, complicated characters; and layered, convincingly detailed worldbuilding. A compelling look at racial and social identity wrapped in a page-turning adventure."―Kirkus Reviews
"An imaginative journey.... Elliott creates an intricate and intriguing story, conjuring a world of mysticism and centuries-old customs. Jessamy's boldness and impulsiveness make her a striking heroine in a male-dominated land."―Publishers Weekly
"Sure to garner a following of adventure and suspense fans. While highly entertaining and fresh, the novel also speaks to issues of gender, class strife, and identity. Jessamy is an exciting protagonist: strong, quick witted, and smart.... This book is a winner, and readers will be clamoring for the next installment."―VOYA
"A high fantasy novel that explores race, class, and gender struggles in a patriarchal society.... Jessamy is loyal and strong female protagonist who fights against injustice. This trilogy opener will be a hit with readers who love action-packed fantasy adventures."―School Library Journal
"Full of high-stakes adventure but also heartfelt musings on identity, family and colonization, this book presents a fantasy world that is refreshingly inspired by Greco-Roman and Egyptian cultures."―NPR
"Haunting. Epic. Impassioned. Layered. Breathtaking. This isn't just a novel; it is a coup d'état of the soul. Prepare to be ravished by Kate Elliott's Court of Fives."―Ann Aguirre, New York Times bestselling author of the Razorland trilogy
"Kate Elliott's magic and mastery is better than ever. Court of Fives enchanted me from start to finish, with characters and worlds that lingered long after I turned the final page."―Marie Lu, New York Times bestselling author of the Legend series and the Young Elites series
"Fast-paced, tense, and riveting. I couldn't put it down, and you won't be able to either!"―Tamora Pierce, author of the Tortall series and the Circle of Magic series
"This book is amazing. Kate Elliott combines everything I love best in a YA novel. Jes is a killer protagonist, tough and capable, but also lost in her upbringing and faced with impossible choices that test her character and her beliefs.... This book will not fail you."―Gail Carriger, New York Times bestselling author of the Parasol Protectorate series and the Finishing School series
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Top Customer Reviews
I thoroughly enjoyed it as an adult reader. I loved the variety of female characters we saw and the world building was really interesting.
However, I also felt it was overpopulated with (some very underutilised, to the point of being unnecessary) characters, and the language used, particularly in the early chapters, was very stilted, which was a bit off-putting. And one little niggle that may not bother others - why give the sisters odd nicknames? Their own names were lovely and could be nicely shortened if necessary - it seemed odd to also use "Merry" and (of all things) "Amiable" - in a book I already felt had too many names, this didn't help!
It's a solid four stars, despite my complaints, and I would a) recommend it and b) definitely read the next installment because oh my, the ENDING!
Let me start with the world-building. There was basically none. Obviously, in a brand-new fantasy novel, you need to at least set a few basic things. Explain some terms and just get the reader used to the new world you have crafted. Well, there was relatively none of that in this novel. While we did get some explanation on some things, there were still many confusing parts. It almost seemed like a lot of little, random facts that the reader was told, but nothing actually came together. Ultimately, the world-building (and therefore the setting as well) seemed very disjointed. I just wanted more details!
The entire plot was also a little odd to me. The Fives (an athletic competition) was off to me, especially when it came to why Jessamy--our main character--was running in it to begin with. I understand her reasons to a certain point, but to me there she was reckless and very young in her decision to run the Fives at all. She knew from the beginning that she couldn't win because it could cost her family their lives, but she chose to run it anyway, and purposely lost. I don't know why, but it just didn't sit well with me. This could be entirely personal though. There was also the whole part about the villain and the convoluted plot he constructed just to get separate Jessamy from her family. I felt it was very complicated, and again, something I didn't quite understand fully.
Jessamy as a lead character didn't truly work well either. Like I said above, she made decisions that were reckless and she didn't act her age (at least in my opinion). In addition to this, she's a flip-flopper. What's a flip-flopper? Well, it's a person who makes a decision, and feels very strongly about that decision, only to do a complete turn around in the next scene, and say the exact opposite. I kept wanted her to OWN UP TO her decisions. I lost interest in what was going to happen to her. While she did grow a bit stronger toward the end, which I greatly appreciated, by that point, I couldn't bring myself to really care.
Finally, the romance...I don't exactly know how to describe it. I didn't quite understand how there was romance simply because it is random and all of a sudden happens. Jess and Kal's relationship is extremely lackluster and there's certainly no spark. I kept waiting for the moment where it would all come together for them, but it never came.
There are several parts where this book truly is great. I found myself hoping that one of these parts would be the turning point, and the would finally take off. For this reason, I didn't want to give this book 1 star. However, as I said, I couldn't overlook the negatives enough to give this a higher rating, as the negatives truly overshadow all of the positive moments. While this had tremendous potential, it fell flat and was a great disappointment to me. This book wasn't my cup of tea, and I can't recommend reading it. However, this might be the right book for the right reader, and they might find great enjoyment in Jess and Kal's story. If you do read this though, don't be prepared to be blown away by anything new or unique.
Happy reading :)
What I liked
Cultural tensions. This is very much a tale of being caught between two cultures. Our protagonist, Jessamy, is the child of a Saroese father and Efean mother and struggles to fit in with either culture. Her father’s people, who are the conquerers of the Efeans, do not fully accept Jes as one of their own due to her mixed heritage yet her genteel upbringing closes her off from acceptance in her mother’s society. Jes herself also struggles to find her place in her world. The only time she can truly be herself is when she is training for the game the Court of Fives. Although we do not live in a magical society, this theme may still strike a chord with many readers.
The Games. I really enjoyed how the game of Court of Fives permeated the story to a great extent. We see the games themselves a couple of times in the books, but it’s made clear that the skills Jes uses to become a successful Fives player are the same skills she and Kalliarkos will need to get out of certain situations and also to navigate Saroese politics. I really loved that politics was hinted to be just a different version of the Court of Fives.
The magic and Jes’s journey. The magic is very subtle in this book and is tied to the Efean culture. At this point in her story Jes still struggles to accept her Efean heritage, so she has difficulty understanding the magic. I expect that Jes’s journey in future books will be to embrace her cultural background, at which point the magic will become more and more prominent. That I am excited to see.
Little Women. I read in the author’s notes that the characters of Jes and her sisters were based on those of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I didn’t notice that at first, but once you do see it, it is very clear. It was fun seeing those personality types in a completely different setting. I am curious about what it means for the sisters’ character arcs in upcoming books and whether they will mirror those of Alcott’s.
Moral dilemmas. Certain of the characters, including Jes, face moral dilemmas at certain points in the book. I felt these were very well written and engaged my sympathy for the characters. I am very interested to see how the decisions made will impact future character development and relationships. I’d like to think Jes will have more understanding for her father in future.
What I didn’t like
The romance. I wouldn’t say I disliked the Kalliarkos/Jes romance; it’s more a case of I’m waiting to see how it plays out in future books. I was concerned that it felt a little too much Instalovey, which I don’t like. If the parallels with Little Women hold true, the future for the couple doesn’t look too rosy.
In the end I really enjoyed Court of Fives and gave it four stars out of five. I have an Advanced Reader Copy of the sequel, The Poisoned Blade, and I’m very excited to read it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Characters well developed.Read more