Tuesday, 18 August 2015
Review: Court of Fives by Kate Elliott
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Publication Date: August 18th, 2015
Series: Court of Fives #1
Source: Publisher **I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review**
Add to 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.
Jes has a complicated family dynamic. In a society where class is everything her family is different. Jes's father is a general from good standing, who is able to provide for his family and live like the upper class. There's something holding him back from advancing and that's his family. Although Jes and her sisters live with their parents, they aren't married. As her mom is a commoner. So it makes for a very interesting situation. It makes it difficult for Jes and her sisters to fit in to society. Especially when for the most part they're hidden away. That leads Jes to train for The Fives in what she thinks is secret. After her first competition, where she meets what is to become an unlikely alley, disaster befalls the family. Jes's father is forced to give up his family. Shocked and let down by him, Jes has no idea what will happen to her mother and sisters well Jes is taken to the court training camp. Jes finds herself falling for a prince(Kal), keeping her head in the game and thinking of a way to rescue her mother and sisters.
There was unfortunately quite a bit about Court of Fives that just turned out to not be my cup of tea. Being a historical fantasy where the world centers a lot around class and privilege the language of the book reflects that and that's not really my thing. I'm not a classics reader; nor have I been able to get through a Jane Austin novel. Court of Fives seems perfect for those readers and fans. It adds a bit of action and more intrigue with a fantastical world as the setting to a book that reads like a classic.
I really didn't find the world and the history of the world to be flushed out. I was confused that I was missing something for half the book. Than all the sudden the history of the world, the court politics were introduced in more of the info dumping kind of way. It was like Jes realized she didn't know anything about her kingdom so a few characters pop up just to spew a bunch of names and different kingdoms to her and it was a whole bunch of confusing. The gist I got was that it was a whole bunch of extended family fighting each other. I guess that makes sense to this fantastical world but it was to much all at once. Especially with the long names that all look the same. I know the finished book will have a map, which will help some, but a royal family tree would make a huge difference as well. Even with the switching between full names and nicknames for her sisters throwing me off, I just wasn't having any luck keep track of the many characters.
What I did really enjoy was The Fives. When Jes is sent to the courts training camp, where she's to train and thus meets other trainees it was fun. And I thought it would become a bigger more important part of the story as it's introduced right at the start of the book as Jes's passion and secret. So now that she's expected to eventually compete at a higher level it should be a more central plot point. But yet the training was rushed over. The bits that were shown were not only fun, but showed how strong of a competitor Jes was. And there was a great rapport between her friends(and frenemies) at the camp. The pacing was really off when it would go from intense yet amusing training sessions and hanging around with the trainees to long, very drawn out planning to save her sisters and mother scenes. Neither was unimportant, just not paced out well.
Jes was a good character. I had my reservations with her naivete and lack of knowledge. But she showed she was smart enough to adapt to her surroundings. Jes's love for her sisters and mother was her strongest trait. Jes's need to protect them even when she wasn't with them showed her perseverance in the face of the difficulty that fell upon them. Achieving success through The Fives could provide for them. She's doing what her father failed to do; keep them safe.
Kal could have easily been another arrogant prince. Thankfully he wasn't. Which was refreshing. With all his horrible family around him it was clear to him that he would never be like them. Kal was kind, friendly and sweet. Although very very naive. Kal's thinking that all he wants to do is compete in The Fives is far from realistic considering who he really is. Obviously he didn't want to face what his future holds. I foresee the sequel seeing some really good character growth for Kal. As much as I enjoyed him in Court of Fives, where his character can go intrigues me.
Jes's and Kal's relationship was a bit quick. Thankfully there was no declaration of love. It was more instant attraction and trust that brought them together. And from there they were able to work together in a solid way. Their relationship wasn't so much forbidden as unrealistic seeing as Jes was a commoner. And I liked that the romance was not the main focus of the book.
The ending was well done and what will make me read the sequel. Obviously with my mixed feelings that might be somewhat surprising. But I eventually got use to the language, and I can force myself to overlook my confusion over the court names and family connections because Jes ended on a strong note. She didn't give up herself or her family for what I would have deemed a stupid decision. So that was a good surprise and I was unsure she would be strong enough to realize the right way to go in to pretty tough situation. I have hopes that I'll enjoy the sequel a lot more if Jes can keep on the right path. I guess it goes to show that a mediocre book can turn it all around with a strong ending and leave me wanting more.