Published: Today, August 18th, 2015
Publisher:Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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.
Ever have one of 'those' days? The day I started Court of Fives was one of them. It started with me putting my knickers on backwards - stupid right? Swiftly followed by putting my bra on inside out - yes I can see you smiling. Then I realized that every single pair of summer pants I own was in the wash - you see where this is going right? Well I decided just to sit down and have a cup of tea and read and give the day a chance to right itself and I opened my advanced copy of Court of Fives - which had no cover pic. I'm sitting there reading away thinking, gosh this reminds me of Kate Elliot. I must have thought that at least three times before it dawned on me there was a very good reason it reminded me of her writing. You've had one of those days right? It can't just be me!
Anyway, on to the book. Court of Fives started out a little slowly for me. I really wasn't too sure of the characters. Seems like there were a lot of them and everyone had at least two names, some even ended up with three and it took a long time to get them all sorted out. So much so that I wasn't really connecting with the characters themselves. But, Ms Elliot writes a good story and Court of Fives was no exception. It was exciting and often suspenseful without seeming dragged out. My ecopy told me I had 287 pages but the hard copy seems to have almost 450, and it certainly didn't seem that long. The story skipped along and there always seemed to be something happening.
It was a nice change from the current dystopian craze where games are a matter of life and death with dire consequences if you fail. Yes, you can die on a Fives Court - but because of an accident, not because someone is out for your blood. These games are tests of skill, stamina and aptitude and I could imagine them being played.
The characters - well as I said there were a lot of them and it took me a while to get them sorted out and to connect, but in the end I did. Jessamy (Jes, Spider) was particularly driven by her desire to compete on the Fives court, although her loyalty to her family was admirable. She made a decision at the end of the book that had me cheering. It was rather unexpected, but very believable. Can't say much more or it will be a spoiler, but it made a huge difference to me in accepting her. Kalliarkos (Kal, Beacon, Lord Garon) was kinda cute. All he wants is to run the Fives, but his family has other ideas. There is romance here. Not the love at first sight until the end of days kind, but young and kind of sweet. There are also a couple of surprises where Jes's sisters Amara (Amiable) and Maraya (Merry) are concerned. Those relationships were interesting, as was the relationship between Jes's parents. Some good messages there.
In the end though, it was the fast paced storytelling that kept me reading. There is a fair bit of political intrigue that keeps the story going. I loved reading about the Fives courts and the trek through the tombs was harrowing. Where Ms Elliot came up with the idea for the funeral practices I do not know. Court of Fives is not going to be for everyone, but it certainly gets a reserved thumbs up from me.