I anticipated the release of Court of Fives by Kate Elliott, so I had super high expectations. I’m on a fantasy kick so I’ve read a bunch of young adult fantasy novels back-to-back recently, and this one definitely stood out in a great way.
And everyone is dangerous.
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 whomever 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 competitors.
Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an improbable friendship between the 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.
In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s first young adult novel weaves an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.
The horrifying world in which the story of Jessamy is placed is truly vibrant, dark and mystifying. From the confines on women to the hatred of individuals of a different race, this book is a world both drastically different but eerily similar to our own. Jes is a strong heroine with badass skills, but not the ones typically found in YA fantasy like fighting but in running the fives. The Court of Fives is a five-part competition with various obstacles, which I viewed like a dangerous version of American Ninja Warrior. Jes’s position in society is high enough that she can’t run them professionally but her illegitimate birth keeps her from walking the high-born circles. Her struggle to please her stoic father and follow her passion makes for an enthralling journey.
The dynamic between Jes as one step away from servant and Kalliarkos, one step away from Prince, was intriguing. Kal’s kindness and Jes’s courage bring out the best in each other. I really enjoyed their relationship, but their world has no room for fairy tales. In an effort to not spoil anything, the horrors that Jes’s family must go through hurt my heart and I was in full-on worry mode through most of the book. The villains in this story are truly horrible and Jes’s father is frustratingly stuck in his societal cage. However, Jes’s ability to overcome any obstacle while relying on help from some friends makes for a heart-pounding and harrowing rescue mission.
I really enjoyed this book. The ending was open-ended but with enough closure to satisfy readers. However, the decision Jes must make is not going to be a popular decision. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next installment of this trilogy.
STARS: 4.5 out of 5