|Court of Fives|
by Kate Elliott
"On the Fives court, everyone is equal.
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 world building in this book was so confusing I felt like I needed a full-sized map in front of me at all times with little green army men positioned all around. Or, more probably, different colored little army men so I knew who was who. And the world-building that was done was boring. It was given in pages of explanation, and in terms that didn't come together in my head. But that's just me. Other people may appreciate the complexity.
I also didn't really love any of the characters. The main character, Jes, puts her whole family at risk by joining the Fives competition, which she knows will hurt her father's career and make her sisters even less marriageable than they already are because of their mixed heritage. But SHE wants this so badly that she does it anyway. She is constantly talking about her love for her family, and yet she destroys their lives. And then we are supposed to feel empathy for her as she struggles to save her family like she is some big hero, when she is doing exactly what she wants and the rest of her family is bitterly suffering for her selfishness.
The love interest, Kal, is a spineless little princeling who just blindly does whatever Jes tells him to.
And what the heck is wrong with Bettany? The main character has a twin sister who is always shut away. I thought she had some disease, but the best I could figure is that she had a tendency to be outspoken and full of anger for their situation, so they didn't want her to say anything to embarrass them.
All that sounds very negative, and those things really did bother me, but it wasn't all bad, and I think teenagers will really like it. There was a lot of action, a very evil bad guy, a cool competition that I pictured as an ancient or medieval American Ninja Warrior, and plenty of suspense with a little magic thrown in. I definitely see readership for this one in my library.
Areas of concern:
*The parents of the main character were never able to marry because of their different citizenship and status.
*It is discovered that one of the sisters has a lesbian lover and that she has been taken away to be a concubine to the evil bad guy. (That whole story line was very small and just mentioned - nothing graphic.)
*Some kissing between the main character and her spineless little princeling.
*Because the main character looked like a Commoner and not a Patron, sometimes she was fondled when she was out in public.
*The main character is caught in a bathing house without clothes in front of a group of men.
*Some weird, mystical/magical scary suspense at the end of the book. Not really sure where that is headed.
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 12+
School Library Journal - Grades 7-10