Title: Court of Fives
Author: Kate Elliott
Series: Court of Fives
Genre: Teen Fantasy
Rating: 4/5 stars
The Overview: 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. -Goodreads
My new favorite trend is high fantasy authors tackling YA. Mercedes Lackey dazzled me with her Hunter series, and now Kate Elliott has done the same with Court of Fives. High fantasy usually requires more expansive world building, back history, and longevity. These authors are so proficient at tackling these elements on a large scale that their YAs seems so much more robust than competitive titles. On the flipside though, YAs tends to require faster pacing and a more prominent love story – something which Elliott tackled expertly in Court of Fives.
All the basic elements were there to make Court of Fives an awesome fantasy, and on top of that it also had my favorite story component: competition! I’ve read at least half a dozen novels that gave promise of a competition only to completely glaze over it. Finally in Court of Fives, the promise of a competition was delivered on! It was like reading about American Ninja Warrior for teens – oodles of fun and easily my favorite part of the story.
Court of Fives was one of those books that seemed to get better with each chapter… at least until the halfway point. Then it took a direction I wasn’t totally on board with (but was still interesting). And actually, I was a good way into the main conflict of the story before realizing the author was going to stick with that trajectory for the remainder of the book. I still devoured it, but kept itching to get back to the competition stuff.
The book also had an interesting love story. In a market famous for Insta loves, Court of Fives offered a relationship that felt incredibly organic and natural. My only objection is that I think Elliott could have extended the romantic tension a bit longer. Other relationships in the novel were equally strong and compelling, mostly because the characters were so well developed.
Overall, Court of Fives was one of the better Young Adult books I’ve read to date. Not to mention the ending was so powerful and evoking that now I’m scrambling to get a hold of the next one.
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