Book Review: Court of Fives by Kate Elliott. A girl jumps through hoops on the court to earn the respect society off-court refuses to give her.

I think I broke a personal record for breaking things today (another thing I broke, ha).

Did I ever tell you guys what folks back home call me? They call me The Destroyer. If anything is on the verge of breaking down, I will end it’s life simply by touching it—or just being around. Back home, my dad and bro would fondly care for their fragile old things so well the things would last far longer than their natural life. And then on my first day back home I’d break it. Many a lamp has fallen, space heaters and fans have mysteriously simply stopped working, picture frames and posters have fallen from loose hooks and walls while I’m sitting peacefully in the room, reading (things have have a way of timing their demise in my presence). Today, the bottom of a box ripped open as I was lifting it and it was a massacre of x-mas ornaments (the tape just decided it was too tired to stick anymore and gave way). The last was probably my fault 😛

But, most of the time it’s not my fault (it’s not fair!), it’s just the thing was about to die anyway—it just needed my blessing or something. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say, with a look of pure puzzlement,”It was working perfectly fine when I used it just now…”and then not know what to do about the broken thing. Or bemoan, “I was hoping it would last just another few days until I could replace it…” But it didn’t. Because I arrived on the scene. Makes me feel like King Kong or something.

Anyway, at least I keep repair people in business and feeling useful.

Onward to the book review!

I haven’t been on the ball with reading (or reviewing), lately, so here is my attempt to somewhat catch up. Be warned, there might be a lot of Kate Elliott stuff coming up (I’m reading Black Wolves right now, and have “The Beatriceid” on my kindle).

Title: Court of Fives

Author: Kate Elliot

Genre: Fantasy

Days to read it: One (but my sweet ol’ time gettin’ around to posting about it)

Synopsis:

zlkzcxr2Jessamy lives for the thrill of the Court of Fives—an intense obstacle course where contestants often toe the line between ultimate glory and certain death. Jessamy’s got the agility, cleverness, and pure guts to win at the Fives Court. She understands the rhythm and tricks of the Court better than she understands the world she lives in. Out on the Fives Court, she feels she belongs—out in Saroese colonized Efean society, she can’t figure out who she is. Is she a Patron like her Saroese father? Or a Commoner like her Efean mother? The Patrons would never accept her mixed blood, especially because her dark skin marks her as distinctly different. The Efeans don’t trust her uppity ways and think of her as the product of traitorous liaisons with the colonists. But all of this doesn’t matter for when she dons the mask of the Court of Fives and faces her opponents she becomes an Adversary like all the others. Jessamy is surprised when she meets Kalliarkos, a fellow Adversary who seems to understand a bit of how she feels. Like Jessamy, Kalliarkos is trying to escape a destiny his family—and society—has set for him. Together, Jessamy and Kalliarkos help each other win the game on the Court of Fives and out in Society where the dangers are more present than ever before. To survive out in society and save those she loves, Jessamy will need to use all her cunning and courage—will she lose her unique identity in the process or will she emerge with a stronger sense of who she is than ever before? With Court of Fives, Kate Elliott spins a tale of dashing and daring loosely set in a Greco-Roman-Egypt inspired world that will likely be the first in a fast-paced trilogy.

Impressions:

I actually read Court of Fives last weekend (spent the whole day chasing a sunbeam across the couch with nary an eye lifted off the page). Overall, I liked it. But, it hasn’t trumped my favorite Spiritwalker trilogy!

I’ve been hearing a lot of people making claims that this one is like Little Women meets Game of Thrones meets The Hunger Games. So naturally, I started trying to figure out who’s Jo, and Meg, and Beth, and Amy. And who’s Laurie, too. And whether Jo and Laurie will be “bad” for each other because they’re too similar in temperament. And whether Jo will marry Laurie or instead marry the older, more distinguished dude. Or worst yet, whether there are any Cersei and Jaime-like shenanigans—or whether we’ll see an Eddard-like character without a head anytime soon. Yeah, I obviously had my priorities straight when I read this one.

In all seriousness, the story read really fast—it’s like a chocolate bar book, you read it and before you know it it’s done, and then your stomach is grumbling and you’re wondering why because didn’t you just eat? Court of Fives left me feeling like I just ate a whole load of empty calories. Perhaps it was because it felt like the world didn’t translate across the page as detailed and wonderfully messy and complex as the world of the Spiritwalker trilogy. Don’t get me wrong, I like the book well enough. I think I just wanted more and I didn’t want it in a trilogy, dammit! The world hinted at some cool things (wizards, spider-machines, oracles, ancient energies) but they weren’t really the main event of the story (at least, not yet), so I was left wanting in that department.

Character-wise, I enjoyed all the tension between Jessamy and her father. She loves her father but feels he is betraying her and her family. Out of all her sisters, she understands her father best of all, and so it hurts doubly much. I also liked all the angst and confusion Jes has about her identity in Society—it contrasted well with her sense of freedom and respect on court.

All in all, I like our main heroine, Jessamy, but I didn’t quite buy the budding romance that seems to be growing between her and Kalliarkos (come on there’s one guy and one girl and it’s a YA, surely I won’t be spoiling the story with the above?). I like them when they were friends at the beginning but I suppose all the inevitable kissing at the end kind of felt too predictable when I didn’t necessarily feel there was anything beyond hormones. My prediction is that Kalliarkos is totally going to be friendzoned in the next few books, a la Laurie (still don’t fully agree with Miss Alcott’s resolution to that romance).

one does not simply reject christian bale

Overall, I’ll still read the next book (once it comes out) if only to find out what happens after that dratted cliff-hanger. And maybe by the next book, the world will be more fleshed out.

Rating: 4 spinning rings you’ll have to leap through to win the game

Excerpt: Jessamy is just about to enter her first Fives Court!

My heartbeat quickens. I’m really going to do it. I have no trainer to wish me good fortune as I enter the ready cage, which is a lamplit chamber with a ladder at each corner.
 
I get my first look at the other three adversaries I’m running against. They are masked, of course. Since we’re entered in the Novice-level division, they must either be fledglings who have yet to win a trial or Novices trying to move up. You have to win ten Novice trials to move up to the next division, called Challenger. I want to win so badly, I want to prove to myself that if I truly had the opportunity I could run the Fives and succeed.
 
I look over my competition, trying to seem calmer than I really am, because I really am about to crawl out of my skin. I dig down for the other Jes, the cool, collected Jes who knows how to measure and make fast decisions with no margin for error, like my father on the battlefield.
 
The others have each already been handed a wide colored belt to mark their start position. They all happen to be male, but the stocky one wearing the red belt looks too muscle-bound to be flexible and the skinny one wearing the green belt is already sweating; that will make him slip. The one trying on the blue belt wears a fancy gold mask and a gold silk tunic far too expensive for a Novice, so that probably means he is from a palace stable where they can afford such a wonderful display. What matters to me is that he looks fit and calm; he’ll likely be my main competition.
 
The ready cage custodian hands me the last belt. It has the same brown color as my gear, so when I tie it around my waist it blends with my humble clothes. Brown means I start at the obstacle called Pillars. I smile, pleased by my good fortune. Pillars is a maze, and I’m adept at mazes.
 
I follow my custodian up one of the ladders. The crowd’s noise rumbles through the stone, sinking into my bones. This is really going to happen. Tears of excitement sting my eyes.
 
We walk through a dim tunnel that ends in a small chamber beneath a closed hatch. This is the start gate for Pillars. Yet another custodian stands here. This one is watchful, assessing my height and build, wondering how I’ll do. I rub chalk on my hands and on my leather shoes to absorb sweat. I open and close my hands, feeling every crease and callus.
 
The gate-custodian and my attendant custodian remain silent. Above us the crowd roars as the canvas is hauled back and today’s configurations revealed. Spectators chant along with the formulaic ceremony that opens every trial, the recitation of a set of verses that describes the court, the obstacles, the game itself. But I have already ceased hearing and seeing anything except what is right in front of my eyes. I am ready to run. I am ready to win.
 
Except I can’t win.
 
I’ve always known I can’t win, because winning will bring disgrace to my father.
 
Too late I realize I should not be here. I should not be doing this. It isn’t worth the risk that someone will recognize me behind my mask.
 
Horns blare like knives in my ears. The crowd quiets to a surging rumble.
 
Deep in the undercourt the start bell rings, and the hatch opens.
 
All my doubts fall away. I forget everything except for the promise of the ladder and the challenge that awaits me above. Heart racing, thoughts sharp as a spear, I climb.
 
The trial begins.

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15 comments

  1. I can’t comment on Court of Fives as I haven’t read it (and while I like the sound of some aspects, I’m just not on board for (YA) romance for a while), but Hell yes #TeamLaurie 😉 I loved that Jo needed space to find herself, but was always so sad she found someone else – and always weirded out that Laurie then hooked up with Amy. That said, one does not simply overlook Gabriel Byrne either, right? 😉

  2. Looking forward to your thoughts on BLACK WOLVES!

    Totally agree that the “Little Women meets Game of Thrones meets The Hunger Games” taglines didn’t help. I feel it was a bit of a setup book for the series?

    Li

  3. I was so interested in this before it came out, and then I lost interest. I’d much prefer to read Black Wolves, as I hear it’s amazing!

  4. I’m glad you enjoyed this! I personally didn’t like it very much, I felt the entire story felt forced especially when it came to the villain. Honestly, he could have just killed the whole family without resorting to such a complicated scheme! The only reason I could see for this whole complicated plan was so there could be an actual story. I was also a little disappointed with the game of Fives, it was too much like a glorified obstacle course with no interaction between the players, and so without that excitement I couldn’t get into those scenes at all. I agree, Cold Magic was better! I also just read her Black Wolves recently, and I think that’s the best I’ve ever read from Elliott 🙂

  5. Oh man, I hadn’t heard the Little Women comparison and had no opportunity to make comparisons between these girls and the March sisters. Damn it! I enjoyed this more than I expected to, so even without it being the very very best ever, I’ll be willing to read more in the series.

  6. Jenny – I jumped straight into this book looking for character references, haha. So…yeah, I spent a good deal of time looking around at the selection of older men to see who might be Bhaer 😛

  7. Mogsy – I agree with you on the villain and the disappointment of the Court of Fives! Especially in the last scene– the whole game was just glossed over. I thought this would have been the best time to have Jes show how clever she is and do something totally unexpected but the whole in-game progress was glossed over. I’m only 10% through Black Wolves right now– I have to admit, I struggled to get into it but things are ramping up!

  8. Tammy – haha, yeah, I think I got Court of Fives to tide me over until Black Wolves came out, but as it tends to happen, I got swamped with reading and ended up reading both these Elliotts around the same time. I’ve started on Black Wolves and it was a bit hard to get into, but the characters are certainly very vividly drawn and the world is wonderfully complex.

  9. Li – I agree, the ending was so abrupt! I actually was hoping Jes might do more clever things during her last game in that book, but Kate Elliott only describes the winning scene (which wasn’t really surprising so don’t know why Kal wouldn’t suspect he and Jes would be set up). Black Wolves was a slow start but I can already tell that we’re getting the famous Kate Elliott world-building so it’s making me sooo happy!

  10. imyril – haha, OMG, when I first read Little Women, I was so mad with Louisa May Alcott for pulling that rug out from under Laurie. It’s true that Jo and Laurie are perhaps both very passionate but I think that’s mainly because they are both so young…give it a few years and some time to mature and they would have been fine, I’m sure!! And yes, the film made me gudgingly admit that older and more distinguished is certainly handsome and charming in its own way 😛

  11. Ooooh spider-machines!
    I heard some of the same comparisons (Little Women meets Hunger Games), so evidently that had me both intrigued and fearful. I’ve never read Kate Elliott but I do have Cold Magic sitting on my shelves, so maybe that’s where I should start! (and then read this one when the second book is published, thus avoiding being cliffhanger-ed!)

  12. haha, in my house, my son is the destroyer around. He just has to walk past something for it to fall and break. I have bought so many broken stuff from shops because of him, I’ve lost count 😦

  13. “Little Women meets Game of Thrones meets The Hunger Games”

    Gosh, that is QUITE the comparison, haha! This book sounds so cool! 😀

  14. I haven’t heard a lot about this (I live under a rock and only pop out now and again). I do fancy the Wolves book but I’ve decided to try and be good with my book buying. I have so many unread books that I feel ashamed!
    Lynn 😀

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