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
If I were to use a word to describe Court of Five it would be this: solid.
It is a book that will please fans of the genre. But will it stand out in an increasingly crowded YA field? Would I recommend it as an introduction to the genre? The answer to both questions is “probably not.” Would I recommend it to a fan of Kate’s adult books? Eh.
The biggest issue is that while there are glimpses of the creativity normally seen in her books in terms of the world building, they do not occur to the final 20% of the book. Until that point, this book is somewhat routine fare: talented heroine, almost over-the-top evil villain, has to fight to save her family. The coat of paint is decently fresh, but you’ve read variations on this theme before.
And that’s the problem: nothing stands out too terribly much. I finished the book not ten minutes ago and our heroine left so little impact on me that it took a moment to remember her name…and even then I remembered her name (Jes) and had to correct myself from the summary (Jessamy, I thought it Jessalyn). This is a problem. The male friend/love interest doesn’t fare much better. He’s fairly generic Good Guy prince.
Finally, per Kate, the competition takes its inspiration from “American Ninja Warrior.” It’s a homage that works decently on the page, but I imagine if you haven’t watched, it may not do anything do anything for you.
Overall this book is good, but not great. Elliot is a skilled enough author that she makes the transition to Young Adult seamlessly, it’s just a shame that she hewed so close to the expected. There’s absolutely an audience for this book, I just don’t see it appealing outside them.
Verdict: Borrow it