Sunday, July 5, 2015

Review: Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott
Book One of the Court of Fives series
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 18, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott begins a new trilogy with her debut young adult novel, weaving an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

Jessamy's life is a balance between acting like an upper class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But at night she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multi-level athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom's best competitors. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between a girl of mixed race and a Patron boy causes heads to turn. When a scheming lord tears Jes's family apart, she'll have to test Kal's loyalty and risk the vengeance of a powerful clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

What I Liked:

I'm so glad I enjoyed this book! I've seen some so-so reviews, as well as some disappointment and unhappiness with this one, but I personally really liked it. To be honest, I knew next to nothing about it, other than it's fantasy. But it worked out for me!

In this world of hierarchy, class, wars, and entitlement, Jess is the daughter of a Patron and a Commoner. Her father is a low-born Patron, elevated to the rank of Captain - no easy feat. Her mother is a beautiful Commoner. Commoners and Patrons do not mix, or marry. Her father cannot marry her mother, and yet, for twenty years, he has been faithful to her, and vice versa. Jess and her three sisters do not go into society, because their father forbids it. Amaya, the youngest sister, looks the most like a Patron type, and has the best chance at getting a good marriage and future. Jes just wants to run the Fives, a competition that has great rewards. The day comes when Jes's training and patience pays off - she runs the Fives. But shortly after, her father's supporter dies suddenly, and her father is forced to marry a highborn lady, abandoning Jes, her sisters, and her pregnant mother. Jes is taken by a Lord Gargaron to run the Fives, alongside the boy she beat, Lord Kalliarkos. But Jes will stop at nothing to make sure that her family alive and well, no matter the costs.

The thing that struck me the most about this book is the world-building. Despite the sexism and regression of women's rights, I really enjoyed the world-building. I can see some people getting bent out of shape about how patriarchal this society is, but think Ancient Greece or something. The world-building is very well-constructed and well-written. While it is sometimes unsettling to read, the world-building is unique and intriguing. There is an Ancient Greece feel to this novel, with oracles and priests and wars and curses, etc.

Jes is a strong and capable character, willful yet understanding, selfless towards her family. She is the second of four (and her mother is pregnant, so more on the way), and she is the most physically strong. Amaya, the youngest, is the most like their father in physical appearance, and has the best chance of making a match. Bettany, Jes's twin, is loud, rude, and outspoken, uncaring about her reputation (I like her a lot!). Maraya is bookish and intelligent, and she has a deformity that makes their father turn his head. Jes is the most strong, physically and sometimes mentally, and wants to leave the most, to find her own freedom. I like Jes.

Kal (Kalliarkos) is the boy who was behind Jes in the Fives she ran without her father knowing. Jes purposefully lost, because the victor has to reveal his/her face, and she knew she could not. So, Kal won. Kal is a highborn lord and the grandson of a princess, therefore making him a prince. He seemed a bit one-dimensional at times, but I liked him. He has this way about him in which he likes everyone, and respects everyone, no matter their appearance (Commoner, Patron, Lord, etc.) or what have you. He sees past societal hierarchy. Kal is naive and soft at first, but he grows a spine and makes (reckless) decisions. His character development is very obvious, and fun to watch.

Family is huge in this story. When Jes is taken from her family, and her father is going to marry a highborn lady of (basically) royalty, Jes's sisters and pregnant mother are "taken care of". Jes doesn't know what that means, but she is determined to find them and get them to safety. I really liked Maraya and Bettany. Kiya, the mother, I felt bad for. I HATED Amaya - she is a spoiled brat who only thinks of herself. I was torn about the father. You'd think he was a selfish, power-hungry jerk who abandons his family, but that isn't quite the case.

I love the story. It is interesting, engrossing, compelling. There is a reflection of race issues that should be addressed today, including the biracial theme running through the story. I love the Fives competition - it is NOT Throne of Glass esque, in which it encompasses the entire story. There is so much more to the story, especially with Jes's preoccupation with her family's whereabouts.

There IS romance in this novel! No love triangle, and I can't really see one in the future (but don't let me jinx it!). Jes and Kal are a great pair, very good together. I feel like there is a bit of insta-love, but perhaps it's just first love for both of them. There is not a lot of physical interactions between them in terms of romance, if you know what I mean. The two of them spend plenty of time together, one way or another, but not in terms of physical intimacy. Which could be viewed as a good thing, to some readers. There is subtle chemistry throughout though, but the romance is NOT the focus of the book (which is good!).

The story goes from family to the Fives to preoccupation with family back to the Fives - the actual competition. The story is thrilling on all sides. I have questions about possible magic and Efea (the Commoners), but I expect my questions to be answered in future books. The ending of this one was surprising, abrupt, and I definitely need a sequel as soon as possible!

What I Did Not Like:

Like I mentioned above (and this is a small thing), the romance is a tiny bit insta-love-y? It just seemed like Kal and Jes became interested in each other on the spot. Which is possible! But it comes off as insta-love. But still, I liked the romance. 

I HATED Amaya. Gosh, that girl should die at some point. She is entitled and privileged, because she is more like the Saroese (Patrons) then any of her sisters, and she is beautiful. So of course she acts better than them, and wants them to do as she says to help her get a good match, without any regard for them. Ugh! I think the author wants us to at least dislike her... but I hate her and it's too bad she's such an important secondary character!

Also the father is a jerk. I'm torn about how I feel about him, but he's definitely part jerk.

Would I Recommend It:

YES. I would recommend this novel. It's an interesting spin on what I believe is Ancient Greece, or has a lot of Ancient Greek influence. Fantasy fans will love this one, with its good story, nice romance, and likable characters (minus Amaya). I liked the balance of story, romance, and secrets uncovered and yet to be uncovered.


4 stars. I cannot wait to read the sequel! I hate waiting but I'm very excited for another book in this world. Thank you, Little, Brown, for the review copy!

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!


  1. Ahh I am so glad you liked this one! I really like all the name, I have always been one for uniqueness and love when authors pick unique names for their writing. This one sounds like it is really good. I can't wait to get to read it. Great review!

    Amber ❤ The Book Bratz

    1. I know! The title was what interested me initially - I knew next to nothing about the book itself! The title definitely fit the novel, too. I hope you enjoy this one when you get the chance to read it, Amber! Thank you <3

  2. YAY, I'm so happy that you liked this one, Alyssa! This is actually the first review that I've read for this book, and I have to admit, I was a little nervous you wouldn't like it, since I've been SO excited about this book for such a long time. I'm glad to see that's not the case. :D

    YAAY for actual world-buidling!! I don't really see a problem with the fact that it's patriarchal- especially because that kind of society, unfortunately, is still present. Sure, it might be a little unsettling, but it's important to create those kinds of settings as a critique on our our world and perhaps present ways to fix the problems in modern times.

    I love the sound of all the characters. They seem pretty unique with their various qualities and personalities, and I looove how Jes is strong- physically and mentally- and that she has that yearning for freedom.

    Oh my goodness, I love how this book has a big focus on family. You almost NEVER get to see that well done in fantasies!! But it seems like Jes really does care for her family. The father also seems like a really intriguing character. He doesn't appear to be a likable character, but I want to see his motivations and all behind what he did.

    Blah to the insta-love, but overall, I'm glad you enjoyed this one so much!! You've gotten me even more excited than I was before. Lovely, lovely review. <33

    1. REALLY?? I'm so glad it's mine, then! I mean, you always want to see positive things about books you're excited to read, right? I hope it does not disappoint! I feel like you are very excited about this one and it won't because of your excitement. Let me know how it goes, Aneeqah! And thank you!

  3. OOoh nice! I've been curious about this one but haven't seen many reviews yet! So this one was much appreciated! ;)

    It sounds like an intriguing read, but I feel hesitant for some reason. I don't know what it is. I usually enjoy a good fantasy, but perhaps I feel like I missing magic or some pizazz! Will have to keep thinking on it I guess!

    Regardless, excellent review!

    1. I'm glad I could help! I hope you read it, Jessica - it is totally worth the read! Hopefully you're interested!

      Thank you ^_^

  4. I like that this one has a focus on the family. To be honest, I dismissed this one as something that I would probably not like because of the mediocre ratings on GR so far, but I might give it a shot if I'm able to find it at the library.
    The only thing that would frustrate me would be the insta-love like romance. I'd rather have slow burn, but still, I think knowing before hand could potentially be useful.
    I'm glad this was a winner for you, Alyssa! Great review!

    1. I know! I saw the ratings and some early early reviews on Goodreads, and almost gave up on this one... but something in me was like, just request it and read it! I'm glad I did. The romance did bother me a bit - I prefer slow-burn as well! But it wasn't the focus of the book, so that made it better, if that makes sense.

      Thank you so much, Nick!

  5. I'm excited for this book! Your review makes it sound really good and now I'm even more excited! I was starting to get concerned because I haven't seen a real good review yet! Can't wait for this one!

    1. I hope you love it, Cyra! I saw one or two reviews on Goodreads, but not many on the blogs I follow! Still, I personally am glad I read it. I hope you love this one when you read it, Cyra!

  6. Gorgeous review Alyssa :D So glad you liked this book. <3 I don't think I want to read it, but you do make it sound amazing. Yay for liking the worldbuilding :D And the romance. <3 But aw. I want more physical romances, hmph. Thank you for sharing about this one sweetie :)

    1. Thank you, Carina! And no problem - you can't read everything! It was a good one, not sure if you'd like it, though I'd hope you would! You're very welcome - and thank you, Carina!

  7. Thanks for your review, will be adding to my TBR on goodreads! I liked your comments on the world-building, your mention of Ancient Greece made this one a must-read for me! Oh and the fact that there is NO love triangle! :)

    1. YAAASSS. Good choice, Miranda ;D This sounds like it would work for you! I hope you love it when you read it :)

  8. This sounds really good! I love anything that has to do with Ancient Greece so the world-building sounds like it will really appeal to me :) I also already like Jes and Kal and am excited to read this book. Great review!

    Zareena @ The Slanted Bookshelf

    1. Yes! I think you might enjoy this one, Zareena. If you read it, I hope you love it! Thank you!

  9. REALLY glad you loved this one; I liked it a lot too. I thought the writing was a little hard to absorb at first, but the world building really worked after awhile!

    1. YAY! I'm so happy to hear this! I actually thought the world-building was on point from the start!


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