Expected Publication: August 18th, 2015 by HarlequinTeen
Source: Traded (ARC)
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.
The concept of Court of Fives is really cool. A heroine determined to win an intricate athletic race? I was so intrigued by that, but it seemed to take a backseat to everything else. And that everything else? It was a whole lot of boring. It's especially weird because the beginning of Court of Fives was interesting, exciting, but it all went downhill from there. Which is the total opposite of what usually happens for me - a lot of the time, I have to trudge through slow beginnings before I find any action.
Court of Fives does feature WOC and plenty of prejudice - Jessamy, of mixed race, looks more like her Saroese mother than her Efean father. She is immediately classified as "less" upon sight, especially when compared to her sister. I'll admit that I got pretty confused about who was who when it came to Jessamy's sisters. I DUNNO. I'M JUST DUMB SOMETIMES. There's also a lot of varying family dynamics between Jessamy, her sisters, and her mother and father. The problem is that I just wasn't interested in most of it. The story of her father and mother - a very rare patron man who's stayed with a woman he's not married to (and can never marry) for two decades, even when he could marry a patron woman to further his career - was probably the most interesting of the dynamics. (WAS HE EVEN A PATRON THOUGH? I CAN'T REMEMBER.)
Not to mention that there's an event that takes up a large-ish portion of the book where basically nothing is happening. It was annoying. I was skimming. It was bad for everyone. Parts of Court of Fives are prone to info-dumps, too.
For the most part, though, I did enjoy the writing. It was plenty descriptive without drifting into purple prose territory and led into some pretty great world-building. I definitely felt immersed in the world.
The romance, however? While I wasn't strictly against it, I didn't really feel it. I never felt real chemistry between them or a real connection beyond their shared love of the Fives games. Kal isn't a bad guy by any means - he wants everyone to like him, he appears to genuinely care about Jessamy, and he helps her when she really needs it. And it's not like he's boring. But their relationship was a little too typical, came a little too quickly, and there was no passion. I appreciate that they weren't declaring their love for each other; it's actually a pretty sweet relationship. But it didn't feel real.
tl;dr: I was bored. Court of Fives didn't really bring anything astoundingly new to the table for me. I liked the idea of the Fives races but thought we would see a lot more of it. Ultimately, I just wasn't interested in a lot of things and I think I just didn't feel any connections to the characters. However, the world-building was great, and I liked the concept, just not the execution, I guess. 3 stars.