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Court of Fives

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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.

448 pages, Hardcover

First published August 18, 2015

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About the author

Kate Elliott

106 books2,603 followers
As a child in rural Oregon, Kate Elliott made up stories because she longed to escape to a world of lurid adventure fiction. She now writes fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction, often with a romantic edge. She currently lives in Hawaii, where she paddles outrigger canoes and spoils her schnauzer.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,153 reviews
August 21, 2015
DNF at 30%. "But Khanh, how can you give such a low rating when you've barely given the book a chance?" Because I've read enough crap YA to tell when a book is beyond redemption. I almost abandoned it after the second chapter, but was in a forgiving mood, and hung on a little longer. I should have stopped then.

In a faux-Roman whatever world where people speak in dialogue as natural as Yankee imitating Ye Olde English in King Arthur's Court, there lives a family. Sorta. Jessamy lives with her hugely pregnant mother and three sisters, Amaya, Maraya, and Bettany. They're all Commoners, lower-class, frowned upon, and their existence is more remarkable by the fact that daddy is a Patron.
Patrons are people either born in the old empire of Saro or descended from ancestors who emigrated from Saro to Efea any time in the last hundred years. The law forbids people of Saroese ancestry from marrying the native people of Efea, who are called Commoners.
Right. So theirs is a forbidden love story, a beautiful Commoner woman and her brave Patron lover (because of course, they're not married). Daddy is an honored soldier, who has been deeply faithful and loving and loyal to his lower-class wife and children despite all the criticism he has received. The sisters and their mother live in relative luxury in the warmth of a loving home. But they've got to behave themselves, even more so because of the tenuousness of their parents' forbidden love, in order to not bring dishonor upon their names.
Girls like us have to be more decorous and well-mannered than the daughters of other officers because our father is a lowborn army captain fighting to make his fortune through valor and bold leadership. Which one of us would dare jeopardize his steady, hard-fought climb through the ranks by indulging in disreputable behavior?

Stupid Bettany...for some reason, is SO DEFIANT. An easy life isn't good enough...she just something more than this provincial life or whatever. She's been training in secret. So happily and sneakily defying her family and the social standards...because for some reason she wants to be some kind of a fucking Gladiator in this stupid ass competition called The Fives. She is gleefully plotting her escape that day to compete in this competition when - horror of all horrors, soldier daddy comes home and plans to show off his family and take them to view the competition itself! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
“It will take some days to set up proper victory games, so tomorrow’s procession will finish with the usual weekly Fives. Lord Ottonor has requested our family’s presence in his balcony box for the occasion.”

I shut my eyes as the full scope of the disaster blows down over me. My plans, my hard work, and the scraps of money I have saved for months: all washed away.
Disaster! Disaster!

Dressing up and hanging out with your family and having your proud father show you off to the world lovingly despite the fact that he should have been ashamed of you and your family?! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! The horror is unimaginable, clearly. Of course, it is an opportunity beyond compare to everyone else.
“Oh, Father! I have so often dreamed of having the chance to attend the games at the Royal Fives Court!” breathes Amaya.
So she's going to be forced to be with her family in their box during the competition...surely she wouldn't plan on doing anything SO STUPID AS TO SNEAK OUT TO COMPETE IN THE COMPETITION WHILE EVERYONE'S EYES ARE ON HER.

One guess.

Instead of answering I look at the rug. I have failed Father in the worst way: I have caused him to lose face. He knows it, and so do I.

“You did not want your father to know you run the Fives, is that it?”

“Yes, my lord.” I finally look up.

Father is actually too stunned to speak as the extent of my insubordination hits him.
I stumble, overcome by fear and grief, and barely catch myself against the door that has locked me away from my mother and sisters. The whole world has broken apart around me.
And you know what the stupid fucking crux of this is? Jessamy gets what she wanted after her family is destroyed. She gets to compete in the stupid Fives. She gets her dream thanks to her own stupidity and the betrayal of her family. I don't want to continue reading about a girl who benefits from her own family's downfall. The end.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews293k followers
August 25, 2015
Court of Fives is sold as a high fantasy, but reads much more like a loosely-plotted YA dystopia, complete with a national competition and actions that make no sense.

There was never a point when I got sucked into the story. The characters all feel flat as crepes (minus the delicious fillings) and I simply cannot understand what Jessamy's fucking problem is. I do not get why she is so caught up in her own self-centred need to enter the Fives (multilevel competition, blah blah, haven't heard that one before!) when it could seriously harm her family.

In this world, Jessamy, her sisters and their mother are commoners who are looked down upon by upper-class society. Her father is a Patron who has remained faithful to his commoner lover even though many in this society expected him to find himself a Patron wife who would produce sons.
The law forbids people of Saroese ancestry from marrying the native people of Efea, who are called Commoners.

The family live in a fragile state of being both shunned and - when needed - tolerated by high society. It is really important for them to keep the peace and not cause trouble. So what does Jessamy do when her father wants to bring his daughters to a public event and show he is not ashamed of them?

She sneaks off to participate in the Fives, risks completely ruining the lives of her father, mother and sisters, AND knows she can't let herself win anyway! That's right. She risks everything her family holds dear for a chance to lose a competition.

Why is she doing this? WHY?? Shall I tell you? It's to manufacture a story that doesn't exist. Pointless actions. No reason for anything beyond "because the author needed something dramatic to happen". This is not a story; it's a series of mindlessly sensational events.

Similarly, I have no idea why the antagonist sets out to destroy Jessamy's family. The reason seems to be "because he is EVIL" which is a shitty reason. There is nothing in it for him that I can see and, even if there was, I still don't know why he would play such extensive games around it. Again, it seemed like an ill-conceived effort to create a plot.

Very disappointing and nothing new.

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Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
July 2, 2020
99c Kindle sale, July 2, 2020, for this first book in a YA fantasy series. Review first posted on www.FantasyLiterature.com:

Kate Elliott vaults into the YA fantasy game field with Court of Fives, which the author aptly describes as “Little Women meets American Ninja Warrior in a setting inspired by Greco-Roman Egypt.” This three-pronged description calls out three of the most noteworthy aspects of Court of Fives: the subtle references to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, accentuating the importance of family relationships to this story; the challenging physical game called Fives, which adds excitement and reflects the competitive nature of both Jessamy, the main character, and her father, as well as the political intrigue that drives much of the plot of this novel, and is echoed in a hair-raising venture in the last part of the book; and the richly described setting of the Egyptian-like country called Efea, occupied and ruled over by the so-called Patrons from Saro, with the Efean people (disdainfully called Commoners) suffering the many prejudices and cruelties, large and small, that come with occupation and with being a subject race of people.

My friend Jana, in her excellent review on Fantasy Literature, has eloquently described the game of Fives and its similarities to Sasuke, aka American Ninja Warriors (and the women's variant, Kunoichi), and the imaginative world-building in Court of Fives. The homage and links to Little Women are another intriguing aspect of this novel, which, like Little Women, centers on a family with four daughters with distinct personalities, a loving, patient and insightful mother, and a father who is largely absent from the family due to war. In fact, the names and personalities of the daughters in Court of Fives bear more than a passing resemblance to the March family in Little Women:

• Maraya, the eldest daughter, is an analog of responsible Meg March.
• Jessamy or Jes, like Jo, is the main character, impulsive and strong-minded, often overlooking the concerns of the people around her in her relentless pursuit of her goal to compete at the Fives, yet equally single-minded in her determination to help her family when she becomes aware of need, regardless of any personal cost or risk.
• Bettany, who in this novel is defined chiefly by her powerful anger and resentment, is at first glance the polar opposite of the gentle, sweet, ailing Beth. In fact, Bettany barely appears in Court of Fives at all, perhaps reflecting, in a sense, Beth’s quietness. Bettany’s connection with Beth is touched on in some amusing ways: when the girls’ father comes home from the war, Bettany absents herself from greeting him with the excuse that she is sick, when in reality she is fuming about their family’s situation. And later, when Bettany plans to run away from home, she suggests that her sisters tell her father that she has died.
• Amaya, like Amy, is quick and intelligent, but at least at first is overly focused on social position and on her physical attractiveness.

As well, Kalliarkos, Jessamy’s love interest, has some distinct similarities to Jo’s friend Laurie, particularly with his wealthy and privileged background and his ease of making friends with others, regardless of their social class. I concur with Jana that the obligatory romantic relationship was ― as is frequently the case in young adult fiction ― a case of insta-love and felt rather unrealistic, but the cross-class and interracial aspects of Jes and Kal’s relationship did function as an interesting echo of her parents’ relationship and re-emphasized the conflicts between their two cultures.

After developing this conceit initially, it seems that Elliott for the most part abandons it as the story moves along; the actual plot of Court of Fives bears no real resemblance to Little Women. However, similar themes are explored throughout both books: the significance of the characters’ family relationships, the role of duty and self-sacrifice in the choices they make, and coming of age, as Jes matures and learns to make difficult choices.

My imagination was captured by Court of Fives’ Roman-based society, with the highly stylized, competitive ― and dangerous ― obstacle course games in its coliseums rather than gladiator fights and feeding Christians to lions. The fantasy aspect was handled with a light touch, showing up infrequently as part of the power of the Patrons’ priests and in an unexplained force that Jes and her group encounters later in the book.

Overall, Court of Fives is a compelling and creative story. While the ending is unapologetically open-ended and leaves all kinds of unresolved issues for the sequels, it was so deftly written, with intriguing layers of complexity weaving about the main characters, that I didn't even resent the cliffhangers.
Profile Image for Gail Carriger.
Author 64 books14.9k followers
May 3, 2018
Kate Elliott manages to combine everything I love best in a YA novel. Jes is a killer protagonist: tough, capable, but also lost in her upbringing and faced with impossible choices that test her character and her beliefs. Her family dynamic is genius. The love and combativeness between sisters is touching and realistic. The story is tight and tidy, comprised of rings within rings twisting and matching to one another. It's rich with detail, but plot is tied back to description in a way that makes the reader grateful for having paid attention to Kate's lyrical prose.

It's the world building I truly love in this book. The setting is fantasy (although with little magic and no fantastical creatures), but there are definite overtones of Ancient Egypt under Roman rule, and perhaps a little Etruscan feel here or there, all bundled up with commentary on colonialism and race relations. The game trials themselves made me think of Sparta's agōgē, although there is a component of the Roman chariot races ~ what with the training stables and crowd's allegiances.
Profile Image for Ann Aguirre.
Author 88 books6,630 followers
December 4, 2014
I was fortunate to be asked to blurb this gorgeous novel. There are books that make you think and books that make you feel.

This one is a rare bird; it is both.

And I devoured it in one greedy, glorious go. Part of me regrets that. I should have savored it, and there are SO MANY questions.

This is everything YA fantasy could possibly be. If you think the blurb sounds intriguing, the book is so much more. It's achingly lovely, heartbreaking, lushly imagined and beautifully wrought. I feel unworthy to call myself a writer after having read this. I tell stories to the best of my abilities, but I am awed by the scope and incandescence of Kate Elliott's talent and imagination.

There are so many facets I'd love to examine but even the questions would risk spoilers, and it's too fantastic for me to do that to you, readers. So I'll say this instead:

If you loved Marie Rutkoski's The Winner's Curse, you cannot go wrong with Court of Fives. It will leave you breathless, aching, destroyed and trembling. And you will want the next installment more than you can at this moment conceive.

Get your hands on it as fast as you can.

Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,030 reviews2,604 followers
August 8, 2015
2 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum http://bibliosanctum.com/2015/08/08/y...

While it’s true that I have not read many books by Kate Elliott, I still feel pretty confident when I say this is not her best. I’m disappointed because I badly, desperately wanted to like this one, but ultimately it just wasn’t for me.

First, a quick summary of the premise to set the stage for my points below. Our protagonist is a girl named Jessamy. She and her three sisters are raised in a household by their Patron father, a low-born baker’s son who nevertheless rose to fame and prestige in the military because of his talents in command, and their Commoner mother, a concubine because it is forbidden for a man of Saroese ancestry to marry a native woman of Efea. Jes’ secret dream is to train for the Fives, an athletic competition that offers a chance for glory, but due to her father’s strict rules, the only way she can compete is in secret. One day during a public event, Jes meets Kalliarkos, a young Patron prince. From a shared love of the Fives, they strike up an unlikely friendship. But when disaster strikes and a ruthless lord threatens to tear Jessamy’s family apart, Kal’s loyalty to her will be put to the test.

World-Building: Sadly, it was almost non-existent. Save for random facts about the setting, there was little to bring it all together. This is Kate Elliott’s first Young Adult novel and I don’t know if it’s because she felt the need to water down the particulars, but I’ve always been a big believer that just because it’s YA doesn’t mean you have to skimp on the details; readers are patient and if you want to take some time establishing a bit of background information, I doubt anyone’s going to throw the book down in a fit of rage just because of a little break in the action.

Story: Way too many holes for my tastes. There were many things that didn’t sit right with me. My biggest problem was the villain’s main motivation to separate Jessamy’s father from his family. Even if I buy the explanation, I don’t understand why he would go to all the trouble with his layer upon layer of schemes. Really, it’d make a lot more sense for him to simply kill everyone and be done with it, especially since we’ve already established that he’s the kind of man who would do something like that and not lose a wink of sleep. As far as I could tell, the only reason he did what he did was so there would be a story.

Main Character: Jessamy is one of the most confusing YA heroines I’ve ever met. One moment she’s convinced me that she desperately wants to take some action, or feels strongly about something. And just as suddenly she’ll do a complete one-eighty and say the opposite. Her desire to run the Fives is a prime example. We spend the first few chapters reading about how badly she wants to take part in the coming games, how she’d do anything to sneak out and compete. But of course when the moment finally comes, she gets cold feet. No, Jes, that’s not what I want to hear at all. You want me convinced of your love for the game? Then OWN IT. No flip-flopping. But more flip-flopping is exactly what she does, this time on the matter of her father. Does she hate him for being an ambitious cad who threw away his family to get ahead in life, or does she love him for being forced against his will to make a bad decision that will nonetheless save all their lives? Jes seems to change her mind on this every other chapter.

Romance: Besides having no chemistry, I’m not sure Jes and Kal’s “romance” is even altogether healthy. He’s got a complex where he’s desperate for the approval of those around him, bending over backwards for people so that they would like him, praise him, accept him. She knows this, and takes advantage of it every chance she gets, goading him into breaking the rules and taking risks for her by sneering at his skills and challenging his manhood. There was also no build up to their relationship; it’s just something that randomly happens.

The Fives: This game is bizarre and confusing, a glorified obstacle course where each adversary must progress through a set of four challenges before tackling the final puzzle, a moving contraption called Rings which the player must scale successfully to claim the victory flag and declare triumph. There’s no need for a lot of strategizing or direct contact between players, so each adversary works independently for the most part, which doesn’t make for much entertainment or suspense. I give the game credit for being a cool idea, but it doesn’t feel complete or fully realized.

It’s a shame, because this novel isn’t without its strengths and I can actually name a few areas where the story really shines. However, most of the positives are overshadowed by the negatives. There are several missed opportunities to further explore the implications of Jessamy being a woman of mixed-race straddling two worlds, raised in the tradition of one culture while physically resembling the people of the other. There’s also the difference in women’s status in the two societies, which gets mentioned a lot by characters in the story, but there’s not much more beyond that. These are important issues that could have made the world-building feel more vivid and robust, but regrettably, we are only given very surface-level details.

I wish I could have given Kate Elliott’s Young Adult debut a more glowing review, but the truth is Court of Fives ended up falling short of my expectations. Understandably, the rivers of YA are difficult to navigate, and hopefully the next book will stand on sturdier ground. Fortunately though, Elliott has written plenty of great books in her distinguished career, and if you want to check out her work I would recommend Cold Magic, the first book of her Spiritwalker trilogy, which also stars a strong young woman but it’s a much richer, more powerful coming-of-age tale than this one.
Profile Image for Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller.
724 reviews1,202 followers
August 26, 2017
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 Instaloves, 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.

Via The Obsessive Bookseller at www.nikihawkes.com
Profile Image for Nafiza.
Author 6 books1,207 followers
January 10, 2016
The synopsis does a fair job of describing the book but it doesn’t do the intricate relationships and layers at play in the novel any justice. For instance, the synopsis doesn’t mention that Jessamy is one of four sisters, Maraya, Bettany (Jessamy’s twin,) and Amaya, all of whom are complex individuals with their own lives and story arcs. The synopsis also doesn’t mention Jessamy’s mother who is one of the more interesting, non-antagonistic, parents in the YA genre. The synopsis most certainly doesn’t mention the incredibly complex relationship Jessamy has with her father. It does mention Kalliarkos, the inevitable love interest, but romance is at best a subplot of Court of Fives and not the entire point of it.

It is difficult to know where to begin to describe this novel but I shall start with the worldbuilding which is, as expected, detailed but not in the minute way Kate’s adult fantasy novels are. The description of the court where the fives are run, the market, the different peoples and their diverging histories are all given attention. Kate takes the time to immerse the reader into this world she has created for the story but at the same time there is the feeling that this world does not rely on the reader’s previous experience with fantastic worlds to come to life; it is whole in itself in the way it is created.

Court of Fives contains concurrent discussions on race, culture, and the systemic oppression of the natives by the people colonizing their land. The book also discusses the artificiality of written history as the past is often written by those who lack objectivity and who often shade events to show their sides of the story in the most favourable light thereby denying the losing side not just their culture and their history, but also a voice with which to make a difference. The book also has a minor discussion on physical disability as Maraya, Jess’s elder sister, has a twisted foot and is considered a defect by her father. This leads to an interesting discussion about whether a person’s worth is determined by her/his/their physical self.

Jessamy and her sisters are of mixed heritage; her father, though low-born, is a Patron while her mother is Efean. Because of their mixed heritage, Jess and her sisters have to constantly navigate their shifting identities as their selves are contextualized by the people they come in contact with. Jess is an intriguing character to unravel within the course of the narrative. Some of her choices do, initially, seem self-serving and for all that she is a protagonist, her flaws are often glaringly obvious. Her brashness is blunted by her obvious love for her sisters and her mother; I really loved the way Jessamy’s parents are portrayed in the novel. It is tempting to simply hate her father for his actions but Kate is careful to humanize him and, if not justify, then explain without excusing his choices where his family is concerned. Jessamy’s mother has the opposite narrative arc compared to her father: where Jessamy’s father begins the story with loads of power and agency which are gradually stripped away as he is reduced to being a pawn someone else’s political play, Jessamy’s mother begins the story as a cossetted wife who loses everything and is forced, both for her own sake and for the sake of her children, to gather strength and find the will to live on.

The fives, a race run in a court full of obstacles, gains significance when the true history of the Efeans comes to light during the narrative. What has filtered through time and memory to become a simple sport, an extremely lucrative one but a sport nonetheless, used to mean a very different thing to the people of the past. The book hints at this deeper connection and I reckon we’re going to return and delve into this plot point further sometime in the sequel.

Now for the romance which I will be honest and say was my least favourite part of the story.

In a conversation with Jessamy’s father about his relationship with her mother:

“Did you fall in love with her at first sight?”

“No one can fall in love at first sight. Love is built over the years, not snapped into existence like a flame that can be easily extinguished. But I was so struck with her beauty and the pure joy in her laugh that something deep within me changed…”

There is the acknowledgement that love, true love, is more than the infatuation that begins many relationships. Kal and Jess’s relationship very much reads like young love and I appreciated the distinction that this conversation makes between young love and true love.

I am not the biggest fan of Kalliarkos simply because he feels too naive for all that he is a member of the nobility. I feel like he has a lot of growing up to do before he can become a worthy love interest. I’m not too worried though because by the end of the novel, he is well on his way to learning some home truths which will serve him well in the future.

I was most worried that Jessamy would turn into a lovelorn teenager which is okay because she is a teenager and deserves her moonstruck phase but lovelorn teenagers do not make for fun reading. I was very glad, then, that the novel ended in on a most interesting note where Jess reveals that at the core of her self lies a brilliant tactician and gives a glimmer of the woman she is becoming. There was no cliffhanger as the first book, though primarily focused on establishing the world and individuating the characters, does complete a narrative arc and contains a full story that can be read as a standalone. Yay.

So now we come to the end of this fangirly review though I hope I was discerning and remained objective during it. Court of Fives is a great book and a great start to a new trilogy. Kate Elliott has created a wonderful world peopled by complex characters who are living an incredible story. Strongly recommended. (As in, read it.)
Profile Image for Erica Ravenclaw.
334 reviews98 followers
August 19, 2015

*bumping cause I reviewed this super early and today is released day!*

No spoilers and colorful language abound! I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Yes. Oh, hell yes. YA has a new gold standard, and it was woven by Kate Elliot.

Here is how she did it:

Take every trope and tangled mess of cliches and throw them out the window. Replace them with a strong female protagonist, guided by love of family, an unquenchable desire to cultivate sense of self, and steadfast desire to be logical. Permit these eloquent components to unfurl on the mystical backdrop based upon the Ancient Egyptian civilization, peppered with otherness and ripe with cultural friction. Sounds fantastic, right? That's because it is.

Anyone can come up with good elements, however the skill required to intricately weave a compelling plot that leaves your heart shattered is something else all together. Once more, you will be reminded that life is not a matter of black and white, but a delicate balance of grey scale, and one must consistently make hard choices and find your footing with what you are dealt.

Jessamy, I have but one thing to say:

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I'm going to refrain from delving into details on the plot, I think the blurb gives just enough that you need. Special thanks to my friend Cris, who fearlessly badgered the publisher after we missed this drop and scored the last copy for me. It was one of the few books I was truly looking forward to at BEA and I couldn't be more thankful!

*It's after midnight and my eyes are heavy - I'll proof this in the morning*

Profile Image for Kiki.
193 reviews8,459 followers
May 6, 2016
You know what? This was actually a DNF at about 92%, but I will be DAMNED if I throw away a week-long slog through this book with nothing to show for it. So I'm marking it as read and it's going towards my reading challenge. I put in seven days' hard graft and I deserve to get something out of it.

This book was terrible, and the thing is that I went into it blind; if I'd known it was based on Little Women I'd have never gone near it. I tried reading Little Women once, and it nearly killed me. The other thing is that the first half of this book was really good: while the Fives thing seemed a bit silly, like, grown-ass members of the ruling class doing a glorified obstacle course, it was new and different. I liked Jessamy, and even when I quit this stinker I still liked her. My beef doesn't lie with her, and nor does it lie with the world building, which was somewhat unique.

But Jessamy doesn't exist in a vacuum, therefore we're forced to put up with everyone else's horribly written stilted dialogue, plus a vacuous, silly villain, bland Maraya, even blander Bettany, and Kalliarkos too, who is so boring that it actually makes my soul weep. I really liked Thynos and Inarsis, but they're frustratingly vague, and shunted off into the background right when they start to become interesting. I wanted more about Amaya and Denya, but they were vague too. I think that's my main problem with this book - it's hard to care, but it's always unclear what exactly is going on. Like, okay, we're going to run the Fives for Lord Gargaron, but we don't know how sponsors work with regards to the Fives, or how those sponsors are paid. This world building is really interesting until you peek behind the stage dressing and find nothing but drop sheets and metal girders.

I could go on with my nitpicking, but to be honest, the real problem I had with this book was that I just felt nothing for it. I liked Jessamy, but...meh. I don't care enough to continue reading about her. About halfway through reading this, I put this book down and had to force myself to pick it up again. I'm pretty sure that's not how it's supposed to go. Oy vey.
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,551 reviews2,938 followers
February 3, 2018
This is a book I picked up in order to try out Kate Elliott and Renay recommended this one to me. It's a great start point with Elliott's work, and it's encouraged me to try out more of her books for sure!

The story inside feels a little but like the Hunger Games at times becuase the world we follow revolves largely around two types of people, Patrons (rich, wealthy etc.) and Commoners (poor, mistreated etc.) who are constantly at odds, but all fascinated by the Fives games.
We follow a family through the eyes of one of the daughters, Jes, and Jes is a big fan of running in the Fives which is a tournament frequently put on by the royals and other patrons. The Fives competitors are called Adversaries, and there are four who compete against each other at one time. They have four sections to get through: Rivers, Pillars, Traps and Trees, and they each have their own challenges and play to certain strengths of character. Jes has secretly been running in the Fives and training away from her family whilst her father is off at war, but when he comes back her life and the lives of those she loves are drastically altered...

What I liked most about this book was that it feels very action-packed and yet we still got the chance to enjoy the characters. Jes isn't a total pushover either, she's a really fun character who has a lot of grit and determination (even if she does fall for the first Prince she meets). I definitely liked seeing her stand out and run the fives, and there were many times where she impressed me with her surety and strength of will to defy evil, powerful people.

Overall, it's a really fun read with a lot of good moments and I would certainly like to read the sequel as it seems there's a whole lot more to the politics of this world than first meets the eye! I think the ending definitely leads on to bigger things to come. 4*s from me.
Profile Image for Aditi.
920 reviews1,332 followers
August 9, 2015
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

---- Charlotte Brontë

Kate Elliott, an award-winning American YA author, pens her new book, Court of Fives which is the first book in the Court of Fives trilogy, that tells the story of a young teenager, belonging from two different caste that divides her own world, is trying to find herself as well as trying to find her way through all those indifference set by the ruler of her world, by participating in a highly challenging competition, Fives.


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.

Jessamy and her three sisters (one with a club foot and the other two are twins) live in a world called, Efea, dominated by the Saro Lord, thus decrementing the ranks of the efeans to a low status called, The Commoners, where as the high status consists of people with Saroese blood called Patrons. Jessamy has a Patron father, a Captain in the Army, and a Commoner mother, who couldn't get married because in Efea, inter-caste marriages are prohibited. Still Jes's father stayed and took care of his daughters since he loved her mother a lot.

Now Jes and her family is abiding by the Patrons' aristocratic ways of living, but Jes, with her Commoner blood and especially, when the people call her and her sister as "mules" (similar to "mudblood"), is pinning for the freedom and is secretly planning to take part in the training for the Fives competition, which is highly challenging as well as edgy game, that not only requires physical skills and strength but also requires a high aptitude and this is where she meets Lord Kalliarkos, a Patron and another competitor. Jess is clearly not the perfect fit for this competition, yet she takes part, thus putting her whole family into risk by jeopardizing the security of her family.

The world building is vividly done with intricate descriptions and proper logic to make the fantasy world look convincing enough. I believe, the world building is the strongest aspect of this book, and the author doesn't leave out any secrets or mysteries related to this fantasy world to be revealed in the sequels, she did it all in this book and thus making the readers grasp this world properly.

The writing style is fantastic with an engaging narrative style. The plot is woven beautifully with lots of actions and drama to keep the readers on their edges, especially when the game of Fives is introduced, the pacing of the book changes from being steady to being very fast.

The characters are all very well developed and are highlighted and layered with their flaws and stronger aspects and all also kept closer to reality. The protagonist, Jessamy, is brave and moves accordingly with the challenges thrown on to her path, and unlike her age, Jess shows a lot of maturity in her, especially when it comes to addressing her privileges of being a Patron and helping protect her family. Kalliarkos, another Patron and fellow competitor of Jess, is a nice and kind guy unlike other Patrons but unfortunately there's not much that will make the readers contemplate with this character, maybe in the sequels we get to know this guy.

There is very little or no chemistry at all in this book, so there's no point in talking about it. The relationship between Jess and her family is brilliantly portrayed and has a way to make the readers feel deeply. Jes's family is the one who stands undivided and united against the tide (prejudices and social stigma) with love and support, yet poses a great threat to the society where the Soro Lord is threatening to tear the family apart, since they were moving away from the tide. I wished the three sisters of Jes had a bit more depth in their characterization.

The book has a complex plot and though it opens very slow with lots of details about the world, the author has created a great fantasy world that not only intrigues the readers but also provokes the minds of the readers. And since the book ends with a cliffhanger, I'm definitely looking forward in reading the next book of this trilogy.

Verdict: A captivating as well as exciting series opener, that is highly recommended for all YA fantasy lovers.

Courtesy: Thanks to the publishers for giving me an opportunity to read and review this book.
Profile Image for Veronique.
1,231 reviews169 followers
August 13, 2017
Like most here, I wasn't sure whether to give this novel a try. The premise sounded really interesting, with its greco-roman style of world, but the negatives put forward did cause me to ponder. As my score shows, I did like it, with some reservations.

As expected, the setting Elliott portrays is compelling, with its complex structure, presenting a society made of two 'races', one having conquered the other, and the typical resulting social inequalities. The plot also shows there are more factions at play, which our main character discovers slowly, as well as the fact that History is written by the Winners, who can mold it to their liking.

Jess's position is right in the middle of this, having parents from both sides, being brought up by the standards of the upper class but physically looking more like the lower one. Her family does indeed remind us of the March family from Little Women, with the four sisters and their temperament, the dedicated mother and the absent father, but the similarity ends there. Here, the precariousness of their position is shown early on when their world comes crashing down.

The narration, seen from Jess, focuses a lot on the 'Court of Fives', game reminiscent of the Roman Arena with its fighting. Although it seems to have the same general role, the action here comes from going through 5 zones, each valuing a skill set, from athelism to balance, power and problem solving. I did enjoy this, and seeing how this contest is deeply ingrained in the tissue of that society.

On the whole, the story does grab you, but at some points, it looses itself a little, and that is when the use of present tense would annoy me. Additionally, some of the characters' choices and/or actions seemed odd - wasn't for instance sold on the romance. Nevertheless, the good points outbalanced the less good ones and I shall be reading the next book in the trilogy.
Profile Image for Rachel  (APCB Reviews).
331 reviews1,191 followers
August 19, 2015
Initial thoughts: This book was a pleasant surprise. I honestly had no idea what to expect, and I found myself intrigued by the Fives competition. Many slow moments and confusing/lacking world-building definitely ducked down my enjoyment level for this book. This series has great potential though!

Read the full review @ A Perfection Called Books

The first think I noticed about this book is its connections to An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. If you liked that one, then you might enjoy Court of Fives as well.

The Patrons are a race of people who rule over the Commoners. It's basically the equivalent to the Patricians and the Plebians of Ancient Rome. Jes is a girl of mixed race, and as such she and her family don't belong with either group. She loves to compete in the Fives, a competition consisting of five physically and mentally-demanding obstacles to complete before the other competitors do. It's a form of entertainment for people, and competitors in the Fives have a chance to make it big and win loads of money. A horrifying tragedy threatens her family's livelihood, and Jes must make tough decisions between love and loyalty to save her family and herself.

The characters in this book really were a positive part of this novel. Although they weren't the most unique, they all possessed something that kept me intrigued. I admire Jes' tenacity and dedication. She tries so hard to be what other need of her. She shoulders so many burdens. I really enjoyed the relationship she had with her sisters. Jes' Patron father is a famous soldier in the army, and he defies society's standards by having children with a Commoner whom he loves and can never marry due to laws. He wants to raise his children as Patron as possible to give them the best life he can offer them. He's such a complex character who shows his cold, calculating side. Underneath it we see the compassionate side, the one who's tormented by the decisions he's been forced to make. Kal's naïveté and genuine good character was a breath of fresh air in a surprisingly dark cast.

The world building is where most of my problems with this book resonate. For starters, the history is a complete mess. There's such a tangle of fighting among various nations who are all ruled by related royal families. I felt as though lots of key points in this book were never explained. We don't understand the society well besides Patrons being better than Commoners. Elliot fails to explain the history well. We never know how or why the Fives came about. It just bugs me how many things are left unexplained in this novel.

Court of Fives contains lots of fantasy elements. The magic is present, and it's bound to play a bigger role later on in the series. There are ties to religion and superstitions and hints to histories, ruins, and cultures long forgotten. I hope Elliot expands on this! The writing was quite good, yet the pacing was severely off. The dialogue was a bit archaic and just not enjoyable to read. Way too slow in some areas and confusingly fast in others, this book could have been smoother. The romance was pretty bland, and I didn't see any development at all.

With lots of promise and much to look forward to in the oncoming books, I'd recommend you check out this start to a new series.
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 167 books37.5k followers
November 10, 2015
Copy provided by the publisher.

In order to discuss this book I have to get sort of spoilery. I try to avoid specifics, but I do talk about the general outline of the book.

So, Court of Fives. It would be hard to find anyone less interested in sports than I am. But when I heard that Kate Elliott was writing a YA, and that it was a cross between teen gladiators and Little Women, I knew I had to read it.

And I was not disappointed—in fact, the book grabbed me hard in spite of the sports at the center.

Whenever I read a YA, I’m reading for two: the me of now, of course, in my mid-sixties, with more than fifty years of passionate reading stitching together my life, but also the me of yore. I make no claim to dictate what “teens of today” will like—as if they all had the same taste. I can only predict fairly confidently what I would have liked as a teen. Which isn’t always what pleases me now.

But this book worked for me on both levels.

As a teen, I would have been gripped from the gitgo by Jessamy, who has been training hard to run the Court of Fives, a kind of American Ninja Obstacle course with five separate fields. Not that I cared about sports as a kid, either, but I did understand wanting something passionately, and working toward it with every ounce of energy. Especially if the authorities forbade it, as I was a teen in the mid-sixties, when school authorities were still telling girls that the only careers ahead of them were nurse, secretary, or teacher, and it was ultra-important to be a “lady” as no man would marry you if you were perceived as one of those kinds of girls.

As a kid reader, I bounced hard off the first chapter of Little Women. The sisters seemed too niminy-piminy to me, the mom way too preachy. And nothing interesting seemed to happen for my adventure-thirsting eye. So Jessamy’s single-minded fixation on her dangerous sport would have hooked me hard, spiced as it was with societal and parental disapproval; the connection to Alcott would have passed right over my head.

The adult me has read Little Women several times, and come to deeply appreciate Louisa May Alcott’s sense of humor, her compassion, and her struggle toward female freedom while remaining dutiful to family and societal expectations. So I was eager to see what Elliott brought from that book to the subgenre of teen gladiators, one that I’d begun to feel has been pretty tapped out.

Jessamy is very like Jo: in many ways more boy than girl, passionate, impulsive, mono-focussed until she runs headlong into trouble, then is determined to do what is right.

Maraya, the eldest, is and isn’t like Meg. She’s more sober than Jo, with a greater sense of responsibility, which echoes Meg. Maraya wants to become an Archivist, something possible for a girl with a handicap, though Maraya demonstrates unexpected layers as the book progresses.

Marmee and Jes’s beautiful, peace-making mother have a great deal in common, as do the distant Mr. March and Jes’s martial father.

Probably the most ephemeral comparison is the gentle, other-worldly Beth to the scowling, impassioned Bettany, who shows up briefly in this book (I expect she will get her innings later in the story arc). Leaving the triangle from Alcott’s book: Amy, Laurie, and Jo, in Amaya, Kal, and Jes.

I kept pausing to admire what a brilliant job Elliott did with these three. Amy’s self-absorption, awareness of fashion and high company, and her often-hidden smarts, are beautifully played out in Amaya, who at times appears to be a caricature of a stupid, selfish fluffball, until she very sharply isn’t. Amaya has unexpected layers, making me unable to predict where Elliott is going to go with this character, especially with respect to the three way relationship of Amy/Jo/Laurie in Little Women.

Kal is just as brilliantly drawn, and I deeply appreciated the step-by-step development of friendship to romantic awakenings in his and Jes’s relationship. When I looked back at self and teen friends, the way these two’s friendship suddenly sparked to physical awareness rang utterly true to experience. Add to that Kal’s seeming easy-going weakness and tendency to make friends with everyone, in spite of the predatory attitudes of the males in his family, which hearkened back to Laurie’s easy familiarity in spite of his wealth and social rank.

When Kal talks about politics toward the end of the book, he revealed a depth that bolted him up to favorite character status. Which I will come back to.
Bringing me again to Jes/Jo. At the very beginning, the smart kid who thinks she maneuver around the plodding adults and their maddeningly constraining and pointless rules, resulting in disaster unforeseen by a teen, rang absolutely true. Jes could have pulled off her stunt but she has no idea how easily she played into the hands of an extremely powerful, and predatory, high ranking lord, who is running a royal long con.

I found Jes’s error totally convincing, as I did her inability to see the consequences of her actions until they were already playing out. The rest of the book is what she does about it—and I found it nearly impossible to put the book down as Jes makes the painful shift from blinkered kid to young adult.

Which requires a shift to the worldbuilding. Elliott has taken for her models the Roman empire and Ancient Egypt—specifically Ptolemaic Egypt, which was a hybrid of Macedonian and Egyptian cultures, Ptolemy being one of Alexander the Great’s generals. Ptolemaic Egypt produced some of the most amazing queens of history.

Elliott gives us the Patrons (Roman conquerors) in Saro, who have done their best to subdue the Commoners (Egyptians) of Efea. The Patrons expect women to be retiring in their martially motivated male world, but the Patron women have their ways of grasping power.

The Commoner women, when away from the iron grip of Patron laws, have a more equitable balance gender-wise. And the Efean culture is far from being eradicated, though a great deal of it seems to have been adopted and then adapted by the Saroese. Central being the Court of Fives, which Jes slowly is beginning to discover is far more than merely a game to entertain Patrons.

As Jes sets about righting the wrong that her father is unable to fix, she gets a baptism of fire in political history. Kal, she learns, sees more clearly than anyone the distortion that power brings to the top, and he is quietly determined not to become like them.

Bringing him and Jes to a climax that throws them both into new paths.

I really appreciated what Elliott explores through this book about family obligations, social obligations, culture and custom in conflict and change, individualism and self-worth juxtaposed against learning how deeply one’s decisions affect others. And what one might have to do about it. There is also a sharply observed reflection on what power does to people at the top of a given hierarchy, especially when claiming predominance over another culture, but the book is not all about the rot of politics. Magic is here, too, with a couple moments of breath-taking sense of wonder that give me hopes for more. (Though I do have one small worry about )

Court of Fives is one of those novels I would have kept on my shelves through the decades, finding new layers to appreciate on successive readings. And I am impatient for the next.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,132 reviews309 followers
July 26, 2017
This is one of those books with very divided reviews posted here on Goodreads I'm coming down on the side of those who enjoyed this creative YA fantasy about family relationships, race, colonialism, and secrets.

There are some excellent reviews that go into a great deal of detail about the story and the things people liked or not about it, which I'm not going to repeat here. For me, I liked the overt way race was made a key part of the story. The main character is a young woman who, although she is obviously of mixed-race in a society very much divided along racial lines, is still so very privileged that she is able to buy into the status quo without really questioning it too much. Like most people, Jessamy doesn’t really start asking hard questions until the status quo starts to affect her and her family personally, and very badly.

I do agree that the story wavered in a few parts, but ultimately I thought it set the stage for an amazing story. I ended up being throughly engaged and looking forward to the next book.

A note on the format - I went back and forth between the audiobook version and the ebook with this one since I had access to both. I wasn't a huge fan of the audio narration, but it was good enough that I would probably listen to a book with this narrator again.
Profile Image for Alyssa.
1,069 reviews838 followers
July 6, 2015
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

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!
Profile Image for Nastassja.
423 reviews987 followers
March 28, 2016
DNF at about 40%

I really did not want to DNF yet another book. I struggled through this one and... started to slumber after a few chapters. Two days like this and I am done.

This is how it should be.
This is what I live for.

All MC cares about is playing a game. She is selfish.
Just once I want to run a real trial and pretend to be a different girl with a different life.

I push her away and jump up to pace. Frustration burns right through me. “How do you think I feel, training for years without ever having a chance to actually compete in a real trial? I have run the Fives a hundred times—a thousand times!—on practice courts and in practice trials. Now my one chance to experience a real trial is ruined. My one chance!”

All her father cares about is how to raise above his position.
The worst thing of all is that I understand why he did it. When you run the Fives you make choices in order to win. He will soon have achieved the highest honor a man of his birth could ever dream of. And he has thrown us away to get it.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

This book is about selfish people and plus it is boring. The pace is too slow. There are books that lack action, but they are still awesome, because they have great MCs and you like to be in their heads. In this case, I did not like or connect with MC. She was just a selfish 16 year girl, who wants to get her candy, I get it, all of us were young and wanted something regardless of consequences. But she made the same mistake time and again never learning from it. I just didn't like her at all, and considering this book is from her POV, I couldn't coexist with her inner thoughts.

The world building did not impress me at all. The language was good, but at times I felt like watching some theatrical performance. Not one character in this book made me sympathize with her/him. The father is a separate topic at all. How can you abandon four daughters and pregnant woman for glory? What kind of man does it? And he claimed to love them! The logic behind characters' actions was lame. I would say I disliked everything in this book, but I just felt indifferent to their fates and hardship. They all got what they deserved.

I hate villains who are just evil. They feel one dimensional. Today's YA can offer plenty of complicated villains, I do not believe in white and black, there are gray places in every one. This book failed to show me a complicated villain.

Love interest was spineless. I can't even remember anything distinguish about him. He just was, because genre requires a love interest.

I wouldn't say this book was terrible. Many people will find it good, but in this case every one should decide for him/herself what kind of heroes and story they like. For me, it's just not my cup of tea.

Profile Image for Vinaya.
185 reviews2,078 followers
August 28, 2015
There should be a Netflix for books so you can get ALL TEH BOOKZZZ at one go!
Profile Image for Christina.
262 reviews225 followers
Shelved as 'dnf-didn-t-care-for-skimmed-through'
June 28, 2016
DNF @ 45%

I just can't. I've been attempting to read this book for 7 days now. In those 7 days I've finished 2 other books. I keep trying to pick this back up and get sucked in, but it's just not holding my interest. I read about 20 pages today and came across a character that I couldn't even remember...that's how uninterested I've become!! That's when I knew that I wouldn't finish it. I partially skimmed the rest (mainly to see the fates of the MC's families).

This book is about Jessamy, a girl born to a Patron born father and a commoner mother. She and her 3 sisters don't fit in with either group and have strict rules about how to behave from their father.

Girls like us have to be more decorous and well-mannered than the daughters of other officers because our father is a lowborn army captain fighting to make his fortune through valor and bold leadership. Which one of us would dare jeopardize his steady, hard-fought climb through the ranks by indulging in disreputable behavior?

Well, apparently Jes would, because she's been sneaking out to run the Fives....Which is not illegal mind you, just against her father's tyrannical rule of the household.

The Fives training can be intensive, and you can earn fame and glory. It's a big challenging set of 5 obstacles set up in colosseums, called a Fives Court. The first person to make it through the four outer obstacles (pillars is a maze, rivers is water crossed via moving stepping stones, traps is bridges and beams and trees is climbing posts) and then get through the 5th and center obstacle, Rings, climbs the victory tower to claim the victors ribbon.

So after her father shows up home early, thwarting her plans to sneak out to run the next race, she instead decides to sneak out right under her father's nose while out with her parents, one of her sisters (the only one fit for public apparently) and her father's superiors. The adversaries run the Fives wearing masks and the victor unmasks at the end. So Jes risks so much to sneak around and run this race....that she can't even win....because she can't unmask and expose the truth to her father....umm pointless much?

The book just went downhill for me after this....I disliked her father, I half disliked her sisters but at the same time I hated the way they were treated. The whole world setting was just a nightmare honestly. The dialogue is all a bit wierd...it doesn't flow nicely, it's oddly overly proper. Jes's thoughts and emotions jumped around a lot. I started losing track of characters...I just give up.

Hopefully others can get more enjoyment out of this than I did.
Profile Image for Stacee.
2,709 reviews703 followers
August 4, 2016
I got an arc at SDCC last year and had heard a lot of great things, so I was excited to get to it.

It took me a while to get invested. I set it down for days at a time and probably could have walked away completely without getting to the end within a problem.

Jes and Kal are interesting enough characters and I liked him more than her. She's wildly dramatic, but she's smart and strong and has a definite sense between right and wrong. I'm guessing it was those qualities that kept me reading.

There is a lot a lot a lot going on in this book. There are a lot of characters and subplots. There were sections that I just skimmed over because I couldn't remember who they were talking about. And several phrases repeatedly used.

Overall, it's an intriguing idea, but seems a bit cluttered. After the ending, I'm quite eager to see what book 2 brings.
Profile Image for Joel.
624 reviews229 followers
September 22, 2015
Kate Elliott is an author who so many people, namely people whom I respect the opinion of, seem to be very fond of. I hung out with her at Worldcon and found her to be a lovely person - funny, smart, laid back, and a blast to be around. I had been under the impression that she wrote female-targeted fantasy - this is fine, but it's generally "not my thing". I can enjoy this style if the writing is good (ie Mary Robinette Kowal, Marie Brennan, etc), however even if it is I tend to not enjoy it much. I've been informed that I was not technically correct in that assumption, but I wasn't wholly incorrect.

Court of Fives is a YA offering from Kate that centers around a young semi-noble family that is in the midst of turmoil after their patron lord passes away. The protagonist is interested in Running the Fives, an athletic event that is essentially a Ninja-Warrior style gauntlet event that is highly respected and spectated, however is not considered necessarily an honorable thing for noblefolks to compete in.

The book begins with several chapters that were a big turnoff for me - very YA style writing, focusing on whiny, obnoxious teenage girls, in a society obsessed with honor and propriety. This sort of things is like nails on a chalkboard for me, however I understand why people enjoy it so I don't hate on it. I was afraid after a few chapters that this is what I'd be getting into the rest of the book, but it turns out it was largely a setup - definitely to appeal to a certain audience, but it's really just the tip of the iceberg.

The book, frankly, surprised me after this start. It got serious in a hurry, and very much full of drama. Kate wrote in a lot of nice little details and hints of future events, and seamlessly integrated the worldbuilding aspects, history, etc into the story. Some things were casually mentioned then largely forgotten (animatronic spider anyone? no other instances of similar things I can remember), but in general it all came back around and when you read about something happening, it mattered to later events. The book was quite tight in that way - not a ton of fluff, not an excess of anything, not a lot of wasted space.

And, at the risk of spoilers or anything - THAT. FUCKING. ENDING.. I actually said "OH SNAP!" aloud when I read the ending - I thought perhaps she'd go that direction, I thought maybe she would, but I was still surprised when she did. It's incongruous with some of the tone of the book - hard, edgy, and surprising. I thought she handled the ending very well, and gave the book a much more memorable final portion.

Overall, the book was an interesting hybrid of "not for me" type things, combined with "wow this is awesome". I thought the writing was very good, the action was subtle but exciting, and the worldbuilding was smaller-scale, but still quite deftly handled. I could live without the obnoxious whiny teenage girl aspect, but again, I know the target audience of this book is more into that kind of thing than I am. Overall, this book surprised me a lot, especially how invested I got, and how much I ended up enjoying it. It's definitely turned me on to reading more of Kate's work.
Profile Image for Ashley Marie .
1,236 reviews382 followers
August 5, 2020
4.5 stars, and probably my favorite of the trilogy.

Yet another unexpected, highly enjoyable read. The concept of "Little Women + American Ninja Warrior in a Greco-Roman Egypt setting" sounds bonkers until you read it, and it all makes perfect sense. I can also see the Game of Thrones reference some people make - if you like the Sand Snakes and Ellaria Sand, I bet you'll like these sisters and their mother too. I was deeply struck by how much of the book centers on family, and the fact that these sisters aren't total brats to each other while maintaining their own personalities. The Booklist review favorably compares Jes to Katniss, and I suppose I could also see shades of Hunger Games around the competition and overall intrigue.

The layout and machinations on the Fives court fascinated me, and I loved that Jes's intense focus turned out to also be a flaw - she mentions it herself in relation to several people throughout the book, and I loved her for recognizing the weakness in herself. I wasn't a huge fan of the romance, but it was minimal and they paired well together. And Kalliarkos felt a bit too perfect at times, from his overt friendliness to his of course he doesn't want to be like other princes attitude, but that naivete ended up having consequences by the end of the book, which seemed fair.

After two Kate Elliott books, I think I can safely say I love her world-building. It may take awhile for things to fully unfold, but rest assured she's thought of everything and it's all there on the page.
Profile Image for Robyn.
827 reviews132 followers
July 27, 2017
Hmm. Well, I can see that people are quite divided on this. I devoured it in no time and really enjoyed it, so, um, hmm.
Profile Image for Danielle (Love at First Page).
726 reviews621 followers
October 7, 2016
2.5-3 stars

I am torn on this one, guys! There were some really great moments plus a heroine and romance I liked, but for a good portion of the book I was just bored. I found myself either skimming or lost in thought and not remembering what I had just read. That's never a good sign for me.

One thing you should know up front is that Court of Fives is historical fantasy, very reminiscent of Ancient Greece with gods and goddesses, fallen empires and scheming kings and queens, religious undertones and superstitions, oracles and priests, etc. It's a complex, if sometimes confusing, world that Kate Elliot has created, the royal lineage almost impossible to keep track of and the history of its kingdom shrouded in myths and lies. There is the ruling class - the Patrons - and the Commoners, and between them lies a strict divide. Jessamy's parents are unable to truly wed because she is of low birth and he belongs to the Patron class. In this world, there are many restrictions placed on women as well, including the fact that Jessamy is unable to run in the Fives - a five-part obstacle course - and does so only behind her parents' backs. Of course, she's soon caught in the act, and this is when things start to spiral out of control for her and her family.

Although the setting is unique and richly drawn (though sometimes too descriptive), the language was a real struggle for me. It's very archaic, and it reminded me of those Greek plays with choruses that I never enjoyed reading in school. It's makes the dialogue especially unnatural and cumbersome; for example --

Mother examines Father with a furrowed brow. “You are not one to boast, my lord, so this must be much more than an ordinary victory. It is unexpected indeed that we here in this house should be invited to Lord Ottonor’s balcony at the City Fives Court. For us to also be allowed to attend the games at the Royal Fives Court is extraordinary.”

It was a real struggle for me not to be pulled out of the story with that type of dialogue.

There's magic, too, in this world, though we have only tapped the surface of it. This is probably what I'm most looking forward to in the sequel because I can definitely see that strange things are afoot. I'll give you a hint: animated corpses. I just hope the actual story improves and there are less stretches where it seems nothing is happening. I expected Court of Fives to be faster paced with higher stakes and more action, what with the Fives games being the selling point. Instead it's more about political intrigue and family drama, both of which had it's thrilling moments and it's dull moments. I do like that the author put such a heavy emphasis on family and especially the women of the family. They all have ways in which they will surprise you, even though they seem like caricatures at first. One character I have very mixed feelings about is Jessamy's father. He seems like a good man and yet I was profoundly disappointed in his choices.

Jessamy herself is a very likable heroine. All she wants is to be able to compete in the Fives, and she's very good at it, but because of her gender and station she has to do so without her family's knowledge. She doesn't want to bring shame on her household but at the same time longs to be free. I liked her courage and I liked that she constantly stood up for herself and her family. She doesn't know everything, but she's willing learn along the way. A very powerful man has brought nothing but misery to her family, but she knows in her heart she has to make things right. Revenge is going to be so very sweet for her in the next book.

Her romance with Kal, a Patron boy and prince, isn't much present in the beginning, but it ended up being one of my favorite parts. Honestly I wanted so much more of it! They make a strong pair and work really well together once Jessamy realizes her family is in trouble. Kal has a friendly and charming personality, but he's also naive at first with very little backbone. He has never really stood up for his convictions or tried to make any bold statements, despite feeling every bit as trapped as Jessamy. It's in the face of her convictions and their mutual understanding that he finally takes action. By the end he's grown into his own man, and I think it's refreshing that it's the hero the romance has shaped in such a way. What I also liked so much about their relationship is the lack of drama, despite what there could have been due to their class differences. She is not constantly doubting him or putting him down and he not only admits to but admires her courage and skill that are better than his own. The moments they did have alone were tender and sweet.

While Court of Fives was a bit up and down for me, I will still be picking up the sequel. We're left on a little bit of a cliffhanger but I think the story can go in a really fun direction. I just hope the pacing picks up!

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for approving my request in exchange for my honest review.

This review can also be found at Love at First Page.
Profile Image for Aila.
911 reviews32 followers
June 8, 2015
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest opinion. Thanks Little, Brown Books!

I haven’t read any of Kate Elliot’s other books, but I’m very tempted to start them! This is probably one of my favorite fantasy reads this month. However awesome the world-building is, the characters are also so relatable and deal with problems that we can relate to in modern times.

In this book we not only deal with the social hierarchy which leave prominent lines between what our characters can or can’t do, but also the limitations due to gender. Jessamy and her three sisters have a Patron father and a Commoner mother, who are not married because it’s against the law. Their father is a prolific general who is constantly pressured to marry someone on his own level, but he sticks by Jessamy’s mother because of love. That is, until someone tries to tear their family apart.

So at this point Jessamy and her sisters are stuck between their Patron lifestyle and their Commoner blood. It’s hard to live like that, especially when people call them, “mules.” To add on to this prejudice is Jessamy’s dream in running in the maze called The Fives. Think lots of obstacle courses to get to the end; first person to finish them all wins. The course itself is definitely not as bloody as The Maze Runner and the competitors are not as violent as The Hunger Games. It’s honestly just a well-thought obstacle course that only certain people can participate in – and certainly not Jess. However, she manages to run quite a bit in the book, you’ll have to read to find out how. And the things is – she’s good at it. The competitions are detailed and intense, fully immersing the readers into the world.

The characters in the book are enjoyable to read about, although I would have liked to see more characterization on Jess’s sisters. They all had their little quirks, but none of them were particularly essential to plot other than being there. The romance was quite awkward in the beginning, and it wasn’t exactly swoon-worthy. I could see where it was coming from, but the pacing was odd. However, I still loved Kalliarkos as a character. He’s genuinely nice and wishes to help people, which isn’t how Patrons act like. The ending though – that was intense. Hopefully in the next book the romance is explored more rather than an addition for plot purposes.

The magic in the world is not explained at all. However, this seems to be on purpose. We are given a few clues on what happened in the past, but nothing conclusive. This makes me hopeful that the next book will be exploring this aspect. Finishing the book made me eager to find out more about the magic, rather than disappointed that there were few mentions of it.

Finally, what really got to me was the complex plot that Elliot had going on. The history she builds in this world is so detailed, so realistic. Reading about it actually reminded me of all those intricate relationships with the monarchs I learned about in AP European History. Seriously – lots of weird stuff going on there. Elliot provides an explanation on how Commoners and Patrons came to be, including hints on how The Fives started. I just love the specifics that she digs into, giving us the big picture of the society our characters reside in. I can see why she was a World Fantasy Award finalist from reading this book.

I came for the cool blurb and for a fantasy fix, I stayed for the amazing plot and complex world-building, and I can’t wait to see where the next book goes.


Rating: 4.5
It wasn't perfect, but I will be definitely checking out Kate Elliot's other books!

After reading thoughts:
- The plOt?!?/ //??!? /k;l;ir? It was so intricate and SO well-written in conjuction with the world that the characters reside in. Seriously, my brain was turning gears the whole time.
- Kind of wish it had more magical elements, but I'm sensing that we'll find out about that in the next book.
- Romance = A+. No cumbersome love triangle and Kal is a teddy bear. I want one.
- I can't wait to unveil more secrets of this exciting world in the next installment!!

review to come
Profile Image for Rashika (is tired).
976 reviews712 followers
August 8, 2015
Actual Rating 3.5

***This review has also been posted on The Social Potato

Court of Fives was kind of disappointing. The blurb had me excited but the book itself wasn’t nearly as exciting as I had thought it would be.

I imagined that this would be a politically tense book and there would be high stakes but I never felt that way. Sure the MC is ripped away from her family by a conspiring lord but I never felt as though there were hidden motives everywhere or any sort of mystery that one usually gets in a politically charged novel. In fact, I think that this book is pretty straightforward because even though some people have agendas, they aren’t necessary hidden. Everyone knows there is something fishy going on and nothing is very surprising.

To add to that, this is a slow book. It isn’t boring per se but it is slow which is why it took me longer to read than it should have. The pace picks up a little towards the end of the book but I just wish more had been going on in the book. If there had been higher stakes, if things had been slightly more shrouded in mystery, I think this book would have nailed it but it didn’t.

I will say that I absolutely adore the world building in this book. It’s by no means original but I think Eliot does a good job of making it stand out. I LOVED learning the history of the world this book is set in and I loved learning about the war that rages on. We might not have gotten as many details but there was never a moment when a small detail was mentioned and then just forgotten about. Everything was woven in beautifully.

I also adore Jes as a main character. I won’t say that she is one of the best female leads but her development over the course of the book is fantastic. She starts of as someone who has privileges she is completely unaware of and in some ways, despises. Yet when it is all taken away from her, we see how much her privileges have shaped her. She may be biracial but all of her beliefs and customs have been heavily influenced by one race (which just happens to be the dominating one.) I loved seeing her become aware of this and realizing that not everything she has been told is a 100% true and that she doesn’t have to be a part of an oppressive culture.

One of the things that I also found was beautifully done was the portrayal of classes. The Commoners are the lower class whose land was taken over by the upper class Patrons. The Patrons grow up sheltered and are told lies about their history whereas the Commoners are more aware of what really went down and have a lot more freedom than the socially oppressed Patrons.

Kal is one such patron. He also happens to be a prince. My problem with him was that even though he is shown to be this kind and considerate Patron, he is completely unaware of his privilege. He wants to be seen as an equal yet he can be so unaware of the differences between patrons and commoners and their upbringings. It was really hard to get behind Kal sometimes but I do think the future books will involve some serious growing up for him.

The romance also did not work for me. I loved it in theory but on paper it wasn’t done as well as it could have been. There was no real development and there was no chemistry. It all felt very bland to me which was why it was so hard for me to ship the two characters.

Jessamy’s relationship with her family on the other hand, was amazing. I LOVED seeing her with her family. Her sisters differ a lot from one another since they all want different things from life. Yet they all seem to love each other (in spite of all their banter and differences.) Jessamy’s mother is a commoner and her father a patron but they were a couple that stuck together for 20 years until a lord decided he wanted to tear the family apart. We didn’t get much of it but I liked that her parents loved one another. Her mother was a fierce woman who wasn’t always seen as such by her daughters but one who has hidden strength. Her father, at first, seems like an asshole but I ended up warming up to him too.

The book is slow, like I mentioned earlier, and the first quarter of the book is spent establishing the world and the race. The next two quarters were Jessamy getting used to her new life at the stable and the last quarter is where anything really worth of note happens. It isn’t that the first 3 quarters of the book are painful or boring; it’s just that there is so little worth note going on.

While I think this book would have benefited from higher stakes (and perhaps a better developed romance), I did enjoy the book and can only hope it gets better from here (especially if that ending is any indication of what is to come in future instalments.) I eagerly await the sequel and till then, if you are a fan of fantasy, you should definitely check this one out!

Note that I received an ARC of the book for review in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Krystle.
893 reviews337 followers
December 6, 2018
Re-read (12/05/2018): Ah! This book is just as great as when I first read it a long time ago. The Fives are still so fun and remain my favorite parts of the book. I love the family bonds in here and the connection Jessamy has with her sisters. I think some parts might have been a bit different or elaborated on - like the ending scene or some of the scenes with Kalliarkos - but I like what was done.

Now I'm off to complete the rest of the series!

Early Pre-Release Review.

I was fortunate enough to read an earlier draft of this book and even in its earlier form I loved it entirely! Kate Elliott is at her best here crafting a wonderful story of a girl finding her own voice in her world to do the things she loves, real family connections, and the tricky navigation between social hierarchies.

The strongest points of this book were the exceptional plotting, which was very tight, streamlined, but layered with depths of complexity. I have not read much from her but, so far, Court of Fives is the novel with the fastest and nuanced plotting to drive the pace forward. The world building was fabulous, unique, well thought out, and has a wealth of diversity which she's a huge advocate for. The Games are COOL as heck and had me going the whole time.

One of the shining points of this novel is the focus on family ties. Especially the bond between all four sisters and their mother and father. I like how each sister is different, believes in different things, and wants different things, but even if they have their own misunderstandings and disagreements they still come together and support each other through thick and thin.

Even with some things that needed to be ironed out, I'm sure the author has taken her revisions to the next level. Can't wait for the finished copy to come out next year!
Profile Image for kassandra.
207 reviews23 followers
November 3, 2015
1 star. This book is literally Hunger Games meets Little Women, with a few Ancient Egyptian vibes. And it is so. boring.

Although the "Court of Fives" in this novel was a competition the participants actually wanted to be a part of, it felt so much like the Hunger Games, it was nauseating. Not only did it seem unoriginal, but it was so bloody confusing.

The romance. *awkward body-shiver of cringe* So cliche and completely without chemistry. I can't even remember the name of the love interest. So much boring-ness.

What *was* actually interesting about this novel was the Little Women aspect. I really enjoyed the family dynamic. I loved that it was forbidden for Jess' mother to marry Jess' father, and the social situation it put their family in. I appreciated how each sister had such a unique personality. Jess' twin - she was honestly fascinating!... and yet for some reason, the story hardly ever mentioned her mental condition or whatever she had, and barely touched on the other siblings, either. Instead, everything all wove around Jessamy, the self-absorbed, boring, stereotypical heroine.

Speaking of Jessamy: She is honestly one of the most selfish and stupid characters I have ever read, and I had that figured out by the end of the first two chapters. From the very beginning, she was reckless and self-absorbed, and the whole book is a result of her ridiculous actions.

This is a terrible review, I know. Whatever. I honestly don't care about this book enough to put any more effort into it. This book was just ... lame. That's honestly the best descriptive word I can think of for it. So lame.
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