Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

9:00 AM

Title: Court of Fives (Court of Fives #1)
Author: Kate Elliott
Release Date: August 18, 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 448
Source: ARC provided by Hachette Book Group Canada
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Overall: 4 STARS

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. 

My Thoughts: 
In Kate Elliott's YA debut novel Court of Fives, we're introduced to a fantasy world rigidly divided by class and privilege. The Patrons, descendants of the old empire of Saro, consider themselves vastly superior to the Commoners, the native people of Efea who are viewed as nothing more than lowly servants. Born of mixed race, Jessamy and her three sisters hold a precarious standing in society. It is illegal for Patrons and Commoners to marry, yet their lowborn Patron father defied convention and remained devoted to their beautiful Commoner mother.

No one speaks of what the future will hold for Jessamy and her sister—everyone knows their prospects are slim. Their father may be a respected Captain in the army, his victories in battle well-renowned, but his career can never advance without an advantageous marriage to a Patron woman nor male heirs. Jes, her sisters, and her mother can only devote themselves to the ways of the Patrons, very aware they can't afford to make any mistakes when their family is already looked down upon.

For Jessamy, her looks more closely resemble her mother, making it even more difficult for her to mingle in Patron society. Although she and her sisters have grown up sheltered within the protective walls of their modest home, Jessamy has never been able to avoid the hurtful insults about her Commoner background. More often than not, she's mistaken as a servant. Not accepted as a Patron, but not really a Commoner either, Jes doesn't fit in anywhere.

The only place Jessamy feels a sense of belonging is running the Fives, an athletic competition that tests competitors both physically and mentally. Unlike her sisters, Jessamy is tired of the monotomy of her life, of always having to act beyond reproach because she's of mixed race. She is determined to compete and prove her skill, but if she ever won a competition, it wouldn't bring honour and glory to her name, it would only shame her father.

When Jessamy dares to finally chase her dreams, the powerful and wealthy Lord Gargaron rips her family apart to further his own ambitions. A complex game of thrones is being played among the Patron nobility and Jes has unwillingly become a pawn in their constant quest for power. If Jessamy ever hopes to be reunited with her sisters again, she'll have to gather her courage and outsmart her enemies. The odds are against her, but giving up isn't an option.

Kate Elliott's Court of Fives will definitely appeal to fans of Victoria Aveyard's Red Queen and Kristin Cashore's Graceling Realm series! Betrayal. Schemes for power. Deadly competitions. Fighting racial and gender oppression. What's not to love about Court of Fives? When you're not wishing Lord Gargaron a slow, excruciating death, you'll be cheering for Jessamy to succeed each step of the way. Faced with so many impossible choices, Jes is bound to make mistakes, but it's when she picks herself up and carries on that you can't help admiring her strength. I'm already eager to find out what happens next in the sequel!

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