Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

Court of FivesIntroduction

Goodreads: Court of Fives
Series: Court of Fives #1
Source: Library
Published: August 2015

Official Summary

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.


There was a lot of hype leading up to the release of Court of Fives, and I was pretty excited about the novel.  After the release, the blogs I read seemed to generally concur that the novel had been over-hyped, so I put my plans to read it on hold.  After picking the book up from the library, however, I have to say I enjoyed it,  There were definitely some issues with the writing, but overall I was invested in the story and want to know what happens next.

I think any readers who want a lot out of the romance will be disappointed here.  First, love interest Kalliarkos is just uninteresting (at least to me).  He’s nice, but you don’t fall in love with people just because they’re nice; there has to be something more, some kind of spark.  I didn’t see one here.  The relationship also doesn’t develop in a slow-burn, steamy way a lot of readers might want. It develops more in little hops and jumps, and the moment when the couple first gets together is actually a bit bewildering because there isn’t quite enough build-up.

That lack of build-up is a product of my other major complaint about the novel: the writing is sometimes confusing. As a personal plug, I pride myself on my “ability to read.” I have an English BA and am in an English graduate program.  I don’t skim. So, frankly, I don’t think the problem is me.  There were several instances in this book where information and scenes simply seemed to be missing. More than once I flipped back the pages because I thought I must have missed something that actually just wasn’t there. I’m not quite sure what’s going on, but the copy I read, at least, looked as if it needed one more round of editing to make sure the plot was progressing comprehensibly.

Nonetheless, I did enjoy the book, primarily for the plot. The Little Women comparison the book was marketed with is primarily just a note to readers that “there are sisters in this book.” And, I guess, like the March sisters, they don’t always get along (though I’m not sure that’s a selling point).  The book was actually a slow start for me because Jessamy seemed so disdainful of the rest of her family.  I’m really glad I stuck with the story, however, because Jessamy really grows and comes to see the strengths in her family that she had been overlooking.

Jessamy herself falls into the “strong female lead” category, but not in a way that seems to rely on too many existing YA tropes.  I completely bought into the fact she was good at the Fives games and is going to be a badass seeking revenge for the ills done to her family in the next book.  That, for me, is the main attraction.  I want to know what Jessamy is capable of and what chaos she’s going to inflict upon the world. I’ve read a lot of series lately where I liked the first book but didn’t necessarily want to read anything more about the characters. Despite my issues with Court of Fives, I do want to keep reading to see what happens next, and that is the reason I chose to give it four stars.

4 stars Briana


8 thoughts on “Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

  1. saraletourneau says:

    Nice review, Briana. I’d seen some mixed reviews for Court of Fives, but recently bought it just because those reviews piqued my interest in it. Your comment about Jessamy being a variant on the “strong female lead” trope also caught my eye. I do like “strong” female characters, but there needs to be more going on under the surface than ass-kicking and magic-wielding for me to connect with them.


    • Briana says:

      Maybe the book was just too over-hyped, but I saw a lot of reviews that basically amounted to “Eh, it’s ok,” but now that I’ve read it myself, I’m sad I put it off. It definitely has its flaws, but I did really buy into Jessamy. A lot of strong female leads seem to be these crazy independent forces of nature who are just inexplicably good at everything or have ridiculous explanations for why they’re good at everything. “Oh, my father taught me archery just because. And lock picking because why not? And I also know how to do x, y, and z things forbidden to women because my father was just unorthodox that way.” Right…. But Jessamy made sense to me. Her circumstances are still unusual (books tend to be about unusual people anyway), but I believed in the events that shaped her life, and I completely believe her motivations for wanting to compete in the Fives and exact revenge on her enemies.

      Liked by 1 person

      • saraletourneau says:

        Hmmm. I don’t remember Court of Fives being over-hyped, or at least as buzzed about as other YA fantasies last year. Though a number of SF&F sites were anticipating it because it was Kate Elliott’s first foray into YA fantasy after years of writing for adults.


  2. Liam @ Hey Ashers! says:

    Like you, I’ve been putting off reading this one. Maybe I’ll make a serious attempt to pick it up soon, now that my expectations are more realistic. (Actually, I’ll probably wait until reviews of the sequel come rolling in, first. Do you plan to read it anytime soon?)


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