Friday, December 1, 2017

COURT OF FIVES


Review of COURT OF FIVES by KATE ELLIOTT
(first in the COURT OF FIVES series)

Above all else Jessamy lives to compete in the Fives, a popular obstacle course competition in her society. However, a ruthless, rigid class system rules said society and Jessamy’s unrealistic dreams could undermine everything for which her family has worked so hard.

This book presents a heavy-handed (but nevertheless invaluable) look at prejudice. Social stratification remains the forefront theme throughout the story, soaking into every character, relationship, and plot thread.

Sadly other readers overhyped this book too much for me. It’s a great book and I come up short for a list of complaints, but it flailed against how many people described it to me as “the best book ever.” I wrote a whole blog post on overhype a while back and expectations will always play a role in our perception and final opinion. A book I go into expecting I won’t like can wow me for the surprise of being good at all while a wonderful book that has been inhumanly idolized can’t help but fall short of such lofty expectations.

The Fives game appealed to me very much conceptually. I’m a big fan of American Ninja Warrior and heard this author speak at a conference where she quoted that competition as one of her specific influences. That said, I struggled picturing the individual obstacles, which detracted from the impact of those actions scenes.

As is standard for me, I found myself most invested in the relationships, particularly those among Jessamy’s family. Elliott crafts such distinct, dynamic characters and I especially enjoy seeing them play off each other. Frequently, Jessamy learns that someone isn’t how she perceived them. She realizes that she made all the right observations but drew all the wrong conclusions. I’m impressed with how the author handles these moments, too, because as a reader I went along with the protagonist Jessamy’s conclusions more often than not only to discover later that the author provided me the same clues and I let myself misread them.

Jessamy’s relationship with her father strikes me as the most interesting. I adore nuanced characters and he comes across to me as a man trying oh-so-hard to be a good man in a society where the odds are stacked against him and where a seemingly easy turn from his values will reward him enormously. He’s a far cry from an ideal father, but he’s no oversimplified, pure evil villain either. 

Populated with a fascinating cast, COURT OF FIVES begins a new series about making our own place in a world that tries to tell us to stay in our place.

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