Why did you choose this book?
I love a good YA fantasy novel. Elliott has also written several adult fantasy novels and I thought this could be a good way to find out whether or not I like her as an author.
What’s it about?
In this world there are elite Patrons and second-class Commoners. Jessamy’s father is a Patron who has become famous for his skill in commanding forces on the battlefield. Her mother is a Commoner. Her parents cannot get married for fear of ruining her father’s career, and the mixed blood of Jessamy and her sisters makes them somewhere between the two social classes. It also means that they need to behave.
The family’s fortunes abruptly change when the family’s aristocratic benefactor dies and a new one takes over. He stipulates that Jessamy’s father must marry a Patron of his choosing and disown his family. Jessamy must move to the benefactor’s stables and begin competing in the Fives (more on that later). The rest of her family faces an unknown fate and Jessamy must try to save them.
The Fives are an obstacle course competition around which society revolves. Some people make money and become famous through competing. Jessamy is passionate about the game. The outer ring of the course consists of four obstacles, with a competitor starting on each one. Trees is a vertical test with climbing posts, Traps is a series of high-above-the-ground nets/ledges/trapezes, Pillars is a maze, and Rivers is a series of moving stepping stones over flowing water. After completing all four, the competitors must do Rings, which involves spinning loops, some with inner rings spinning at different speeds. The first to finish all of them and scale the victory tower wins.
Other recommended reads?
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. It’s young adult fantasy with a series of tasks the protagonist must complete. It was one of my two favorite books of 2015 and the sequel, A Torch Against the Night, comes out later this year.
I really enjoyed the Fives. That being said, I felt that there could have been a bit more world-building. Some of the characters, like Kalliarkos, were very underdeveloped. I felt like all I knew about him was that he was the romantic interest and a prince. I did enjoy that while some magic was alluded to, this wasn’t a novel packed with magic like so many fantasy novels are. It was a different take. I’ll read the rest of the series, but I’m not sure I can give this book a glowing recommendation.