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.
If you’re confused with this synopsis, don’t worry, so was I. I picked this up because Susan Dennard recommended it in one of her news letters, and I love her so I bought it immediatly. Elliott’s YA debut,I felt was boarder-line YA. But here’s where I fall into the “what makes it YA, the characters age alone?” I just felt like it was a lot more mature than your average YA, but that was one of the elements that appealed to me with this story.
It usually takes me about the first 50 pages to get into a book. To get into the characters head and adjust to the new voice and style. Well it took me about the first 100 pages of this book, but once I got into the flow I really liked it and the confusion of the synopsis was ironed out. Elliott could definitely use some editing with her exclamation marks though. There were so many! I felt like everyone was shouting the whole time.
Overall, I really enjoyed the political intrigue of this story, which promises to be even richer with the following installments. Jes and her family was what made this though. She has such a complicated relationship with her father and I loved watching the two of them interact and Jes process all of her fathers choices and feelings. It was also really cool to see how she and her sisters interacted. They are all so different but they love each other unconditionally.
I thought the romance was well done as well, it seemed a little rushed and not at all serious, but I also think there is a ton of potential there as soon as both of them loose some of their naivety. It was a sub-plot, which is why it was successful, major choices never hinged on their feelings for each other and that was a really good choice by Elliott.
This book has a very unique voice that I think will be hit or miss with the YA following, but the story was intriguing enough for me that I plan to continue the series.