4.25 out of 5 stars
This book is so good!
Jes lives in Efea, a beautiful seaside nation that reads like a YA fantasy version of ancient Greece. Her life is precariously set. Efea was colonized by Saro, and the Saroese installed themselves as a ruling nobility class, knows as Patrons. Many laws and customs exist to separate and subjugate the native Commoners. So Jes’ situation is rare: Her Patron father used his position as a military hero to legitimize her Commoner mother, plus Jes and her three sisters as much as possible. But when that effort gets run over by Patron scheming, Jes is left alone to survive in a world where classism and racism are stacked against her.
But unlike many, at least Jes has the Fives. It the national pastime, an arena spectator sport consisting of five types of obstacle courses that test particular strengths. Think “American Ninja Warrior”, but in the Olympics, and the best players are revered like NBA heroes. Jes has always loved it, sneaking out of her father’s household to train. And she’s really, really good. It becomes her only value: She must run the Fives, and win, to make herself useful to the Patron lord who now controls her fate.
Jes is a lot of fun. She’s willful, sassy, and smart in a way that feels completely authentic. Many YA heroines are overwritten, like every line has to be straight out of the Dawson’s Creek handbook for how to seem witty and mature. Jes seems natural, which elevates the world built around her.
The Fives is (are?) also a lot of fun. The competition energizes the story, and showcases Jes’ myriad talents. It’s also a great equalizer, and how she meets her love interest, the dreamy Prince Kal(liarkos). He’s doing the typical escape-my-life-of-fancy-servitude routine, but he’s a genuine and fresh character. If they get starry-eyed for each other a bit too quickly, it’s the book’s only flaw. And the story leaves the Fives Court and becomes a bit of an Indiana Jones-style archaeological rescue mission, even better! Jes isn’t a fish out of water here, she’s no girl out of her element. She’s got confidence and she’s not afraid to use it. Kal’s helping, of course, but only if he can keep up. That makes Court of Fives refreshingly rambunctious and fast-paced.