Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Are you not entertained by Court of Fives?: Court of Fives, by Kate Elliot

Court of Fives

Jessamy dreams of the Court of Fives, an American Gladiator-esque competition in her Roman-esque world.  The masked game offers her a chance to shed the dual identity she bears in anonymity and receive accolades based on skill alone.  Jess is the daughter of an aristocratic general and a commoner; her dark skin marks her as different, and few in the aristocratic Patron class accept her family.  When Jes lets Kalliarkos, the Patron nephew of a scheming lord, beat her on the Court to avoid being unmasked, he finds her and they strike up an unlikely and societally unappreciated friendship.  However, Jes’ world is upended and her family torn apart when Kal’s powerful uncle turns her father into a pawn in his game. Jess must choose whether or not to risk her own dreams to save her family as the game becomes her reality.

I was handed this book last fall by the lovely Jenny Choy at Little Brown, who game me a tour of their beautiful (then) new space and handed me this book with a knowing “I think you’ll like this one.”  Well guess what, Jenny?  You were right.  I didn’t get the chance to pick it up for a while (and even longer to write this), but when the snows finally rolled in I had at, and yep - totally dug this book!  

The world Kate Elliot created feels historical, perhaps Greek or Roman, with the gladiator fightclubdeathmatch part replaced with the American Gladiatoresque challenge/race in an arena/coliseum.  The racial and class issues are as historic as they are timely. Moreover, they are given due diligence without becoming righteously preachy or superseding the other aspects of character development and allow for good parallels to be drawn.  Teachers, this could be an easy way to crack open a conversation about diversity in this world and our own with 7-9th graders.  Jes isn’t just biracial, she’s stuck between two social classes, a young woman discovering herself, a sister, a daughter, a friend, an athlete, and she is capable of love and struggles with forgiveness and hard decisions.   She’s a multifaceted character in a complex world. She’s wholly human and one I think many young people of many colors and social classes might find appealing. Maybe they’ll have themselves an adventure and a think while reading Court of Fives (until you trick them into #hardtalks and ruin it you teachers, gawd)!

I recommend this for fans of the Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, or like...Lindsey Davis books (I haven’t read any, but they’re classical, right?!).  This is probably best for ages 12 and up.  

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