The fantasy world in Court of Fives where Jessamy lives and runs is both thrilling with it’s underground maze, tomb of oracles and five maze, and, chilling with its customs of burying people alive, scheming lords who thrive on power and silent promises of betrayal in every relationships.
In a world such as this, the young girl had courage and guts to move through life, pulling her family along while balancing between what she wants and what needs done.
About the Story
A young girl going through life trying to make the best, choosing the lesser bad options out of the many bad options her life offers. Jessamy is one among the four daughters of a household that struggles to fit into a high born society. When their supporter dies and their father abandons them in favor of his ambition, the girl is self charged with the task of rescuing her family from the clutches of the lord who now commands her father. Along the way she meets a powerful alley, a prince entitled to two thrones, who himself is struggling to make his own place in life. Together they muddle through may risks, trust binding dangers and promising sparks, only to be pitched against each other in the end. No matter who wins, everyone looses and the book closes with Jess’s emotional death and determination of revenge.
There are many characters in this book to talk about, each aiding to Jess’s success in rescuing her family.
The lead’s life is tough as she and her sisters never fit in as the society, Patrons and Commoners, alike judge them harshly. She has a courageous character and develops drastically, accepting truth along the way. What I personally love about her, is her compassion for others, may it be the horrors she faced in the market or the spiteful oracle in the tombs. She is the kind of person who wouldn’t seek a fight but wouldn’t back down from one either, if necessary.
The young man, who is fighting hard to make his place in life, working for a skill that isn’t naturally his. He reminds me of many people in real life who aren’t skilled but have worked hard to gain that skill because of their dreams. Respect to him! He also has an easy charm about him which comes from the fact that he treats everyone as an equal (as much as a Patron can), accepts his faults graciously and does not take offense at every possible opportunity unlike other Patrons. Even when Jess points him out on parts where he acts as a Patron, he smiles and subdues himself. Such self control is rare in characters. I wish I could see inside his head.
On a separate note, his family tree is complicated, a result of throne politics (Game of Thrones level of complicated)
The only man and father in the family full of ladies, Esalda is honorable but not without his faults. He is ambitious and full of pent up irritation about his setbacks. He lets his anger take rein and makes a series of bad decisions. Even though he makes the most of all the bad options he has, he is flawed in overlooking, underestimating and blind-siding the sacrifices his family has made for him. In wishes of a son, he never fully connects to his daughters and thus never gets to see his son when he is finally born.
The mother of the family is strong and soft hearted. She treats everyone, Efean or Patron with the same respect. She also realises the harshness of the society and works hard to navigate her family best through the muddy waters. Her strength of character is commendable. She also has more secrets that we can fathom at this point, all of which come from her heritage as an Efea woman. I wish to explore her story.
Let’s talk about the youngest daughter in the family. Though at first look she seems whiny, showy and self absorbed, it turns out that she is a strong pillar to rely on when it comes to dire situations. Her sense of assessing a situation against her own flaws and strengths is commendable. Her goal in life is that of marrying into a strong family but it isn’t without an ulterior motive to strengthen her family and her status in society, which is the reason her family is struggling in the first place. The girl suffers from poisoning and comes out stronger.
Her friend, Denya, suffers worse. She has to be a concubine to Lord Gargagon.
Maraya and Polorods
The eldest daughter, a learned woman, in the end, is discovered to be in love with the Head Steward of the family, Polorods. It may be one of the reason, Esalads trusts his loyalty to his family more after things go astray for the family. The two are some of the few non-judgmental characters in the complete book, former a little most than latter.
The man is purely evil. We don’t see a single action of good in him apart from his care and for his nephew which turns out to have an ulterior motive in the end. We see that Lord Gargagon has his own schemes to get the reins of Efean by getting Kal, the only man in the family who is entitled to it. His scheming knows no bounds as he tricks Jess’s family into being bricked away into the Tomb, alive (a slow death) so as to keep their father to himself. In the same order, he also marries Kal’s sister Meone to Jess’s father ( a political move).
You see what I mean by complicated relationships.
Lord Thynos and Lord Inaris
The men know their place in society. They do the best they can and fight but keep themselves bound by the social chains as they have grown to accept their limitations and place.
I don’t find it appropriate to name people after things just so to disregard their life’s importance. Otherwise, it would be a fun name to have in real life.
The girl serving Jess’s household, of Efean origin herself, is quite the character. She is a total hypocrite, probably made so by suffering through the hands of many patrons. Though she holds respect for Kiya, she judges others harshly for looking down on her while doing the same to others less fortunate than her.
Coriander’s brother, the poet who is jailed for murder. To clear your doubts – he murdered the king’s reputation. The book doesn’t explore his character completely but a few glimpses tell us that he is a man of strength. He brings Jess family to the gates to freedom before fleeing with his sister. He clearly has trust issues. His elopement with the oracle also tell us that the old lady has a bigger role in the future story, probably related to the royal family.
The book for the most part is balancing between social issues and exciting adventures. The highest peak of adventure is in the Court of Fives hidden in the city’s underground maze. The complete story hinges on Court of Fives, a elaborate game of mind, body and soul. Jess has a natural ability for it too. There also a few name drops along the way. They may be important in the future – Talon, Mason’s Guild, Saro kingdom, Menoe (Kal’s sister), Jess’ group of friends (Dusty, Gir, Mis), Jess’s new twin brother-sister, her own twin sister Bettany, Denya and the escaped Oracle.
Looking on a more realistic level, may of the issues touched in this book can be seen in real life. Social prejudices, ambitious decisions, loss of freedom within a household, and discrimination based on gender, social status, region and birth are only a few. In such circumstances, Kiya and Kal’s character defying all of the above becomes quite refreshing for the story.
Now that Kal is mentioned, let’s not forget the kiss. Compared to other stories, I love it that the romance is still in the budding and exploring stage. My favorite line, ‘There is no such thing as love at first sight‘ is spoke my Esalda to Jess. True to the concept, the two characters, Jess and Kal explore their affinity towards one another which is the best way to describe the moment of the kiss. Experimental!
On the other side of this coin stands horror shown through implications and mentions of sex without consent like Denya’s situation. Though no graphic picture is painted, a few sorrows are shared.
The book in my opinion is thrilling, but complicated and falls short when it comes to opening family relationships. The burst of background information on Kal at a certain point in the book is very distracting in the story and feels detached. There is also a little disappointment in seeing promising characters like Thynos and Inaris fall short. I can only have my fingers crossed that they would have a better part to play in the future scenario.
The best way to describe the emotional journey of this book would be to say that Jess was stripping away her pre-judgments and prejudices on this journey, but no character development from others comes forth.
On a whole, this book is like an introduction or opening to a grander story. The book isn’t exactly whole in itself but thrilling enough to enjoy if you keep in mind that you are undertaking a journey with Jessamy!
She will take you to through Court of Fives again and again, and again; and every time she has something new to offer in her strategic mind going through the same maze, only different variables. Every danger she faces is filled with unknown horrors and emotional roller coaster like that of the underground city. There are miracles like a dead child coming to life and finding love in the middle of chaos. There is scheming lords and princesses like Menoe, Gargagon and Kal’s grandmother. There is a larger picture to see! This book is the package, you would expect from the opening of a series.
P.S – It may be a while before I read the next part in the series! Patience requested.