Summer is for World Building

BookendsLynn: There’s something about fantasy that seems to go perfectly with summer! Maybe because it takes a certain carefree attitude to fully jump into the intricate worlds some fantasy series have. The perfect choice this August is Court of Fives (2015), by Kate Elliott. Elliott, a 1997 World Fantasy Award finalist, is the author of many outstanding books for adults, but has now turned her pen to writing for youth. The result is a deeply absorbing story that kept me happily immersed for several, summer afternoons.

Elliott’s world building is exceptional!

Jessamy’s family had always walked a precarious tightrope. Her father, a brilliant and courageous warrior, rose fast in the military, despite his scandalous love for his common-law wife, a beautiful woman from a much-despised, conquered race, with whom he has four daughters. Perfect manners and model behavior are necessary for the family’s survival and the girls oblige, understanding the bitter reality of their situation, but not without hoping for something better. Jessamy dreams of participating in the Fives, a complex and wildly popular competition with deep social and historical connections. Because the competitors are masked, she secretly enters and succeeds beyond her expectations. She almost wins, but deliberately loses in order to avoid being unmasked.

FivesElliott is full of surprises, taking time to introduce the history of the world, connecting us to the characters, and then pulling the rug out from under our feet! The father’s patron and protector dies suddenly and the family’s world is shattered when the new patron, Lord Gargaron, demands Jessamy’s father marry his daughter, sending him to a distant military outpost. Jessamy is to be trained to compete for Lord Gargaron in the Fives and the rest of the family is to be taken care of. But then Jessamy learns that her mother and sisters are actually in horrible danger. She heroically devises a plan to save them with the help of the handsome Lord Kalliarkos, nephew of Gargaron.

Elliott’s world building is exceptional! She creates complex and immersive social, political, and cultural systems, replete with thoughtful issues that connect to our own world. She gives us enough background to make us feel that we have a basic understanding of this place, yet much to figure out. With a nail-biting resolution, Court of Fives, is a great start to a series! Hunger Games fans will eat this up! Can summer reading get any better?



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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