Courts and Critiques: A Review of Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

courtoffivesTitle: Court of Fives (Court of Fives #1)
Author: Kate Elliott
Genre: Fantasy / Dystopian
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 18th, 2015
Kindle Edition: 448 Pages
Source: Personal Purchase

On the Fives court, everyone is equal.
And everyone is dangerous.

Jessamy’s life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family, she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for the Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom’s best competitors.

Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an improbable friendship between the two Fives competitors—one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy—causes heads to turn. When Kal’s powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes’s family apart, she’ll have to test her new friend’s loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott’s first young adult novel weaves an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

“There will come a moment in your life where you find yourself confronted with two choices, and both are bad ones. For me it was to stay in a place where I was choked and had nothing to look forward to and no way to prove my talents, or to leave everyone I knew and loved behind forever for a chance that might not work out. That is how the gods test us, by laying before us what seems to be a choice and yet is no choice at all. When we come to that fork in our path down which no road is clean, all we can control is what dignity and honor we take our inevitable step.”

How was the plot?

I think this book suffers from being the first in a series as well as the author’s YA debut. Elliott started out telling the story of a girl stuck between two worlds. Jessamy, the daughter of a Patron war hero and his Efean paramour, struggles with issues of race, sex and class as she tries to find her place. That story could have been compelling. Unfortunately, the author included too much and the story lost its direction. Between the addition of political intrigue and an awkward romance, I found myself overwhelmed. I felt pulled in several directions, all while trying to get a grasp on a complex world that went largely unexplained until the end of the book.

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Defeating the Drought: A Review of Air Awakens by Elise Kova

reviairTitle: Air Awakens (Air Awakens #1)
Author: Elise Kova
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: August 27th, 2015
Kindle Edition: 377 Pages
Source: Author

A library apprentice, a sorcerer prince, and an unbreakable magic bond…

The Solaris Empire is one conquest away from uniting the continent, and the rare elemental magic sleeping in seventeen-year-old library apprentice Vhalla Yarl could shift the tides of war.

Vhalla has always been taught to fear the Tower of Sorcerers, a mysterious magic society, and has been happy in her quiet world of books. But after she unknowingly saves the life of one of the most powerful sorcerers of them all—the Crown Prince Aldrik—she finds herself enticed into his world. Now she must decide her future: Embrace her sorcery and leave the life she’s known, or eradicate her magic and remain as she’s always been. And with powerful forces lurking in the shadows, Vhalla’s indecision could cost her more than she ever imagined.

“I want a place you hardly dare to even whisper. I want the bravery to not only read, but to do. I want a man, not a library boy. A man who is tall and witty and knows more about the world than you would ever dare dream.”

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  

I was in a huge reading slump when I picked up Air Awakens. I expected that I would get about five chapters into it and lose interest. After all, that is exactly what happened with the five books I picked up before it. I tried everything from Alternate History to Paranormal. Nothing stuck. It’s not that the books were bad. I just couldn’t get into them. I was absolutely sure that Air Awakens was going to be the next book on my ever growing DNF list.

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Stunning Space Opera: A Review of Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

illuminaecoverTitle: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1)
Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction
Publication Date: October 20th, 2015
Hardback: 599 Pages
Source: Gift

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

“The universe owes you nothing, Kady. It has already given you everything, after all. It was here long before you, and it will go on long after you. The only way it will remember you is to do something worth remembrance.”

Five years ago a friend loaned me a copy of House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. I got a quarter of the way into the 700 page tome and decided it just wasn’t for me. I absolutely hated the non-traditional formatting the author used to tell his story. I considered taking scissors to the book in order to “correct” it a handful of times before I finally called it quits. I promised myself that I was done with “unique” formatting. My OCD simply couldn’t handle it.

I stuck with that promise until Christmas, when I asked for Illuminae. I couldn’t help it. I knew going in that the formatting was going to be interesting. I knew that I would probably hate it. The reviews were just too good to ignore. Plus, I can’t get enough space opera. So, I broke my promise and I read it. It took me a grand total of three days to blow through all 599 pages.

Guess what? I didn’t reach for my scissors once.

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Second Book Syndrome: A Review of Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

glassswordTitle: Glass Sword (Red Queen #2)
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy / Dystopian
Publication Date: February 9th, 2016
Kindle Edition: 448 Pages
Source: Personal Purchase

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness of her own heart.

“If I am a sword, I am a sword made of glass, and I feel myself beginning to shatter.”

Red Queen was not the best book I have read, but I did enjoy it quite a bit. In spite of it being predictable and a bit formulaic, it was still a fun filled, fast paced fantasy. And if you haven’t noticed, I am sucker for all things fantasy. So, I was really excited about Glass Sword. When I bought it, I was bouncing in my chair excited to see what would happen next in the Red’s struggle against Silver tyranny.

Glass Sword did not live up to my expectations. I wanted more of Red Queen, and got something completely different. That wouldn’t have been a bad thing if the sequel had been new and improved. Instead, it felt like the writing and development took several steps back.

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