Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Series: Court of Fives #2
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on August 10, 2016
Also by this author: Court of Fives
After the events of Court of Fives, Jessamy has been promoted to Challenger and is now officially part of Lord Gargaron's household. As part of her promotion, that also means Kal is sent away to the war at the border, watched over by her father, General Esladas. When she overhears Lady Menoe plotting with Prince Nikonos, Jessamy is the only one she can count on as others are either too far out of her reach or believe they cannot possibly be betrayed. Jessamy also has her family's safety to worry about--her mother and the newborn twins, her sisters Amaya and Maraya, and the still-missing Bettany. To try and earn more money since Jessamy is being watched, Amaya disguises herself to be a lady-in-waiting to Lady Denya, Lord Gargaron's mistress and Amaya's best friend. Together they keep watch for any sign of Bettany. Another undercurrent runs through the novel as a large group of Efeans who are secretly rebelling has been stirring unrest, headed by the familiar character of Ro, the poet. Because of her unique nature as both Efean and Patron and yet neither, Jessamy suffers her own conflicts if she picks one side over the other. Like a true Fives Challenger, Jessamy must tread the most dangerous path of all to see where their real enemies lie, and keep her allies from fighting each other, all to save her family.
Like the first book, I really enjoyed this second continuation. However, being a second book, you do have to understand certain key elements from the first, one most notably being the royal lineage. I was so confused by how everyone was related that it brought me out of the story quite a lot. Before starting this one, the reader should re-read the first and make a family tree chart for the royal family! It does not so much fall into a typical second book pitfall as the character and plot development are well fleshed out and the action doesn’t slow, but there are moments where events pass by so quickly that you might not be quite sure what exactly has happened.
In Court of Fives, Jessamy wanted to be a Fives adversary to live her dream, but in this book, her dream has come at a price and the stakes are much higher for survival. She’s a Fives Challenger but she also must keep her status and win more Fives competitions to stay in Lord Gargaron’s good graces. Since the political conflicts are ramping up – like the war with Saro-Urok; a possible plot by Prince Nikonos and Lady Menoe to kill the royal family and Kalliarkos; another plot by Lord Gargaron to put Lady Menoe and Kalliarkos on the throne; and the hints of rebellion by the Efeans – Jessamy is caught in the middle with her father’s marriage to Lady Menoe, her love for Kalliarkos, her Efean heritage, and her duty as part of Lord Gargaron’s Fives stable. With her mother and siblings in hiding (except for the missing Bettany), Jessamy also has to assume responsibility for her family and supply them with money, keep them safely away from Lord Gargaron and his soldiers, and search for Bettany if she can. But most direct plans are thwarted, and she must rely on the Efean rebellion to help them. When Amaya joins Lord Gargaron’s household in disguise to help her friend Denya, spy for news, and supply an income, Jessamy finds an ally to search for Bettany and in convincing Lord Gargaron to travel around so she can become a better Challenger. However, in doing so, she unknowingly stumbles into the thick of all the building political machinations. Her unique view has put her at an advantage few others can see, and she must take the step from pawn and small rebel to being a leader and she discovers her mistakes can have disastrous consequences.
Another key element is her relationship with her father and her understanding of his actions. As a military leader and under Lord Gargaron’s orders, he had to wed Lady Menoe and set aside his former family, but when hard pressed, he acknowledges Jessamy as legitimate and is proud of her accomplishments, which is significant. Since she encounters a bit of his past in visiting the garrison where he was a spider scout, she comes to understand a bit of why he’s made the choices he has, and why his relationship with her mother was so important and different than everyone else’s. In examining her father’s choices and that of her siblings, she also finds Bettany and how far one might go when you really sacrifice your family for your beliefs…
This book also brings her back to Kal and despite being on different sides, she discovers they are still allies. Since Kal is absent from Jessamy for much of the novel, there is even less romance than the last book. This situation with Kal, I expect, will also be a big part of book three, Buried Heart, coming August 2017. Really looking forward to it!
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