Title: Poisoned Blade (Court of Fives, #2)
Author: Kate Elliott
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016
Genre: YA Fantasy
I can tell you right now, I won’t be surprised if people haven’t read the first one. I did and it was pretty forgettable, to be honest. I only gave Court of Fives ★★★☆☆. I wasn’t a fan of the protagonist and found her to be a bit selfish. But I can’t turn down a sequel, and it was available on Overdrive, so I requested it and read it.
I’m actually glad I did. I’m glad I gave this series a second chance.
Jessamy runs the Fives, a court designed with five different areas: Trees, Traps, Rivers, Pillars, and Rings. In the first book (don’t worry, I can keep this pretty spoiler-free), she sneaks out to race the Fives because she is not allowed to by decree of her father, Captain Esladas. After all that happened in the first book (see? Didn’t even go into it! 😉), Jess can now run the Fives as a sponsored member of Garon House.
This novel doesn’t focus so much on the risks Jess takes or her feelings toward Kal, a Patron-born (and therefore untouchable because of his higher-class standing) lord. This sequel focuses more on the Efean (the lower-class) frustrations with their current circumstances. And I liked that.
Jess is mocked, belittled, and generally treated like dirt. The only standing she has comes from her victories on the Fives court. As she beats other Advesaries, she gains respect. But as a “mule,” or mixed Patron/Efean child, she is not really considered a person. Add to that the fact she’s a woman, and Jess gets snubbed and ignored, and made to be a servant in most situations.
As I said, the first book made me irritated. Jess was the daughter of a Patron man and an Efean woman, and though they couldn’t marry, he lived with her and the children for years. When the family is torn apart, Jess focuses only on herself and her desire to become an Advesary. However, in this book we see class struggles, high stakes, and the machinations of a man obsessed with power. Though the book dragged at times, it reengaged me and reminded me that sometimes sequels can be better than the first book.
Is it Classroom-Appropriate?
Definitely. I wouldn’t use this book, though, because it picks up directly where the last book leaves off, and though it does a good job summarizing for those that have forgotten the events of the previous novel, it still would make more sense to use a first book in a classroom than a sequel. (I have to say, it took awhile for me to become familiar with the characters again…the first one was pretty forgettable). But I think Court of Fives could be used to show the problems with class conflicts (the Patrons are lighter skinned and more powerful, and the Efeans are dark and treated like slaves…sound familiar?) in the world. It shows how a young girl can go from a privileged household to one of poverty and slavery all because she loses her protection. It’s actually painful by the second book, but I could see some lively discussions whenever a book focuses on problems in a caste system. I would use Court of Fives and encourage the students to seek out Poisoned Blade when they are done. On their own time, of course.
This book actually seems to be rated for middle grade on Lexile.com. It recommends from ages 11-13, with a simple score of 940L. So easy readability for younger readers. Great!
Court of Fives, however, gets a rating for 14-17, and a Lexile score of 850L. So the scores are similar, but the first book is recommended for 14 and up, and the second book is recommended for 11-13?? Does that make sense to anyone?
This is where I come in and translate what the hell this means. Apparently no one realized that these two books went together when they rated them, and just rated on content alone. With Court of Fives focusing more on world-building and story-telling, it gets a higher rating. With Poisoned Blade simply following in the same world and therefore needing less world-building and development, it gets a lower rating. I’d honestly have switched those ratings, becuase I think the sequel is way more complex than the original.
So this is my opinion: I would recommend this series for ages 12 and up. There. Settled. I think this book works for reluctant readers as well as advanced, and can be enjoyed through adulthood (obviously). That was the weirdest Lexile rating I’ve ever seen for two books from the same series. Sigh. (Huh…I just realized the Educator’s Guide that o put up agrees with me…I’m becoming more of a teacher every day, lol!)
I give Poisoned Blade ★★★★☆. If you can get through Court of Fives withhout wanting to kill the main character, or if you can put aside your feelings toward her until the next book, pick this read up. It makes reading the first book worthwhile. If you can’t stand the patience it takes to read to a second book for the magic to happen, then skip the series all together. If you liked Court of Fives, then you’ll LOVE Poisoned Blade, and you’ll probably have five-starred the whole series so far. But there’s more coming! The next installment comes out next year, and here’s the cover:
Ha, watch that one get an age rating of 8-11 or something crazy like that, since as the book series continues, apparently the age level goes down (I will never understand Lexile age recommendations…I just won’t).