by Kate Elliott
Series: Court of Fives #2
Published on August 16, 2016 by Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Jessamy is moving up the ranks of the Fives—the complex athletic contest favored by the lowliest Commoners and the loftiest Patrons in her embattled kingdom. Pitted against far more formidable adversaries, success is Jes's only option, as her prize money is essential to keeping her hidden family alive. She leaps at the chance to tour the countryside and face more competitors, but then a fatal attack on Jes's traveling party puts her at the center of the war that Lord Kalliarkos—the prince she still loves—is fighting against their country's enemies. With a sinister overlord watching her every move and Kal's life on the line, Jes must now become more than a Fives champion...She must become a warrior.
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Jessamy returns in Poisoned Blade, a Challenger of the Fives and in need of practice before she can truly compete against those of the same rank. Taking a shortcut to fame has its drawbacks. Her suggestion of finding new opponents elsewhere leads her out into the surrounding country where Fives competitions aren’t the only challenge she has to face.
When it comes to sequels, I always end up comparing it to the first book. It’s hard not to. I definitely enjoyed Poisoned Blade more than Court of Fives. The writing wasn’t anything spectacular but I didn’t feel the disconnect of two different parts like I did in the previous book. Elliott threw in more plot twists this time around, making the story far less predictable, but I found I wasn’t nearly invested enough in the characters for those twists to make much of an impact as they were liked intended to do.
I think what worked best about this novel is something that I normally want in a story: romance. I’m a sucker for it, a romantic at heart despite my more cynical nature. But for me, the romance that started in Court of Fives between Jes and Kal never really felt right. I thought the book could do without it and be just as good.
Poisoned Blade leaves the two lovebirds separated for the majority of the book, and not on the best of terms either. Jes, on her own, is a strong heroine. I can’t say she’s one of my favorites but when it’s about just her, she flourished. Or perhaps it was the narrative that blossomed. Kal rarely came up and I can’t put my finger on it, but her voice definitely differed from Court of Fives.
The problem with Jes in this book is that she has become nothing more than a kickass heroine saving the day. And it’s one of my favorite character archetypes so from a reading standpoint, I loved this. Taking a step back, Jes isn’t the only character I could describe in a couple words. Ro is the flirt and potential second love interest (I swear if this goes full love triangle I’m done). Kal is the primary love interest — granted, after he went off soldiering he grew as something more than his station and Jes so he’s growing on me. Esladas is the raging jackass of a father. Hate him. Moving on. And Gargaron is the typical “you should hate me” antagonist.
The plot was solid for this book which helped cover up for the character. Though the middle moved a tad sluggishly, it eventually picked up and the story wove through an intricate world that Elliott barely touched on in the last book. This is a country at war and you don’t just read about it — you live through it. Jessamy takes you into her head as she competes in the Fives, stops attackers with a giant metal spider, stays strong against her father. She ends up on the war front and doesn’t balk at the sight and neither do you because the scenes are vivid. It’s not the writing that draws you in but the story itself. For all of this book’s faults, the story and world are what truly captured my reader’s heart and held it tight against the onslaught of fast-paced action and challenges Jes faces.
I wasn’t sure about this series after reading Court of Fives but if Poisoned Blade has left me with nothing else, it’s that I need the next book and I need it now.