By Kate Elliott
Series: Court of Fives #2
Hardcover: 418 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown (August 16, 2016)
Age Range: 12-17 years
Grade Level: 7 up
In this thrilling sequel to World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott's captivating young adult debut, a girl immersed in high-stakes competition holds the fate of a kingdom in her hands.
Now a Challenger, Jessamy is moving up the ranks of the Fives--the complex athletic contest favored by the lowliest Commoners and the loftiest Patrons alike. 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 her traveling party puts Jes 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.
Poisoned Blade was very enjoyable! I ended up liking it more than the first book. I remember really liking that one, but I also remember having a lot of issues with it. (That book and I had a weird relationship.) However, I didn't remember specifically what I didn't like, so none of those previous negatives didn't carry over to the sequel. That helped me get really into this book.
Since I don't remember much about the first book, I can't make many comparisons between it and the sequel. I did feel like Poisoned Blade had more politics, though. The competition was definitely still there, but it didn't as much conflict as much as other things. And oh, there were so many conflicts!! This book felt like a web. There were so many pieces, but they were all connected, even if not directly related. Plus, Jes was stuck in this political game of sorts and had little room to maneuver. Conflicts included conspiracy and royal secrets, class struggles and distorted history, Lord Gargaron's hold/power and Jes' struggles with class loyalty. Let's add in war and family conflict as well. I love books like these! There's so much to take in and I find it fascinating to see how different pieces tie together.
Apparently I'm in a listing mood for reviews, so here are some more things that went well for me in bullet form:
• I really liked the writing and found it hard to pull away from it.
• There was some interesting family dynamics, especially between Jes, Amaya, and Bettany. The sisters reminded me of the ones in the Cahill Witch Chronicles. If you know who I'm referring to, you know that the relationship between the three of them doesn't always go smoothly...
• I liked Jes' determination and drive, which made her a great Fives competitor and character.
• The world! It simply intrigued me. I feel like I still don't know enough (especially when it comes to the magic), but that was okay. It helps that I know there's another book that will continue to build the world.
• This series is one of those fantasies where a lower class--one treated like dirt by a more powerful class--planned to undermine the power others had over them and rise victorious. This seems to be going well in this series! Well, not well as in successful since there's obviously a lot of struggle to undermine those in power, but as in done in an interesting way.
Like I remember happening with the first book, the issues I had with this didn't affect my rating or my enjoyment of the book very much. (I guess I have a weird relationship with the series as a whole.) Remember how I said there was a lot of conflicts? Well, with a lot of different conflicts comes a lot of different focuses. There were various events that focused on war, thievery, conspiracy, Elfean history, family, the Fives court, or identity--or a mix of a couple of those--and they didn't always mesh well together. A lot had to be juggled in this book and though I loved seeing so much packed in, I wish they were combined in a smoother way. There was also an awkward change of scenery and situation, which is related to my next peeve . . .
I kinda regret acquainting myself with the synopsis before reading this. I prefer events mentioned in the description to occur early in the story so the rest of it is more surprising, but in this case, it took a long time for "but then..." (I'm purposely not mentioning the event in case you have an issue with this sort of thing too) moment to occur. Sometimes I feel like a book doesn't truly START until what's mentioned in the synopsis is addressed. In this case, I waited around 300 pages for that to happen. Knowing what to expect threw off the pacing before that point for me. However, the story got very exciting once that big event finally happened. All that said, I recommend reading this book when the synopsis isn't fresh in your mind!
Overall, Poisoned Blade was better a stronger book than Court of Fives! There was a LOT that went on and while it didn't always mesh well, the way everything connected and led to an intense climax was intriguing. This series is great for fans of fantasies that feature class struggles and a complicated web of events and politics. If you liked the first book, but are still on the fence about continuing the series, I highly recommend reading the second book! The story gets better and more complex.