This morning I finished up Buried Heart by Kate Elliott, the final book in her YA Fantasy series Court of Fives. Oh, what a great end to a great series. I’m only angry at myself for not reading these sooner.
In Buried Heart Jessamy has found herself at a crossroads. She’s always been of two worlds due to her heritage and upbringing, but now she’s caught between a revolution against all of Patron rule and wanting to save those she cares about, Kal and her father, who are fighting the current regime and outside armies to take back control of the government under their own leadership. But maybe it’s Jes, who lives in both worlds, that can somehow think of a solution for all of them. Used to running the Fives courts, and always thinking several moves ahead, will her strategic plays work out or will they cost her everything she’s ever loved?
This book hits the ground running and the pace never lets up. There’s a lot going on and no time for idleness. There is a lot of political and battle strategy throughout the entire book, and I loved it. I also loved that the battles and war are described pretty realistically, nothing is watered down for the readers.
I like how much Jes contributed to the various battle plans and that it’s shown how she is always thinking of possible outcomes–the traits that have made her a good adversary on the Fives courts have also made her a good strategist. Of course, this only works when she has enough information, and correct information, and it doesn’t stop her from questioning if she’s made the right decisions. Even though Jes very much wants to win, she has the ultimate competitive spirit in all things she does, she has also begun to think about the consequences of her actions more. She’s still the same bold Jessamy, but she is thinking more and applying those thoughts before she acts. She’s no longer quite as reckless and I enjoyed seeing this character growth.
Kal’s character arc was great to see as well. He started out pretty arrogant and, after many trials and tribulations, having a huge responsibility foisted on him, and having to give up the one thing he’s come to love, becomes a much humbler man. You see the weight of everything on him in this book, threatening to crush him. But, having no choice but to play this part, he decides to do it his way and learns that in order to be the person he wants to be he’ll have to give up even more of his old life. That’s a pretty hard lesson to learn.
Other characters were great in this series as well. Jes’ sisters each are very distinct, as well as her parents. I’ll be honest and say sometimes I didn’t care for Jessamy’s mother much, not that she was a badly written character, but that she was just a very strong woman who wanted what she thought was best for her daughter and that often conflicted with Jessamy’s own aspirations. But one of the great appeals of this book is that it’s about a family. Sure, a complex family, but a family. So much of fantasy is made up of orphans or families plotting to kill each other over power (and, well, we do get some of that with Kal’s family) so Jessamy’s family was a great change of pace.
I loved that her and Kal’s relationship was an echo of her mother and father’s relationship and that she realized if her and Kal were going to be together then everything in society would have to change. But then, realizing that if they made that change happen, because of who they were in particular, everything was over for them. It wasn’t so much about them, and their love, as it was about the future of everyone like them, giving them the right to be equals so they wouldn’t have to make those same decisions and live in agony like her and Kal, or her parents. Giving people the right to take back their lives, their country, and their customs. Letting them love who they choose.
The setting in this book was also great and it served well to explore themes of cultural erasure, race, and class structure within a society that has been colonized by another. The influence of Ptolemaic Egypt is there with the names of the characters and other touches in the world-building. Besides crafting great characters, world-building is a huge strength of Kate Elliott’s. I love the way she takes different influences and somehow makes them work together into something new and interesting.
Overall, I had a lot of fun reading this series and feel like this, Buried Heart, was the ending the characters deserved. Rated this one 4/5 stars on goodreads.