Snapshot: The Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott


poisoned-blade-by-kate-elliottIn 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. — [X]


  • Poisoned Blade is one of those rare second books that are perfectly paced. It picks up almost immediately after the events of the first book, Court of Fives, and drops us in the middle of a scene that gives us a look inside Jess and Kal’s situation, but also provides interesting information about the palace, its inhabitants, and the internal politics.
  • From there, whether it is the readers’ own urgency that drives them into reading scenes *cough-with-certain-characters-cough* or the plot itself, it never feels like the action stagnates in this sequel. You really can’t put it down until you’re done. And even then, there is a reluctance to let these characters go.
  • Speaking of characters, can we talk about how painstakingly detailed each character’s development is? From one chapter to the next, Jess is never the same old characters. Every event, every person, shapes her in some way. The same goes for characters around her. This is the kind of storytelling I love.
  • Jess and Kal’s relationship (?) is interesting–even now, post-“breakup”– because we get to examine what pushes them apart as closely as we get to examine what pulls them together.
  • Speaking of things that pull them apart, we meet my favourite character again: Ro-emnu! And I have just two words for you regarding Ro: Rebel! Poet! [SIDE NOTE: If there’s anyone out there who ships Jess and Ro, good god, come talk to me!]
  • Through Jess’ relationships, be it romantic or familial or “professional”*, we get a better understanding of Elliott’s world, how race, class, gender, and sexuality all play into making/unmaking this realm.
  • In terms of race especially, I think this fantasy novel is leagues better than most others dealing with similar topics. Very few authors are able to lay the “race is a social construct” idea out so clearly on the page. For this alone, I would recommend this series and this particular book, but obviously, this isn’t the only thing there is to love about the series.
  • Just know that I couldn’t find a single thing to dislike about this book.

*what’s the word to describe the relationship between an employer and employee where the employee is kind of an indentured servant? 🙁