For more than 400 years, a secret monarchy has survived and thrived within the borders of the US, hiding in plain sight as the state known as Wyoming. But when the king is shot and his seventeen-year-old son, Haakon McHale, is told he will take the throne, becoming the eleventh ruler of the Kingdom of Eurus, the community that’s survived for centuries is pushed to the limit. Told through four perspectives, Court transplants us to a world that looks like ours, but isn’t. Gwendolyn Rose, daughter of the Duke of Coal, is grudgingly betrothed to Haakon — and just wants a way out. Alexander Oxendine, son of the Duke of Wind and Haakon’s lifelong best friend, already grapples with external struggles when he’s assigned to guard Haakon after the king dies. And commoner Mary Doyle finds whispers in the woods that may solve — or destroy — everything, depending on your bloodline.
Money. Love. Power. Community. What’s your motivation?
Court is like a YA Game of Thrones. The power plays, the drama, the intrigue – yep, all of that. So, there is a secret kingdom of mixed ethnicity (Caucasian and Native American) existing in the state of Wyoming, ruled for three centuries by a powerful family. The kingdom runs on it’s five main resources, which are also the regions and consequently seats of power. Using four POVs, the story of Haakon’s near-succession to the throne is narrated, amid the tumultuous atmosphere in the kingdom.
This book is heavily character-driven, and the four characters have distinct storylines that ultimately merge towards the end. Gwen is supposed to be the perfect bride, the Queen-to-be, but she wants anything other than that. She loves someone else, but knows it won’t go anywhere as their kingdom won’t allow it. Next is Haakon, a spoiled prince who doesn’t want or know how to rule a kingdom at the age of seventeen. Mary is a commoner caught in the dynamics of court politics through a stranger, and Alexander is a queer character who chafes against the norms of the kingdom. Out of all the character arcs, Haakon’s is the most intriguing – since he kinda goes down the Joffrey Baratheon route. His naivete for court politics is twisted in such a way that he goes paranoid and dark. Alexander could probably have helped him, if not caught up himself in the same mess of misunderstandings. He also is a passive character that doesn’t seem fulfilling as a POV. Granted, he was confused about himself and his future, but damn, way to let your friend down. Finally, Mary is a supporting character that rounds up the other non-royal parts of the story, as well as being a piece that completes the puzzle. The skipping around the different POVs, though, made it a little difficult to keep each story thread straight.
As far as world-building goes, the construct seems shaky. It wasn’t explained how exactly a private dictatorial kingdom flew under the radar for three centuries. It has layers, I know – the one the tourists see, and what it really is, but I find it hard to believe no one ever learnt about Eurus, not even through defectors? As for the character development, the oppressive traditional kingdom stuck in time works for the suffocation each of the main characters feel in Eurus. Coming back to the character-driven arc, I feel maybe this is why the world wasn’t given as much focus. It certainly does fail when compared to other such fictional kingdoms, like Genovia or the Court in Vampire Academy. They at least blended well into the storyline, but Eurus seemed stuck in the last century and this, and even the Democracy and Realm felt like two different time points. I kept imagining them in period clothes all the time, and not as the modern teenagers they are. So, I felt the descriptions needed more work to paint a distinct picture in the mind.
In conclusion, I would say that this is an interesting start to a political-themed series, especially with that big bomb dropped near the climax. There will be a revolution or a coup, I don’t know – but I am looking forward to it!