BURIED HEART/Court of Fives Trilogy Discussion HERE


I’m opening up comments here for discussion of the Court of Fives trilogy, BURIED HEART  or any of the volumes specifically, both of the novellas (Night Flower and Bright Thrones), and any questions about world building details, character choices, thematic content, how much you hate Gargaron, worst/best scene, and really anything.

Or you can just comment, no discussion necessary.

SPOILERS OKAY (so if you haven’t read the entire trilogy, be warned)

I will be creating a post with all the maps ASAP.



15 thoughts on “BURIED HEART/Court of Fives Trilogy Discussion HERE

  1. I am in love with this series, and I expect many of my students to be by the end of the year. This is a wonderfully complex and fierce read! It has adventure, fantasy, romance, and character appeal for both boys and girls, and it provides plenty of substance for educational discussions on society, class, history, sports, poetry, etc, etc.!

  2. I liked the bittersweet ending of Buried Heart. Nearly all the little mysteries were cleared up, but I don’t recall seeing a good explanation of where Talon/Talessa went. I don’t think she was mentioned as leaving Efea.

  3. Lisa, thank you so much! I’m so grateful for your kind words. I wanted to write a book that could be read widely, and I so appreciate teachers and librarians who are getting the trilogy into the hands of young readers.

  4. Donald, yes, indeed, you’ve discovered the main loose end. Talon’s story was left unfinished because I couldn’t fit it into Buried Heart (written so tightly from Jes’s point of view). I hope to add a third novella to the first two that will focus on her journey.

  5. This trilogy was my introduction to your work, in my quest to read more female fantasy authors, particularly those focused on ‘non-White’ narratives, as I’d put it (if kind of crudely). The first book impressed me a good bit and I enjoyed it a lot, and the second continued to keep me engaged and entertained. I consider them to be particularly useful for me because, as a more-or-less-straight white male in my late twenties, the perspectives offered help expand my own. I’m definitely very pleased I chose to read them – or listen to them, as I’m mostly an audiobook guy. The narration for the audiobooks was also really well done.

    I enjoyed the third up until the end, where two specific things really threw me off of it and made it really hard to enjoy. This isn’t meant to be a condemnation of your work at all, but rather a question about why you chose to write these things the way you did.

    The two events in question were Kiya ordering Gargaron’s tongue cut out of his mouth, and having him bricked up in a tomb to die. What bothered me so much about it was how unnecessarily cruel and evil the two acts were. When she ordered his tongue cut out, my very first thought was that they could have simply tied his hands and gagged him, that there were clearly other options to muffle the noise he made that could have been taken before what I viewed as a vicious torture needed to be done. Similarly, bricking him up in the tomb to die of, I presume, starvation/dehydration, or some sort of suicide, also felt kind of vile. There was a poetic element to both, but the fact that Kiya, who is now one of the two leaders of this newly free nation, begins her reign with the violent torture and cruel death of her former enemy didn’t sit well with me at all. I think it would have bothered me less if I felt the text had really addressed how these acts were clearly wrong, but for me, it didn’t. Part of that may justifiably be said to be Jes’s perspective being the only POV in the novel that we see; she does say, if I recall, that the suffering of others brings her no joy, or something to that effect, but it did feel a little glossed over.

    The way I read and experienced the book, there was an implicit approval of the two acts, in that they weren’t condemned significantly or really dealt with in their moral implications within the text. I felt almost like I was expected to, at the very least, accept that these actions were justifiable in some way, and for me they simply aren’t. The very reason that bricking Kiya and her daughters up in the tomb to die was wrong is, for me, the same reason doing it to Gargaron is also wrong. If he has to die, it could at least be clean and quick. Likewise, I felt there was nothing that could justify cutting his tongue out. It really ruined any respect I had for Kiya up to that point. The pain and the trauma she endured were real and deserve respect and recognition, but that doesn’t justify, to me, letting her physically torture those who hurt her.

    So that’s the experience I had with those two specific elements of the novel, and the negative impact they had on my enjoyment. That’s just my personal experience, and I obviously don’t speak for everyone. Instead, as I mentioned before, I’d like to ask, as a fan to an author I’ve enjoyed reading, why did you choose to include those two elements? What were your reasons for deciding to have them take place? I’d really like to know what your thought process was. The context for the decisions you made here are something I’m very curious about.

  6. I loved this trilogy. Trapped me into this “just one more chapter before getting to bed” thing until the end (lucky for me that I’m a fast reader and still could get some sleep after). I was so frightened about what would happen to Kal, he was such a touching character and I found it frustrating to see him trapped in things he didn’t want to do all along. But the end is just fine (even if I don’t like the fact that he wanted to die).

    For me, the best scenes are the five games (I positively love them all !), and the worst scene is the escape from the tomb in the first book (much too long for me and I found it frustrating not to understand what was happening, even if it’s a bit clearer now, knowing the end).

    Oh, and just one question: is there really something to be understood in the prophecy of the oracle in the first book ? I’ve spent hours trying to make out what it meant (was the poison Amaya ? Ottonor ? someone else ?), but I guess I’m not very good at this…

  7. It was wonderful to finally get Buried Heart into the Hawaii State Public Library system! I requested it months ago and am the first borrower. I love your Court of Fives series and long for a t-shirt that reads, “Kiss off Adversary!”
    Mahalo for sharing your gifts with us all!

  8. Thomas, sorry for the delay in answering. I only checked my comments queue today when I realized that my notifications were turned off (so I wasn’t being alerted via email). I appreciate your kind words about Court of Fives.

    As for Kiya’s decisions about Gargaron: First I want to say that I never argue with a reader’s reactions. They are true for them, and valid. So I thank you for your thoughtful discussion.

    For me, Kiya is a person who as a very young woman (only 16) makes a commitment to be with a man who is from a foreign culture with expectations very different from those she grew up with (remember she comes from village Efea and had almost no contact with anything Saroese before traveling to Saryenia), and one with whom she is placed in an inferior position according to the culture he is from (both because Saroese culture is patriarchal and because it has colonized Efea). Working together they made it work for 20 years in the teeth of societal (and in her case familial as well) pressures that in most cases would have caused the relationship to collapse. So part of the reason they have made it work is because Esladas is a person willing to leave his world behind, so he makes an effort to adapt. One of the reasons he does well in the military as a battle commander is he is adaptable.

    But perhaps a larger part of the reason they have made it work is that Kiya really understands people and knows how to work with them. Because Esladas is gone so much, she’s been able to run her household as she sees fit (that’s discussed in the story). Also because “household routines” are, in Esladas’s home culture, the province of women, it isn’t something he would ever interfere with normally anyway. He respects her and leaves her alone to do as she wishes; she sees to his comfort when he is home in a way that actually (if you read between the lines) caters a bit to his Saroese expectations. She has in fact adapted to elements of the colonizing culture for him, not because she wants them. I think this is all said or implied in the text.

    So yes, she is a generous, intelligent, warm-hearted, nurturing woman (who is also a good business woman, although we don’t see that aspect as much). But she has also made sacrifices, in a way of elements of her own personhood, to accommodate this long relationship with Esladas, more than him for her just because of the nature of Saroese being the dominant culture and his profession and career path.

    So it may not seem that she is a person with a deep well of rage BUT in my mind that isn’t the case at all. She just has chosen not to be angry about the slights and insults she has faced all her adult life. So what Gargaron takes from her isn’t just her marriage (because it is to all intents and purposes a marriage), isn’t just her children’s father, isn’t just the life they have built together — all that is bad enough. He tempted and exposed Esladas’s ambition; he ruined everything, and tried to kill her AND her daughters, as well as enslaving the household she had protected. And after all that, he personally murders Esladas. What’s not stated but is I hope implied in the text is that Gargaron also spits on and tramples all the sacrifices she made to make it work.

    The choice she makes at the end, with Gargaron at her mercy, is one informed by absolute rage, even if it never shows on her face. So yes, the tongue that lured Esladas with promises of a generalship and high status gets cut out. His entombment stands as a symbol of the reversal of Saroese conquest, just as she allows Kal to stand as the sacrificial goat (when she might have forbidden it). [Given that the oracles are fed and given water, I guess it never occurred to me to specify that Gargaron would be treated no differently from an oracle; that is, that people could/would bring food and drink on a daily basis (as they did for oracles and their attendants).]

    Kiya and Inarsis and the new council choose to deal mercifully with the Saroese overall, compared to many an historical analogy that I might have used — for example, the Alexandrian mob in the era of Ptolemies more than once dragged hated nobles from their homes and ripped them apart (literally). At one point in the development of the story I was going to write a scene like that but in the end there was never a place for it in the story. Given his way, Inarsis would probably have killed most/all of the highborn Saroese in the Fives Court, while Kiya, as we saw, felt that mercy would serve the future of Efea better or perhaps it might be better to say Kiya supported Jes’s suggestion to be merciful. But in the case of Gargaron, on the deepest personal level, Kiya chooses vengeance.

  9. Elodie,

    I’m not sure why I didn’t answer your comment; I think I meant to, and then thought I had! Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m so glad you enjoyed the trilogy. One element of the prophecy (fire falling from the skies) got cut for length reasons: the invasion fleet was going to include airships. 🙁 So that didn’t happen. The rest of it isn’t prophecy as much as warning, and makes the most sense if understood as Selene the Lost speaking of her own life, how Serenissima pretended to be her friend and protector and then betrayed her (poison); how her baby was murdered and her beloved separated from her, and she “buried” in the temple (and then as an oracle). Thematically it’s also a veiled indictment of the conquest of Efea by her own Saroese ancestors but she wouldn’t necessarily see that aspect of it.

  10. Elodie,

    I’m not sure why I didn’t answer your comment; I think I meant to, and then thought I had! Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m so glad you enjoyed the trilogy. One element of the prophecy (fire falling from the skies) got cut for length reasons: the invasion fleet was going to include airships. 🙁 So that didn’t happen. The rest of it isn’t prophecy as much as warning, and makes the most sense if understood as Selene the Lost speaking of her own life, how Serenissima pretended to be her friend and protector and then betrayed her (poison); how her baby was murdered and her beloved separated from her, and she “buried” in the temple (and then as an oracle). Thematically it’s also a veiled indictment of the conquest of Efea by her own Saroese ancestors but she wouldn’t necessarily see that aspect of it.

  11. It took me a bit but I finally got my copy down here in NZ. Well worth the wait as this was, for me, an immensely satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. I loved how almost every disparate story/character line got wrapped up and brought together. At the same time, this trilogy feels like an iceberg. There is so much to this world that is just lying in wait for discovery. My mind raced in a million directions at the end… one of my favorite ways to feel at the end of a trilogy.

    Even though Kiya is a secondary character I loved seeing glimpses of her journey. She captured my heart (barely edging out Amaya for fave secondary character) and did not let go. As another commenter mentioned, I too was emotionally rocked by her vengeance at the end. It was absolutely shocking to me and felt very much like meeting cruelty with cruelty. I didn’t find it off-putting only in the sense that it felt real to her character (certainly violence in any sense is off-putting to me but the Fives world is a violent world and her world in particular has been subject to much violence) and not out of place for this reader.

    I found myself really missing the Fives court in this last installment. I didn’t realize how much it had come to mean to me as a part of the story and Jes’s life. When a Fives competition finally came up I distinctly remember letting out a sigh of happiness that Jes was finally back on the court. I really liked how the ending included her continuing to pursue her passion for sports. (I hope her wrist is ok! I just kept thinking how those little injuries can haunt an athlete.)

    If you’re willing to answer I’d be very interested in your choice to have Esladas, way back in the first book, hit his wife and child. I’ve been out on Esladas ever since (and I must say it’s been hard to keep up my anger! How do you write these complicated imperfect characters who just won’t let me feel one easy way about them??) but I was still incredibly invested in his ending. And I don’t know if this is me trying to justify my emotional involvement, but his character, in the rest of the trilogy, doesn’t make him seem like the kind of person who would hit his wife (I can kind of buy the kid thing as perhaps him thinking of it as a corrective for a child but his wife?). I do sometimes wonder if I don’t quite see all his Saroese side due to my reading perspective.

    I’m so excited to buy this trilogy for my goddaughter. She was a bit young when the first one came out but I think it’ll be perfect for her now. Also, a friend of mine was so upset after the family being broken up in the first one (she has seen families torn apart for, for lack of a better term, cultural reasons) that she didn’t want to continue reading until she could know how it all ended. I’m really looking forward to discussing their perspectives after reading.

    Thanks so much for this wonderful trilogy!

  12. Rachel, thank you so much (and sorry for the delay; this year has been so stressful that I keep not checking my web site and then comments sit here for weeks).

    I can definitely discuss Esladas. I really did want to write a portrayal of a basically decent man who can never fully quite (until the end, when it is too late) extricate himself from his upbringing. His mother died when he was fairly young. He was youngest of multiple sons, and raised by a father (and in a society) that considered it unexceptional for women and children to be hit if need be. Like spare the rod spoil the child, etc. One of the reasons he left his provincial home town was to get away from all that. And he was indeed incredibly about women when he reached Saryenia (as per Night Flower).

    His closest relationship as an older boy and teen was with the teacher/priest who taught him to read and write, etc, and who helped him figure out how to get out, how to emigrate.

    So he’s always been caught between his upbringing (his right to hit those in his charge) and the very different ethos that Kiya brought to his life. He worked hard to be a good partner for her but his ambition gets him in the end. He hits her because he knows he is betraying her and the his daughters. Even though he believes he can send them money and get them settled somewhere safe he knows absolutely that this will gut her, all the trust, all the years. As is so unfortunately common, he reverts to his father in that instant.

    I don’t say that to absolve him. And obviously I don’t absolve him (okay maybe a little, as he slowly faces the reality of what he’s done and how he has never fully accepted his girls even though he does love them). But my goal, as always, was to try to create a true portrait of this man, his strengths and the weaknesses that led him down the wrong path.

  13. Loved the series and how it all hangs together! Court of Fives was the first novel of yours that I found but then I stopped reading it after reading about 8-10 chapters. I found Jaran novels, loved them, and continued on to own pretty much all your other books (even though the last novel for crown of stars really bothers me). And then as I’ve exhausted all your novels, I decided to give Court of Fives a second chance and I’m now glad I did. I loved how the second novel expanded the universe and made it richer and Buried Heart nailed it. I’m SO thankful that the ending was just perfect. Personally, I feel that Gargaron deserved his punishments and that death would be a mercy indeed for him. And it seems intriguing how Wenru will grow up and fit in (how his prior memory may aid or hinder him?).

    In my mind, I think that Jes and Kal grows into Custodian and Protector. 🙂

  14. Thank you so much! the Court of Fives trilogy is a bit stripped down compared to my other epic fantasies, but I liked the chance it gave me to focus the pacing. I’m so glad you enjoyed it on the second go round. Some day I may write a story about Wenru. He will have a complex journey into adulthood, I think.

    You can absolutely see whatever future for Jes and Kal you want! One of the funny things for me is that often I don'[t necessarily have a strong sense of what will happen down the line; it’s as if I haven’t “lived” through that yet so don’t know it.

    Out of curiosity (and no need to answer if you prefer not) but what elements of the last Crown of Stars novel bothered you?

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