Book Review: The King’s Men By Nora Sakavic

*** Disclaimer: I’mma pretend you’ve read the first and second book ***

Synopsis for “The King’s Men” by Nora Sakavic:

“Neil Josten is out of time. He knew when he came to PSU he wouldn’t survive the year, but with his death right around the corner he’s got more reasons than ever to live. Befriending the Foxes was inadvisable. Kissing one is unthinkable. Neil should know better than to get involved with anyone this close to the end, but Andrew’s never been the easiest person to walk away from. If they both say it doesn’t mean anything, maybe Neil won’t regret losing it, but the one person Neil can’t lie to is himself. He’s got promises to keep and a team to get to championships if he can just outrun Riko a little longer, but Riko’s not the only monster in Neil’s life. The truth might get them all killed—or be Neil’s one shot at getting out of this alive.”

Book Review:

Third and last book in the “All for the game” trilogy, “The King’s Men” has it’s good things and it’s bad things. The second book ended in a bang, that the third book didn’t utilize in any kind of way. At the end, yes, things were resolved, everything was as it should, but.

One of its most positive traits is the emphasis it gives on consent. It was actually very refreshing to see something like that. No means no after all.

“Who said ‘please’ that made you hate the word so much?”
Andrew gazed at him in silence for a minute. “I did.”
― Nora Sakavic, The King’s Men

On the other hand though, there are issues. Things happen and not because any of the characters initiated them. Conflicts are resolved in an ex-machina manner, where forces literally come out of nowhere to solve the problem. Riko practically disappears until the third scene where he shows up for the game with the Foxes and then he’s off again.
Also, Neil – as observant as he’s supposed to be and as smart – misses things that should have been plain as day for him in a frustrating kind of way. A survivalist runaway wouldn’t take his eyes off the Butcher. He has a whole album with information on Riko and Kevin. Wouldn’t he be doing at least 1/3 of that for the man who is hunting him down to kill him? And I didn’t like that the Butcher – mentioned briefly at the beginning of the first book – suddenly reappears so that conflict/plot point can be nicely wrapped up and dealt with.

There is no agency in the characters. In Neil, or Andrew, or Kevin, until their last game with the Ravens. Until then, things happen to them and they are reacting while someone else saves the day.

“Is your learning curve a horizontal line?”
― Nora Sakavic, The King’s Men

It’s never a good sign when you read a book and you go all: “Oh for fuck’s sake”.

Never a good sign.

“This,” Neil flicked his finger to indicate the two of them, “isn’t worthless.”
“There is no ‘this’. This is nothing.”
“And I am nothing,” Neil prompted. When Andrew gestured confirmation, Neil said, “And as you’ve always said, you want nothing.”
Andrew stared stone-faced back at him.”
― Nora Sakavic, The King’s Men

Yet, the romance – understandably slow as it has been – finally happens. And at this point all the reasons why it had to be so slow make sense, and there is almost something sweet in it. The characters grow and make their choices before the big game with the Ravens, where everything could happen.

I don’t want to get into spoiler territory. Is this book a good conclusion to the trilogy? In a way yes. There are no loose ends, there are no contradictions with the characters, the romance is wonderful.
But it could have been better. I almost feel like this is a book that was a couple revisions away from reaching its full potential. Still, worth reading to wrap up the series nicely.

PS: Neil appears to be a cheeky bastard when in love. Kudos for that.

The Foxhole Court | The Raven King | The King’s Men

Book review the raven king by nora sakavic

Book Review: The Raven King By Nora Sakavic

*** Disclaimer: I’mma pretend you’ve read the first book ***

Synopsis for “The Raven King” by Nora Sakavic:

“The Foxes are a fractured mess, but their latest disaster might be the miracle they’ve always needed to come together as a team. The one person standing in their way is Andrew, and the only one who can break through his personal barriers is Neil. Except Andrew doesn’t give up anything for free and Neil is terrible at trusting anyone but himself. The two don’t have much time to come to terms with their situation before outside forces start tearing them apart. Riko is intent on destroying Neil’s fragile new life, and the Foxes have just become collateral damage. Neil’s days are numbered, but he’s learning the hard way to go down fighting for what he believes in, and Neil believes in Andrew even if Andrew won’t believe in himself.”

Book Review:

In the wake of Seth’s death, the team needs to come together, to be stronger, to fight harder. Riko is not going to let them off the hook that easily, not with everything Neil has head, and with Kevin not returning to the Ravens.
Andrew has promised to keep him safe like he’s doing for Kevin, and Neil has chosen to believe him.

The second book is by far my favorite in this series. It’s also a book that touches a lot of sensitive topics, more so than the last book: rape, abusive, addiction.

“I am a bad person trying very hard to be a good person.”
― Nora Sakavic, The Raven King

The stakes are higher in this book. With Seth’s death, they know that their lives are on the line and Neil carries the guilt of that death on his shoulders. It was what he said after all that provoked Riko.
But this latest development is not only affecting Neil. It’s affecting the rest of the team, and especially Andrew.

It seems though that Neil hasn’t learned how to keep his mouth shut about Riko. He can’t help it, and I can’t blame him.
Between his training with the team and the late-night training with Kevin, Neil is improving his game, the whole team is getting better, even if it’s still fractured between two halves, the twins, Nicky and Kevin, versus Dan, Allison, Renee, and Matt.

But half way through the book, the thing that’s keeping them apart is taken out of the equation and for the first time in forever, the team comes together in some place other than the court.

“He was their family. They were his. They were worth every cut and bruise and scream.”
― Nora Sakavic, The Raven King

But things just keep getting worse and worse for Neil. He has to make a deal with the devil if he wishes to keep his new-found family whole and safe, and at the end, his come apart, and only a few pieces – if any – of the persona he’s been hiding behind are left in place.

It’s a great sequel to the first book, doing the things great sequels do. The stakes are higher, Riko is a dirty bastard that nobody likes and the readers get to root for Neil, and learn a little more about Andrew and what makes him tick, as well as why he’s the way he is.

And of course Wymack. He has a ‘tough love’ approach when it comes to take care of his team, but he’s always there for them when they need it, and he’s there for them to keep them occupied and as out of trouble as he can manage. And of course, he’s there to give them all a second chance.

A very important thing that I’ve noticed in Nora Sakavic’s writing, is that both her male and female characters are equals. She doesn’t bring down one to make the other better. Her book doesn’t only have male characters, as it happens with a good number of m/m novels, and the women that are there are in equal footing with the men.

“Neil thought about Renee’s bruised knuckles, Dan’s fierce spirit, and Allison holding her ground on the court a week after Seth’s death. He thought about his mother standing unflinching in the face of his father’s violent anger and her ruthlessly leaving bodies in their wake. He felt compelled to say, “Some of the strongest people I’ve known are women.”
― Nora Sakavic, The Raven King

I don’t want to give too many things away, I’m trying to keep the reviews as spoiler free as I can. Read the second book. It’s worth it. Lots of feels. Lots of tears.

The Foxhole Court | The Raven King | The King’s Men

book review: the foxhole court by nora sakavic

Book Review: The Foxhole Court By Nora Sakavic

Synopsis for “The Foxhole Court” by Nora Sakavic:

“Neil Josten is the newest addition to the Palmetto State University Exy team. He’s short, he’s fast, he’s got a ton of potential—and he’s the runaway son of the murderous crime lord known as The Butcher. Signing a contract with the PSU Foxes is the last thing a guy like Neil should do. The team is high profile and he doesn’t need sports crews broadcasting pictures of his face around the nation. His lies will hold up only so long under this kind of scrutiny and the truth will get him killed. But Neil’s not the only one with secrets on the team. One of Neil’s new teammates is a friend from his old life, and Neil can’t walk away from him a second time. Neil has survived the last eight years by running. Maybe he’s finally found someone and something worth fighting for.”

Book Review:

I wasn’t really expecting that I would enjoy a book about sports. Any kind of sport. But here we are. The story is full of disasters for every character.
Neil comes in the story knowing he’s going to lie through his teeth to everyone, to his teammates and his couch. His stay with the Palmetto Exy team has an expiration date, but he just couldn’t help himself. He wants to do this one thing for himself, to do something he loves even for a short period of time, even if that brings him face to face with his past.
He’s fast.
He thinks he can outrun it.

The series is in general a well-balanced lgbt series, with both male and female characters that are just as developed. Is there romance in this series? Yes. There are hints of it, of the possibility of it in the first book, but it’s not an insta-romance, it’s a slow one. It builds over the course of the books and that’s for the best.

“It’s not the world that’s cruel. It’s the people in it.”
― Nora Sakavic, The Foxhole Court

Neil is an interesting character. He tries to keep to the persona he has create, but it’s hard for him to keep it up, especially when his past comes knocking on his door and his temper gets the better of him. He wants to believe he’s not the kind of kid who picks fights. In reality, he picks all the fights. Even the ones he can’t win.

His team are Dan wilds, the team Captain – a stripper turned athlete who has fought all her life to be where she is now, Matt Boyd – Neil’s roommate and a Backliner on the team and a former addict, Seth Gordon – a striker like Neil, who has nothing but bad attitude and family problems, as well as some pill abuse that he is supposedly over, Nicky Hemmick – another Backliner, a gay guy who was kicked out by his religious parents, Renee Walker – a Goalkeeper who says she’s a born-again Christian, Aaron – the last Backliner of the team who has endured abuse and addiction, Allioson – a Defensive Dealer, a rich girl who was disowned by her family when she chose to play sports and follow her dream, Kevin – a celebrity striker that has recently changed teams to join the Foxes after an ‘accident’, and lastly, Andrew – the prodigy Goalkeeper who is as high as a kite and has been through too much to mention here and not spoil the following books.

“As he slipped the lock into place again he realized his hand was trembling. He held up his shaky fingers where he could see them better and wondered at the equally weak flutter in his chest.”
― Nora Sakavic, The Foxhole Court

It’s obvious, that the Foxes are a mess, and that plays a very important role in the story, how this kids play off each other, how they have learned to cope with their disasters. Ultimately though it’s Neil’s story, and how he finds a new family and he learns to trust and he stops hiding behind his lies and whatnot.

Andrew is a… peculiar character. He’s a character of extremes with a very weird logic to how he does things, to how he decides what he’ll do, his reasoning for things. If you don’t like Andrew, you are not going to like this books, to be honest, because of how integral he is to the story. But he’s such a peculiar character that not everyone is going to be on board with him and what he does. He’s even somewhat of an opposing force in the first book.

Neil is not the same person that he was in the beginning of the book. He’s not trying to run away anymore, he’s decide to stay and figure things out, even when he finds out that things are far worse than he realised and that he’s past is not just going to let him go. He doesn’t only have the Butcher to worry about, he’s got to worry about Kevin and the problems he brings to them. And with Kevin, comes his guard-dog, Andrew.

Is it worth reading? Yes. It’s a character driven story, with interesting and compelling characters, the world and setting is nicely written, Exy makes sense as a sport.
Is it a perfect story? No. A lot happens in Neil’s head, he’s a kind of person who always observes the others around him, so a lot of the information get filtered through him and his point of view. The bad thing is that all this observing he does, slows down the story down sometimes.

Hope was a dangerous, disquieting thing, but he thought perhaps he liked it.”
― Nora Sakavic, The Foxhole Court

Overall, give it a shot. It’s a book worth reading and it gave me a strange urge to write a sports story…

The Foxhole Court | The Raven King | The King’s Men