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.
The Foxhole Court published on January 15th 2013, The Raven King published on July 10th 2013, and The King’s Men published on December 3rd 2014 make up the All For the Game trilogy by Nora Sakavic.
Trigger warnings; drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse and rape, graphic violence, physical abuse, homophobic language, self harm and mentions of suicide.
Before I started The Foxhole Court I saw some glowing reviews and plenty of posts about the trilogy on Tumblr, there is a lot of hype for the All For the Game trilogy and I am weak for the hype so I was always going to pick up these books sooner or later. I was hooked from the first chapter and ended up binge reading the whole trilogy. Granted these books aren’t for everyone, please read the trigger warnings before checking out the series, but they ended up being favourite reads of mine.
“It’s about second chances, Neil. Second, third, fourth, whatever, as long as you get at least one more than what anyone else wanted to give you.”
Neil Josten has been on the run for years and he’s survived following his mother’s strict rules, but he breaks them all when he’s scouted and signs a contract to play Exy with the PSU Foxes. The Foxes are the underdogs and it’s not long before Neil’s at odds with some of the other members on his team, mainly Kevin Day and Andrew Minyard, and the Moriyama crime family, who Neil is more entangled with than he thought thanks to his father.
Neil puts himself on Riko Moriyama’s radar, a dangerous place to be when his father is still after him, but Neil has accepted he won’t survive long with his face plastered around the nation playing Exy. Before he runs he’s determined to get the Foxes as far through the championships as he can, take Riko down as Exy’s number one player, and mend the Foxes.
“They knew he hated vegetables but loved fruit, that his favourite colour was gray, and that he didn’t like movies or loud music. They were things Neil understood only in terms of survival, but his teammates hoarded these insights like gold. They were piecing Neil together and building a real person around all of his lies. They found the parts of him no disguise could change.”
The All For the Game trilogy has one of my favourite tropes; found family. Neil has been on the run for years, he doesn’t trust people easily or open up to them but over the course of the trilogy he becomes closer to the Foxes and manages to bridge the gap between the Upper Classmen – made up of Dan, Matt, Renee and Alison – and the Monsters – made up of Andrew, Kevin, Aaron and Nicky.
It’s the relationships between the Foxes which make up the backbone of the trilogy. The friendship between Neil and Matt, and Neil and the other Upper Classmen who want to protect him from Andrew at first but eventually see that Neil can be used to draw them all together as a team. The dynamic between Neil and Kevin which is built on a mutual love of Exy but also a fair amount of antagonism and the broken family relationship between Andrew, Aaron and Nicky.
All of the Foxes are broken in their own way; they all have very painful pasts that they’ve overcome and pulled themselves from in order to join Wymack’s Foxes. None of them are fully over their pasts though, throughout the trilogy we learn what each Fox has faced and it just made me love them all the more. Some of the trilogy was not easy to read, again see the trigger warnings I included at the beginning of this review for these books, but it was also important to see that all these characters were not defined by their pasts. That even when they struggled with them they were still able to overcome what had been done to them.
“Don’t look back, don’t slow down, and don’t trust anyone. Be anyone but himself, and never be anyone for too long.”
Neil has spent most of his life on the run. He’s very good at pretending to be someone he’s not, keeping everything about his real identity buried so deep no one can unearth it and staying ready to run at a moment’s notice. Neil knows his father will catch up with him but he can’t resist the deal Wymack offers him to join the Foxes, the deal Kevin offers him to make Neil a better player, and later the deal Andrew offers him to protect Neil.
One thing I love about Neil is how he is incapable of keeping his mouth shut. For someone determined to keep a low profile and survive by being inconspicuous Neil is very willing to go head to head with people who are determined to uncover his secrets.
“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.”
I loved seeing the relationship between Neil and Andrew develop In The Foxhole Court Andrew hates Neil because of the danger Neil represents to the people Andrew has offered his protection to, but Andrew doesn’t like unknowns and Neil is a massive one. As the trilogy continues we see Neil start to open up to Andrew, knowing he can handle to weight of Neil’s secrets, and Neil becomes determined to help Andrew heal, trying to fix his relationship with his brother and his family.
After everything that happened to both of them in the past consent is very important to both Andrew and Neil and I love how that was included in their developing relationship and these books. The trust Neil and Andrew develop in one another means they know the other will never cross over their boundaries, something like that is so important in growing relationships and I loved seeing it discussed in Neil’s and Andrew’s.
“Fight because you don’t know how to die quietly. Win because you don’t know how to lose. This king’s ruled long enough—it’s time to tear his castle down.”
All three books are a mixture of sports fiction, with the Exy matches and the championship games Neil and the Foxes play, and crime fiction, with Neil on the run from the mafia and his murderous father. The whole trilogy was so addictive and fast-paced, but sometimes the Exy matches and mafia ties fell in the background to make room for the developing relationships which is what I loved. What made these books my favourites were the character and relationship development.
The Foxhole Court
The Raven King
The King’s Men
Have you read the All For the Game trilogy, or is it still on your TBR list?
Which book was your favourite, or can you not pick just one? Did you think the way consent was handled between Neil and Andrew was well written, and excluding Neil and Andrew which was your favourite relationship in this trilogy?
Have you read Nora Sakavic’s other release, which of her books is your favourite?