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REVIEW: The Foxhole Court (All for the Game – book...

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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.

Dear Nora Sakavic,

I bought (that is, I downloaded since the book is free on Amazon) your book several months ago on the strength of a great review by someone whose tastes are quite close to mine. However, the book has been sitting in my TBR mountain until recently, when a friend whose tastes coincide with mine about 95 percent of the time highly recommended it. Of course whatever she recommends I have to read.

I loved your voice very much. I have not read a book for a while where I simply fell in love with the raw energy of the writing; it almost literally swept me away. This is also a most unusual book – which is both a good and a bad thing as far as I am concerned. First and foremost this is not a romance or a love story – *at all*. I have heard that the writer has promised some romance in the last book of the trilogy, but I have not read that comment myself, so I cannot guarantee anything. Right now this is a book about a teenager on the run who loves a particular sports game and who gets drafted to play for the most unusual University team in this most unusual game. When we learn that Neil is running from his father who is a mafia Boss (Don, whatever you want to call him), I understood that this book would have a lot of violence. After I read it I think that while the book is bursting with hints of future violence and we learn about some past violent things which took place in the narrator’s (and some of his teammates’) pasts, there is no graphic violence happening in this book. The interactions between Foxes definitely had violent undercurrents, but for me it did not go over a line that would disturb me. I have heard that the second book “Ravens king,” which is already out, does have a lot of on-page violence though.

What I loved the most in this book are the characters. Neil is someone who lived through the violence his father unleashed on him and people around him, so his everyday concern is to survive, run, and never stop in order to survive. Neil is not your typical angsty teenager. He is sarcastic and angry with good reason, but in fact while I can definitely call him a tortured character, there is very little angst in this book. There is a lot of anger, but not angst.

“He glanced up at the sky, but the stars were washed out behind the glare of the stadium lights. He wondered – not for the first time – if his mother was looking down at him. He hoped not. She’d beat him to hell and back if she saw him sitting around moping like that”.

The only problem is Neil still loves one thing in his life – Exy. Exy is a fictional game that is very popular in this world and to be honest, because it is taking place in a world equivalent to ours I could not fully accept it as fictional. The author’s brief explanation of Exy as a mixture of several games known to us also did not help me to see this game as something completely abstract, which was both a good and a bad thing.

“Exy was a bastard sport, an evolved sort of lacrosse on a soccer-sized court with the violence of ice hockey, and Neil loved every part of it from its speed to its aggression. It was the one piece of his childhood he’d never been able to give up”.

Neil lets himself be convinced to sign up with the Foxes and play for a while until his past catches up with him. The problem is that this happens faster than he expected. One of his teammates was somebody Neil knew from his violent past and he appears to have so many issues on his plate that he just does not recognize Neil from several years ago. The Foxes turned out to be a strange team – their coach basically formed a team of second chances, team of misfits, who almost all of them had different kind of problems.

A lot of this book is devoted to this sport and how much these men and few women love Exy (almost all of them anyway), but also the violent dispositions of many characters bring very interesting tensions in their everyday communications even when they were not on the training field.

Remember when I said that it was a good and bad thing that Exy felt to me just as another game from our world – it has college tournament, it has governing body, etc? Well, one of Foxes has to take antipsychotic medications on the regular basis as a part of the plea bargain he struck after doing something bad. He is allowed to play by Exy’s governing body and I could not completely suspend disbelief about that. I also could not completely suspend disbelief about a coach striking a private agreement with this boy and allowing him to get off his medications when he is playing. It kind of felt too real world for me and meds making him feel worse than he felt without them? He was described as feeling high while *on the medications* and experiencing the symptoms of withdrawal without them. What? Change the medication people.

Neil’s conflict between wanting to run and wanting to stay is one of the main themes in the book, along with his process of building some kind of communication with his teammates. The guys were all very interesting; especially Andrew and Kevin, and I can safely call these two tortured characters as well. I was also trying to guess who will be romantic couple in the book (if any), but I keep going back and forth between several possibilities.

There are couple other things I was really having trouble suspending disbelief about when I was reading this book (I did not get it for review initially so I read several other reviews and there is a review on Goodreads which is called “A Book of No” by Julio, which described those issues really well), but the sheer drive of the story and characters made me enjoy it despite that.

The ending was not an ending of a separate book and I heard it is worse in the book two. Apparently it feels more like one novel split in three parts rather than a trilogy. I am not starting book two till book three is out.

Grade C+/B-.

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Sirius

Sirius started reading books when she was four and reading and discussing books is still her favorite hobby. One of her very favorite gay romances is Tamara Allen’s Whistling in the Dark. In fact, she loves every book written by Tamara Allen. Amongst her other favorite romance writers are Ginn Hale, Nicole Kimberling, Josephine Myles, Taylor V. Donovan and many others. Sirius’ other favorite genres are scifi, mystery and Russian classics. Sirius also loves travelling, watching movies and long slow walks.

15 Comments

  1. Cat
    May 03, 2014 @ 18:48:48

    Is this, “She’d beat him to hell and back if she saw him sitting around mopping like that,” an actual quote from the book? Because I’ve never known any mother who would be upset at her son for cleaning the house.

  2. Sirius
    May 03, 2014 @ 18:53:38

    @Cat: Sorry, confused.

    Here is the quote I quoted:

    “He glanced up at the sky, but the stars were washed out behind the glare of the stadium lights. He wondered – not for the first time – if his mother was looking down at him. He hoped not. She’d beat him to hell and back if she saw him sitting around mopping like that”.

    I do apologize in advance if I am wrong, because I am ESL, but I do not see a reference to cleaning the house anywhere? I thought “mopping around” In this context means that she would beat him for being sorry for himself?

  3. cleo
    May 03, 2014 @ 20:57:46

    Ah. I think it’s a typo. I think it’s supposed to be moping, not mopping.

    Mopping = cleaning the floor with a mop.
    Moping = being sad and dejected.

  4. Sirius
    May 03, 2014 @ 21:29:25

    Aha, Cleo thanks so much for unconfusing me :).

  5. Mzcue
    May 03, 2014 @ 22:30:21

    I’m left wondering what an Exy team is. I tried a search on it, but Bing decided that I really meant “SExy” team, so all I got was a bunch of porn. Hmmm.

  6. Cat
    May 04, 2014 @ 07:05:46

    My apologies to all. I was attempting humor and failed. Spectacularly.

  7. Sirius
    May 04, 2014 @ 11:16:18

    Cat no, it was completely my mistake :(.

  8. Elizabeth
    May 04, 2014 @ 14:57:02

    I’m still wondering whether the typo was Sirius’ or the author’s — it matters because I can’t enjoy a story filled with mechanical mistakes.

    I’m also left wondering why the author made up a fictional sport, if everything else in the book is realistic. My first guess would be that it’s an excuse for over-the-top situations (things not allowed by normal rules of engagement, like the medication issue) and over-the-top tension/conflict/violence during games. And then I want to know, why does it HAVE to be excessive?

    The story of a runaway deciding to stand his ground appeals to me, but the egregious violence does not.

  9. Sirius
    May 04, 2014 @ 17:22:45

    Hi Elisabeth typo is mine. I see it did not save the change yesterday – will correct it later today. As to your other questions I have no idea although I can speculate that she did it because it fits the story she wanted to tell? Whatever violence was in the story IMO was not gratuitous. Now I did have my hesitations about fictional sport and issues which I had because of it. I do think that the reality of everything else did not quite jibe with the fictional sport. If this sport was played in a made up world maybe I would not have that many real world thoughts it invoked in my mind.

  10. Sirius
    May 04, 2014 @ 18:47:43

    @Elizabeth: Sorry I thought I posted this earlier but the system determined I am a spammer lol. Anyway, typo is mine, I tried to change it yesterday apparently did not save, will try again later.

    As to your other questions, I can only speculate but my guess is she did it to fit the story she wanted to tell? I mean, this book is definitely not for everybody, but I did not feel that whatever violence was there was gratuitous. That’s just my opinion of course.

    As I stated in the review though, I definitely had issues with Exy being a fictional sport taking place in what felt as our real world and having all the real world undertones, that is why some things which took place felt kind of crazy to me. I definitely think that if it took place in completely made up world, some eye roll from me could have been avoided. I still really loved writing and the characters though.

    But as I was told, second book ups the violence and melodrama and since the friend who told me that usually is a pretty reliable barometer of whether I will like it or not, till I see book three is out and till I read the ending, I am not touching book two.

    Mzcue that was funny thanks for sharing :-).

  11. Joy
    May 05, 2014 @ 09:34:18

    This book has some significant similarities to Harry Potter when you think about it. I don’t know if it’s fanfic cleaned up or not. It certainly has its weirdnesses and differences as well.

  12. Sirius
    May 05, 2014 @ 10:04:32

    Joy, I honestly did not notice and Harry Potter was something I discussed backward and forward for years and and years. So while I respect that you saw similarities, I am not sure if they were obvious. Although I have not read book two so maybe it will get stronger there. Now that I am thinking about it, okay I can see boy getting away from his violent relatives to the world which seems amazing to him initially but then it gets scarier and scarier as time passed? But that is so general and can be applicable to so many books that I am not sure even that counts for me. And actually as much as Neil wants and loves the game I did not feel he was that fascinated by the college world from the very beginning . IMO of course. Having said all that I have no idea if it was a recycled fanfiction or not. I hope not because if it was I am certainly not interested in reviewing book two :(.

  13. Joy
    May 05, 2014 @ 12:07:14

    He is just a hidden princeling with hidden potential who lives in the locker room under the stairs and then goes to live at school and play a fictional sport, there is a big there is a bit more in the 2nd book but I won’t spoiler it for you. I have no idea whether it was intentional or the author is just playing with the same themes.

  14. Sunita
    May 05, 2014 @ 12:58:00

    @Joy: I found this interview with the author, where she says she’s been working on the story for over a decade. It doesn’t sound as if it started as fanfic, although the parallels with HP are certainly there. She describes it starting “as a wannabe boys-love manga on notebook paper.”

  15. Sirius
    May 05, 2014 @ 14:23:07

    @Joy: Thanks :). Hopefully he won’t become Chosen one from the Prophecy later on in the books :).

    Sunita, thanks for finding that interview.

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