All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Raven King by Nora Sakavic

on November 25, 2019

The Raven King (All For The Game #2)
Nora Sakavic
2013, 423p
Purchased personal copy via iBooks

Blurb {from}:

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.

I said in my review of the first book in this series, The Foxhole Court that I wanted some answers. So I thought I’d read this one and see how that went. Look, I got some answers. But I think overall I just got more questions?

This picks up just after the end of the first book. The Foxes are in turmoil after the death of a teammate. For a lot of them, he wasn’t particularly well liked, but he was still a part of the team. Now they are at the minimum number of players to be considered a legal team in their division so everyone needs to be on their guard. The Ravens game is coming and they’re going to get slaughtered but they have to try anyway. It’s time to rally the troops, to really start to actually begin playing as a team, not as a bunch of people who play the same game who just happen to be on the court at the same time. And that’s where Neil comes in.

Because Neil is the specialest snowflake that ever snowflaked. He straddles the team divide – he’s “family” now with Andrew, Aaron, Nicky and Kevin. And he’s also getting close to Matt and Dan. He can’t look Allison in the eye and Renee makes him uncomfortable but he’s the only one that might be able to get Andrew’s crew to play nice with Dan’s crew. It starts off small but suddenly the team is having dinner together, standing in solidarity at sporting events and even going to Halloween parties together. For Neil, he’s also the one that people come to whenever they want Andrew to do something. Because apparently that is his magic quality too.

A whole bunch of weirdness happens in this. There’s a dinner for all the teams in their division where they’re seated with the Ravens, because of course they are. Riko, who is the cartooniest villain I have ever seen immediately drops that he knows who Neil is really but doesn’t really say how he knows. Even Kevin didn’t know. However the fallout of people knowing who Neil is is pretty much well, nothing. No one cares. I can only assume his father knows where he is but maybe not. There’s also a bunch of stuff about why Neil’s mother took him on the run and how he nearly ended up a Raven. Which brings me to the hive mind that is the Ravens. They are so weird. They live underground beneath their stadium instead of in the dorm they keep “for appearances” because could they resemble ants any more? They dress in black. Everything in their hive is black – walls, sheets, clothes, gear, everything. I know this because Riko demands Neil go there for three weeks over Christmas because he unveils the shock thing of this book was actually orchestrated by the Ravens and if Neil doesn’t comply someone else will end up dead. And Neil goes. I just….like….at this point of the book I was like why is anything even happening? Clearly Riko could murder anyone whenever he damn well chooses (or whenever the Master chooses, whatever) and why are they playing these games? Just kill the person and be done with it. The Foxes wouldn’t be a legal team anymore and that’d be that. There’s no actual reason for why what happens, happens. Instead Neil goes like the complete dumbass he is and we get a brief taste of the violence he’s going to experience for the next three weeks, then a fade to black, then he’s in the airport after they just….let him go. And he goes home, well back to the Foxhole with a lotta bruises and some sweet, fresh new ink.

I feel as though I’m in an unhealthy relationship with this trilogy. I still want to know more answers. Is Riko going to get what he deserves, the arrogant little shit? Is Jean as bad as he seems or is he just a dude trying to make the most of what has to be an undoubtedly awful situation? Why do people even sign with this team? Surely someone who has graduated and gone pro is basically like yeah, we all lived underground in a cave, all wore the same, it’s weird. Don’t do it! Maybe they don’t because the Japanese Mafia will kill them. Who knows? But you’d think something would’ve leaked about how hella weird that whole Raven set up is.

I don’t even know what to say about the whole mess the Ravens Mafia connections orchestrated that is Andrew’s story in this book. Andrew’s medication continues to completely baffle me – the dude who punches someone just for politely shaking him awake, is completely brutalised in this and he just laughs maniacally while it happens. There’s some power play bully/victim mentality here and this is perhaps the only person who can hurt Andrew because he’s done it so many times before but that isn’t really made clear. And Andrew immediately vacates the book after it happens so we don’t actually get to hear his side of what happened and how it happened and why he is how he is. The reader is given crumbs and is supposed to make bread out of them. But the dude who almost beat four guys to death and who the whole series has been building up is invincible is torn down in this, perhaps as a catalyst to get him off the meds, perhaps as a way to show how truly horrific his childhood must have been in places. It’s clear that Andrew has suffered for a long time and he was still willing to be adopted into the family that was abusing him. The end game is Andrew, so I guess the author had to start humanising him at some point because up until now, he’s just come off as clinically insane and incapable of any feeling whatsoever other than his “medication induced mania” which I don’t think is how medication is supposed to work.

The book ends with Neil a beaten and bloody mess, being cleaned up by a man who has to be the most unlikely college sports coach ever, Coach Wymack, father of illegitimate children, saviour of the children who are disadvantaged but can play this game to the very elite of levels. Wymack breaks the law in regards to Andrew’s court-ordered medication, turns a blind eye to his athletes drinking (a lot of them are underage, this is America and the drinking age is 21, at least four or five of them are still teenagers or 20) and taking drugs and just generally seems incompetent at keeping them together or getting them to do anything really. You can’t deny he cares but oy, he does not seem at all good at his job. Also are there anti-doping authorities in Exy? They’re out all the time taking these cracker things (I don’t even know what they are, I’m not a drug person, they could be made up like the actual game of Exy for all I know) and the NCAA bands “cannabinoids”, stimulants including cocaine, methamphetamine, ephedrine and narcotics such as fentanyl, morphine, methadone, oxycodone and pethidine. I know, this isn’t a real sport but I’m assuming it operates like real sports do with all the rules and regulatory bodies. But what are rules in books like these? There are no such thing. Nothing makes sense.

And yet. I am in this for the long haul, so hit me with book #3 and give me the answers I seek.


Book #195 of 2019


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