This series is not for the feint of heart.
I went into The Foxhole Court, the first in the All For the Game series by Nora Sakavic, thinking I knew what it was about. I knew it was about a fictional sport. I knew it involved some dark themes and rough characters. I knew there was a gay relationship somewhere in there.
Turns out, I didn’t know anything.
This series is dark. It’s about a boy name Neil who is on the run from his father who is out to kill him since he and his mother ran away from him years ago. Because, you see, his father is a mobster. And he’s angry. Oh, and he’s called “The Butcher.” And that’s only the beginning. Because then there’s Kevin, who has a tattooed “2” on his cheekbone to always remind him that he’s number two; and there’s Aaron and Andrew, twins who can’t seem to stand each pother, and Andrew’s on anti-psychotics that just make manic and more psychotic. Then Nicky, Aaron and Andrew’s cousin and guardian after their mother died in an accident that might not have been an accident.
And those are only half the characters.
Through the fictional sport of Exy, Neil gets caught up in their world, and each one of them has dark secrets they’re trying to keep secret, and each one of them is wondering just what it is that Neil is hiding…. The web just gets darker and darker as the series goes on.
I mean it when I say that this series is not for the feint of heart. There are scenes that involve torture, and many more that involved violence and manipulation, and I sometimes found myself needing to take a break reading because I was getting too hyped up and too emotional. I’m not trying to scare you off– there is definitely worse out there– but I am warning you that this series is less about sport and more about navigating through a world of darkness and learning to trust the people whose histories are just as dark and broken as your own.
I was surprised by the lack of sport play-by-plays in the series, but that’s because the books really aren’t about the game: the game exists as a binder, as way for them all to meet and heal and grow, a way from Neil to learn how to trust, and a way for relationships stronger than concrete to form. It’s kind of beautiful. You know, if it weren’t for all the murder.
The inevitable love story (if you can even call it that) is by far the softest part of the series, but it never feels mushy: it’s a story of two people learning to depend on each other when they’ve never bothered to depend on anyone before. It’s about trust, and acceptance, and really– it’s about learning to love.
I loved this series. As I said on my Goodreads review, the first book felt like a being dropped on a highway and being told to run; the second was driving 100 mph on that same highway and hitting the gas; and this one is like being pushed from an airplane. There’s this moment of softness, where everything is floating and you feel okay, before the panic sets in and you land smack into the ground.
If you like gritty and messy and dark and your characters to be broken assholes who don’t know the meaning of “nice,” then you will absolutely love All For the Game. If not, you might want to pass this one by, but I’m telling you, this series is worth its pain.
5 foxes out of 5.
[First novel is The Foxhole Court, followed by The Raven King, concluding with The King’s Men]