The Raven King by Nora Sakavic (All For the Game #2) / My rating: ★★★★☆
One sentence summary: Neil Josten is learning not to run from his past, continues to get closer to his teammates, and makes a dangerous deal to protect one of them.
“Your parents are dead, you are not fine, and nothing is going to be okay. This is not news to you. But from now until May you are still Neil Josten and I am still the man who said he would keep you alive.”
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary/Sports
Plot: The second book of this series flows smoothly from the first book, The Foxhole Court. Except for the reintroduction of characters and interludes reminding us what had happened in the first book, it wouldn’t have been entirely out of the question for these two novels to have been just one. However, each book ends with a definitive change in Neil’s relationship with his team, particularly his teammate Andrew, which marks Neil’s progression in feeling less and less like he wants to continue running from his past. The pacing of this book is consistent and keeps you reading onward, much like the first book. The plot thickens and becomes even more interesting, exciting, and dangerous. The pasts of characters begin to come to light, exy matches are more intense and imperative, and the violence steps it up a notch- a big notch. Again, these books are not for the faint of heart. That does, however, mean it is very much a page-turner.
Characters: While reading the first book, I couldn’t say that any of the characters had won my heart, though Neil did tug at it. My favorite aspect of The Raven King was that it dove deeper into the lives of Neil’s teammates. We learn their pasts, why they are they way they are and why they do the things they do, and while this doesn’t necessarily soften some of the harder characters, it provides a level of understanding. As Neil begins to reluctantly become attached to them, to care for them, so did I. I found myself favoring the lethal, cold-blooded 5-foot tall Minyard twins, Aaron and Andrew, something I would not have imagined happening while I read the first book. Slowly, as Neil comes to care for his teammates, the more we see the team beginning to pull together, and they all began to tug at my heart. That is, except the infamous Kevin Day, who cares for nothing except exy and who didn’t stir me no matter how pitiful he might have been at times (or because of how pitiful he was). I still think greater things could have been achieved with his character. Neil, however he may have tugged at my heart in the first book, won it – and perhaps destroyed it by the end.
Writing: Because The Raven King and The Foxhole Court connect so smoothly, there isn’t much that differs in the writing of them. Sakavik writes well, but everything I said about it in my review of The Foxhole Court still stands.
Was I satisfied? I was satisfied in the just the right way a second book in a trilogy should satisfy. I felt more connected with the characters, more entrenched in the plot, and eager (and a bit terrified) to see how it would all come to a head in the final book. Any dissatisfaction came from the vague spots in the writing and storytelling, much like the first book left me feeling.