The King’s Men by Nora Sakavic (All For the Game #3) / My rating: ★★★★☆
One sentence summary: The once disjointed Foxes are on a path to victory, and when Neil’s violent past begins winding its way back to him he finds he doesn’t want to run anymore.
“It’s always been ‘lie’ and ‘hide’ and ‘disappear.’ I’ve never belonged anywhere or had the right to call anything my own. But Coach gave me keys to the court, and you told me to stay. You gave me a key and called it home.”
Level: Young Adult
Plot: The plot in this book is fierce and frightening when Neil isn’t having warm, fuzzy feelings of friendship for his teammates and, particularly, for his formerly drugged and alleged sociopathic teammate Andrew, which progresses into one of the most unique romances I’ve ever read. The pacing, however, took a slight turn from the first two books. The first climax of the plot occurs about two thirds of the way through the book, and a second takes place at the end. The scenes in between these two climaxes revert to the slower pace of the first half of the book, leaving me with the impression that this book could have benefited from being two novels. Additionally, as I’ve expressed in my reviews of the last two books, I sometimes found details vague, as if I was missing key points to the plot and characters that the author understood, but I did not, which I had hoped to find more clarity on by the time I reached the end of the story. Still, I very much enjoyed this book, and while this is the longest book in the series, I read it the fastest. I simply could not put it down- except when the violence got so intense and explicit I had to avert my eyes from the words. Despite how heartwarming the story does become, these are heavy books, and are NOT for the faint of heart. Still, it was a packed plot that I very much enjoyed.
Characters: The character development throughout the three novels is my favorite aspect of this series. It’s the mark of a great story when I start out hating a character, and by the end they have my heart. With this series, this happened with everyone. (…except, still, Kevin. Kevin does have development in this last book, but I still felt he was flat, and could have been developed miles and miles more). The highlights were most definitely Neil and Andrew Minyard, individually and within their relationship. After reading Andrew, I’ve never felt so conflicted about my affection for a character, and for that I applaud Nora Sakavic. Sakavic does a remarkable job of making her characters human and likable despite their callous tendencies.
Writing: Sakavic’s writing shone more brightly to me in The King’s Men than it did in the last two novels, mainly because I think she really has a knack for writing romance and beautifying the physicality of it. Sakavic is clearly a very talented writer, but what I said for the previous two novels still stands.
Was I satisfied? I was 90% satisfied. The story was well rounded, but some things felt too passively resolved, and other things never came to fruition at all, such as Neil’s player picks for the future team. They were mentioned repeatedly throughout the book, but we never found out who they were, even though it seemed very important to Neil. Some characters were introduced with much potential, as if they would contribute something important that was yet to be revealed, but then were never seen much again (Jeremy, Jean, the Raven team as a whole, even Kevin). Andrew’s past felt vaguely described, and I never got a very firm grasp on it (Proust????), nor did I ever completely understand the nature of the promise between him and Aaron (why couldn’t they date people? What’s the point? Protection?). To sum it up, the vagueness and passivity of certain plot points was my major gripe with this book and this series. However, these books were extremely entertaining, gripped my heart with both hands, and despite their violent and dark themes, they were fun to read. Finishing these books was like finishing a 10 mile race, and only when you finish the last page can you breathe easy again.