The Foxhole Court (All for the Game #1), Nora Sakavic
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: New Adult, Psychological, Sports
Length: 230 pages
WARNING: The Foxhole Court contains a series of dark themes including, but not limited to, abuse, murder, drug use and bullying. If these themes are likely to offend you, or are not to your reading taste, please do not read this review, and take it into consideration before reading this book.
“He didn’t want the nicotine; he wanted the acrid smoke that reminded him of his mother.”
The Foxhole Court is an odd book. A very, very, very, VERY odd book. I originally found this through an Amazon recommendation, and since it was free on their site, I thought I’d give it a go. All in all it is a very hard book to define; there’s action, drama, abuse, bullying, some M/M themes and, to top it all off, a very violent sport in Exy. The world in which it is set is very dark, with organised crime being very well known, at least to those examined in this story.
Neil (not his real name) has been running from his father for the last 8 years; he’s been through several aliases, and is proficient in multiple languages, having spent a long time in Europe. Up until a year ago he at least had his mother to help him along the way. She died after an encounter with Neil’s father, the ‘Baltimore Butcher’, on the west coast. Neil fled to a small, unnoticeable town in Arizona, and spent the last year completing high school, playing Exy for the first time since he’d run away.
Despite trying to keep a low profile Neil is spotted by NCAA college Palmetto State (South Carolina), nicknamed ‘The Foxes’, who have formed an Exy team full of rejects and misfits. Neil is very hesitant to sign; he only expected to be using his current identity until he finished high school. But by and far the bigger problem in the grand scheme of things comes in the form of Kevin.
Kevin was one of the star players for the leading school in NCAA Exy, Edgar Allen, until the previous December when he broke his hand. Devastated and told that his playing career was over, Kevin joined the Foxes as an assistant coach. Kevin was the one who spotted a video of Neil playing, and knew he HAD to sign him. Kevin also happens to be a connection to Neil’s past, having played and taught Exy with Neil when he was 10 years old; Kevin was also present during the incident which triggered Neil and his mother leaving. A change in appearance, the time since the incident and the horrifying nature of it seems to protect Neil’s true identity.
Finally Neil is convinced, or coerced, by Kevin, Coach Wymack and Andrew, the team’s psychotic goalkeeper. Neil joins Palmetto and spends the summer preparing, relearning his love of Exy and being confronted by the scars from both his and Kevin’s past. All the while Andrew does not trust Neil, and seems bent on his destruction.
Scored a Goal (A.K.A. What I Liked)
Exy is a sport, if you hadn’t gathered already, and has been developed by the author of this book. Long story short Exy is a bastardised version of lacrosse; it has the same field dimensions as field lacrosse, six players on the field per team, played on hard court, primarily (in this book) indoor, in a sealed arena and, importantly, with the level of violence seen in Ice Hockey.
After reading The Foxhole Court you could be forgiven for thinking that Exy is a real sport, and by tracing the author’s blog (links in the book) you can see how this game developed and received a much more detailed history of it’s fictional creation. This is not necessary however, and Exy is sufficiently explained in the book to make it believable and enjoyable for the reader. If you do want to know more about Exy, though, I implore you to visit the author’s blog.
By reading the play by play actions included in the sport scenes you can see how finely tuned the author is with her invented sport. As important as history in the fantasy genre, sports writing has to stay true to the rules, morals and history of their respective sports, and the Foxhole Court is a fine example of this.
As a protagonist Neil is incredibly interesting, mostly because, for me at least, he is by far the most mysterious one I have encountered lately. I don’t know Neil’s real name; nor do I even know what his name was a year ago. Neil does not trust anyone in this world of his and, given the level of abuse he has been through, it is no surprise. In one particular scene – where he removes his shirt – the reader learns of the extent of his injuries (physical one’s at least), and suddenly you will realise why he has such a difficult time trusting.
His lack of trust permeates through every word he utters, as well as internal dialogue (hence why we don’t know his real name), and you can see how skilled he has become in keeping his past a secret. This story brings Neil closer to his past than ever before, and paranoia seeps in which, like the trust issues, is communicated through him brilliantly.
Like the book itself Andrew is odd, odd in a psychopathic way; seriously, the only character from fiction I can even remotely compare him to is The Joker of Batman fame. Luckily for all around him, Andrew isn’t that inherently evil and deranged.
But seriously he is diagnosed as psychotic, especially when he’s off the drugs he is legally mandated to have. Everyone is afraid of the guy, except Coach Wymack and Kevin. Neil is initially afraid of him but later becomes curious about his behaviour towards certain people in his life, where he becomes psychotically protective.
Like Neil, Andrew was one of the most interesting characters in this book and kept me interested to the end. Again, like Neil, he is incredibly mysterious with his history and true intentions towards Kevin, Neil and the rest of the world.
Depth of Information
Reading The Foxhole Court you may feel like you are having an information overload. Once your brain adjusts to the tempo of this book, though, you see just how much information is flowing into every nook and cranny of your head. The author’s writing style is fast-paced, and this aspect was, in my opinion, highly enjoyable.
I didn’t feel like putting this book down for a break because it was so highly engrossing, yet so mentally challenging at the same time. This is a writing style that I rate very highly, and I sincerely thank the author for writing something so exciting.
For a self-published piece of work this book is beautifully edited. It was a privilege to read something so meticulously edited by it’s author.
It’s a Mad World (A.K.A. Turn Offs)
The Foxhole Court skirts the line when it comes to bullying, and sometimes it felt to me that it went slightly too far. For someone with the level of trust issues Neil has this can be a truly excruciating experience, especially when it was with a group of people he thought he could remotely trust. The key instigator is, of course, Andrew, who at multiple points crosses the line into what could almost be considered torture, so as get information about Neil’s past.
Despite the dark themes of the book I felt these incidents crossed the line into cruel and unusual punishment. This was almost the only thing I didn’t enjoy about this book, and the sole reason why it did not receive a 5 star rating.
I’ll start my conclusion with yet another warning; if you are looking for a story with a happy ending, then this is not the book for you. If you are looking for a book where it seems there is a glimmer of hope, then this is not the book for you. The Foxhole Court is a very dark tale, filled with violence, scars from the past and facing an enemy you know you can never defeat. This book is full of action and drama, and I would recommend it to all readers who enjoy dark New Adult fiction.
“Welcome home, Neil.”
Look out for Josh’s review of The Raven King, the sequel to The Foxhole Court. It should be published in the next week or two. For fans of the series the third book in the All for the Game saga, King’s Men currently has an ETA of January.