Publish Date: March 31st, 2016
Number of Pages: 328 Pages
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing
Genre(s): New Adult
***Warning!! This review contains spoilers from the previous book in the trilogy! Continue reading at your own risk, you’ve officially been warned!!***
To see my review of book #1 – The Foxhole Court – Click HERE!
To see my Fancast/Dreamcast for the trilogy – click HERE!
Total Star Rating: 2.5 Stars
He was their family. They were his. They were worth every cut and bruise and scream.”— Nora Sakavic, “The Raven King”
I wish so much that I loved this sequel like so many other fans do, and maybe this is just another case of the (self diagnosed) ADD I’ve formed during the stay at home with COVID since mid-March that’s made even enjoying a book a major chore because my anxiety and depression have made motivation almost nonexistent for mostly everything but mindlessly binge-watching Netflix and/or Hulu, but I couldn’t get into this book I’m afraid to say!
It wasn’t a completely negative experience at least; I can say I did notice quite a bit in this book that many others can appreciate: The author’s writing has improved quite a bit, and leaves you feeling much more emotionally involved with the characters because let me tell you… the characters are the saviors of these books! The plot moves slow, excessively slow in my opinion, but what really drives the story and gives it so much life are the characters and witnessing them slowly but surely becoming closer to each other, Neil Josten being a catalyst to make it happen. I’m a total sucker for those “found family” stories, especially the ones with a group of outcasts that all come from tragic backgrounds, believe they’ll never have anyone else care one bit about them, but then they form a family with others just like them and show vulnerability because they finally feel safe enough to reveal that side of them!
Literally, give me any works of fiction like that and I am HERE for it!
I can also appreciate the heavier, trigger heavy material that these books have to offer because lately it just feels like a lot of the mainstream literature is what I deem too “safe,” and the fact that these books have material like assault, rape, drugs and alcohol, violence, torture, etc. makes it feel surprisingly achingly real, but also mixed with some over-the-top vibes that remind me somewhat of the ridiculousness that the CW’s Riverdale tv show has become lately. With recent events in my home state of Minnesota and even all over the United States, I do have to point out that this may be my privilege talking because I haven’t experienced any of these traumatic situations in my life, so I know I need to watch how I scoff at people who take the trigger warnings in books more seriously. If anything, it’s shown me the importance of compassion and trying to look through the eyes of someone else and make sure they’re validated too.
I just have to say that the first large chunk of the book was just so BORING for me! I actually almost DNF’d this book because it was so hard to get through and I felt such little interest. I admit I kind of had similar feelings to the first book, but it felt like everything was even more elevated, but unfortunately that also was apparent with my lack of interest in the slower moments. The main highlight was learning more about the past of a lot of the characters, and it makes you really start to understand their methods, actions, and just the way they are in general. Andrew certainly has a traumatic past, to put it mildly!
What It’s About:
The Official Blurb:
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.
They never pried, but it took him weeks to realize they didn’t have to. They didn’t ask for secrets; they settled for the breadcrumb truths of day to day life. They knew he hated vegetables but loved fruit, that his favorite color was gray, and that he didn’t like movies or loud music. They were things Neil understood only in terms of survival, but his teammates hoarded these insights like gold. They were piecing Neil together and building a real person around all of his lies. They found the parts of him no disguise could change.”— Nora Sakavic, “The Raven King”
What I Liked:
- The Found Family Aesthetic! Like I said it before, I’m a huge slut for these kinds of stories! About to go all psychologist right now, but part of me feels like I’m really drawn to these stories because growing up, I never felt like I fit in anywhere, and that I was a huge outcast. I wasn’t necessarily bullied or a social pariah, but I wasn’t homecoming court material either… I was just there, you know? Having that experience, I really empathize with characters that have so much inner self doubt and have convinced themselves that no one will appreciate them, no one will care, and then barely hold it together when they do eventually find that family they’ve always secretly wanted! When Neil froze in pure shock at Nicky calling him a friend…. Man, did I feel that right in my heart!
- The “Raw” and “Heavy” Subject Matter! Maybe it’s not all handled the right way, and I did say this in the previous review too, but I still say I appreciate the darker themes and actions these books have shown. Imagine if shows like Riverdale and Elite were rated R, and that’s pretty much the same vibes as the All for the Game trilogy!
- More Character Development! The Foxhole Court was all about simply meeting the characters, so it was nice to see some major character development and motive reveals in The Raven King. I think some of it could’ve been revealed in a more interesting way, but it sure makes for you to maybe understand the characters a little more. You may still not like them a whole lot, but at least understand them a little better. Andrew was a great example of this. You really learn a lot about his tragic past, and you could even say to yourself: “You know, I’d probably go psychotic too if all that happened to me!”
What I Didn’t Like:
- The First 60% is BORING…I just couldn’t get into it! I mean, sure it was nice that more background info was revealed about the characters, but it was mostly by having someone other than the actual characters themselves talk about it and sit down with Neil to do so. For me, it felt repetitive at a certain point, and I couldn’t help but feel like this book really dragged.
- Andrew & His Drugs…I still don’t entirely follow this whole aspect of the story, and am pretty sure there’s nothing logical behind it other than maybe some plot convenience. Also, I kind of got the impression that Andrew’s “condition” was being manipulated, and that he was being used by Coach Wymack and the rest of the team purely for them to win games by taking advantage of his situation… Maybe I’m wrong, but it felt a little slimy to me, like they weren’t really allowing him to fully recover properly.
- Still No Romance…Where is the romance that everyone says is so amazing in these books? Besides so very incredibly small little interactions with Andrew and Neil that could go honestly be interpreted either way, there’s still no romance to get my heart racing, or even hardly enough to still consider it a slow burn… It seems like any of it is all going to be crammed into the next book because I don’t have any proof to make me believe there’s any attraction on Neils end. Andrew does touch him every now and then, but it feels more predatory than romantic. I’m really curious to see how this plays out in the next book.
Overall, the ending really once again saved the book for me, much like the first book, and while I was disappointed—I was feeling some major sophomore book slump with this one—I am curious enough to see what happens in the next and final book of this whole story, but I’m not exactly racing to grab it right away.
The writing was a lot better, you learn so much more about the characters, and the emotional investment will become a huge factor in whether you love or hate this title (or trilogy as a whole), but I just wish it didn’t take until the last chunk to get there like it did for me. Like I said, maybe it’s the fact that with the pandemic and staying home, but I can’t ignore that I was really bored, and considered adding it to my DNF pile.
I’m also still irked that there’s still hardly any romance by this point because that was a major factor to make me want to explore these books in the first place, but knowing it’s there and how I know I’ll get it in The King’s Men can make me want to continue.
Trigger warning: Sexual assault, drugs and alcohol, violence, torture, stabbing, death, bloodshed
Thanks for Reading!
— Nick Goodsell