Format: Kindle edition
Reviewed by: Judith
Genre: Contemporary NA
Plot: Neil Josten is the newest addition to the Palmetto State University Exy team. He’s short, he’s fast, he’s got a ton of potential—and he’s the runaway son of the murderous crime lord known as The Butcher.
Signing a contract with the PSU Foxes is the last thing a guy like Neil should do. The team is high profile and he doesn’t need sports crews broadcasting pictures of his face around the nation. His lies will hold up only so long under this kind of scrutiny and the truth will get him killed.
But Neil’s not the only one with secrets on the team. One of Neil’s new teammates is a friend from his old life, and Neil can’t walk away from him a second time. Neil has survived the last eight years by running. Maybe he’s finally found someone and something worth fighting for.
Review: Newsflash: I’ve been in a bit of a slump. A book slump! Hard to believe but very real nonetheless. Nothing was catching my fancy, even those Amazon recommendations I rely on so heavily to get me my next read (aka fix). And yet, a very simple cover hidden deep on page 8 of those recommendations caught my eye recently. It was one I’d never heard of. “The Foxhole Court? What’s that about?” I wondered. “A free book with a great star rating? Huh. What have I got to lose?” So I started it three days ago and was hooked from the start. All I gotta say is, this book is stellar.
Set in a modern day USA where the sport everyone cares about is the fictional Exy, we meet Neil. A kid on the run with no family, no friends, and no future. The only thing Neil enjoys is playing Exy but he knows better than to be anything more than mediocre so that his mafia father won’t be able to track him down and kill him for leaving the dubious underworld he runs. Enter Coach Wymack and former Exy star, Kevin Day. They see great potential in Neil and all he has to do to get a free ride to college is join with the worst team in the NCAA Division 1 Exy league. Help the Palmetto State Foxes do well and Neil will have a shot at a future in professional Exy at the end of his college career. Neil’s first thought is to run. It’s what he’s always done and what he’s best at. But some deeply buried part of him wants to shine and have a place to fit in. Against his own better judgment, Neil agrees. When he finally meets the rest of the team, he realizes he’s not the only one who comes from a horrible background with tons of emotional baggage. He also realizes it’s going to take a lot to make their rag tag team champions. This bad situation is made even worse by the addition of another NCAA Division 1 team with connections to the Japanese mafia and their obsessive #1 player named Riko who hates the Foxes enough to kill.
It’s no secret as I’ve been hounding Ellen and Onni about this for days: I loved this book. The writing is solid and just good, not spectacular as it lacks a certain lyricism that makes words and sentences themselves stick with you but it is still well written with a storyline that resonates. The Foxhole Court is gritty and hard. The terse words act in perfect counterpoint to the twists and turns that the plot takes. As you read, you’ll find yourself wondering what you’re missing, as if you’re only getting half the story as the characters’ lives slowly unfold. But that’s the beauty! You learn and grow with Neil and his teammates at the same time. It’s natural for friendships to take time, for people to keep the important bits to themselves to parse out as they see fit. This book reads like that and it is so worth the wait as you really learn to appreciate these characters. I read another review that called this a slow burn book. That’s totally spot on. The buildup of everything – characters’ backstories, the Foxes skill set, the interpersonal relationships – is slow and hard to read for its realism but oh so worth it when you’re finally part of their inner circle.
This is the story of a team learning to trust each other and also learning to let go of the past no matter how tragic. It’s not a romance, or a paranormal, or even a book about people rising above the bad. It’s about real people trying to form something cohesive out of a whole lot of crap. Read this book. It’s honestly one of the best I’ve read all year.
Final score: 10/10
Based on the following criteria:
How much did I like the hero: 10. Neil is an anti-hero. A kid on the run looking for nothing better than mediocrity who is thrust into the limelight. He hates the world and hates who he’s forced to become in order to evade a bloodthirsty father. He’s got a ton of emotional baggage and a whole body of ugly scars as a remembrance of his life before he joined Palmetto State. All he wants is a place to fit in and when he gets a whole team of equally rough and tumble Exy players, he just can’t let go of the pain and anger of his past. It’s fascinating to watch him grow.
How much did I like the love interest: N/A. There isn’t one! Sweet! It’s been a long time since romance has not figured into a NA book.
How believable is the plot: 10. This is set in a world where football isn’t the main American sport so we gotta believe a bit outside of our comfort zone but other than that this is an extremely believable book about growing up, fitting in, and learning to let others in.
How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 10. Spartan and terse, the writing is perfect here. No particular passages stick in my memory but it is so solid that the story itself remains with you long after.
How much did I want to keep reading: 10. Omg! Get me that second book now! What do you mean book three isn’t out yet?! WHAT?! I gotta wait til December for the end? (&*#(&&$&!
Final Score: 10/10. I can’t praise this one highly enough. Great story, solid writing, and two more books to learn all about the Palmetto Foxes and their lives. Plus if you’re a sucker for romance, a little birdy (i.e. Nora Sakavic’s blog, Courting Madness, claims that Neil will find himself someone to love in the soon to release Book 3)