Saturday, March 24, 2018

The King's Men by Nora Sakavic | I Don't Want to Say Goodbye!

The King's Men by Nora Sakavic
First Published: 2014
New Adult, Contemporary
Neil Josten is out of time. He knew when he came to PSU he wouldn't survive the year, but with his death right around the corner he's got more reasons than ever to live.

Befriending the Foxes was inadvisable. Kissing one is unthinkable. Neil should know better than to get involved with anyone this close to the end, but Andrew's never been the easiest person to walk away from. If they both say it doesn't mean anything, maybe Neil won't regret losing it, but the one person Neil can't lie to is himself.

He's got promises to keep and a team to get to championships if he can just outrun Riko a little longer, but Riko's not the only monster in Neil's life. The truth might get them all killed—or be Neil's one shot at getting out of this alive.
What? It's... it's over? It can't be over! What am I supposed to do with my life now?? How am I supposed to continue living, and pushing air into my lungs, and just generally existing now that this series is over???

The struggle is a bit too real for comfort, tbh.
There's no room for doubt, no room for second guesses, no room for error. This is your night. This is your game. This is your moment. Seize it with everything you've got. Pull out all the stops and lay it all on the line. Fight because you don't know how to die quietly. Win because you don't know how to lose. This king's ruled long enough—it's time to tear his castle down.
So... before I get into this--and I WILL get into this--there are spoilers for SHIPS and END GAMES in this review. Pfff. By this time you know I ain't gonna be able to properly review this anyways. But... yeah, spoilers. I low key don't even want you to read my review before you read the book because I'm gonna talk freely and I kind of want you to experience everything for yourself.

Neil had been doing one stupid thing after another all year long and this had turned into the best year of his life.
Like, The King's Men doesn't lack for brutality. But unlike the second book where the darkness gets all-consuming, this time there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are people to lean on and trust, there are characters growing and evolving. There is strength and love to carry everything on. Overwhelming love. Most of it familial and friendly, but some of it... some of it entirely romantic. And that final one, especially, makes everything so fucking worth it.

This is literally an otp to top all otps. This otp is standing right now at the top of my otp list. It will probably stay there for a very, very long time. It's not perfect. It's not always healthy. It's a little bit violent and somewhat unexpected, and it swallows you whole with how right it is. With how it makes two broken people... a little less broken. A lot happier. How the simple understanding between them makes everything better; all the pain and the suffering and the hurt.

The first time I read the All for the Game series I started suspecting where this may be going on book two. I held my breath, and let a small "it can't be" because as much as it suddenly hit me that I needed that development to happen, I wasn't sure it would go there. I wanted these two people to find each other. I wanted it with a ferocity that rocked me to my core. And it would have been too heartbreaking if it didn't happen.
He withdrew completely, leaving just the memory of his heartbeat against Neil's mouth, and spun away.
Neil didn't show much interest up to that point, too busy surviving and compartmentalizing. Almost nothing before it suggested it might be possible. That's what I thought, at least, too absorbed by the first reading to see all the signs. By my second read of the series, I realized how inevitable it has always been, from the very very first book, how right, with such sentences as this;
He touched Neil's back on his way by, fingers light enough to give Neil goose bumps
 Cue the incessant squealing and delight.

Andrew Minyard and Neil Josten are absolutely perfect together. They are entirely broken individuals who are fractured beyond repair, but their unique damages somehow make each other's pain more bearable. Their "I love you"s are replaced by "I hate you"s, and for them... it works. They don't talk feelings or emotions because they don't need to. Their actions and looks do all the necessary talking. They aren't gentle, and for the most part, they aren't sweet--although, fuck me, but I think some of their scenes are still some of the sweetest scenes I've ever read. Like, the shower scene?? and the hotel scene?? And the protein bar scene?? And the two of them just talking and existing together, finding solace in each other's presence????
"Can you read lips?" Andrew pointed at his mouth as he spoke. "The next time someone comes for you, stand down and let me deal with it. Do you understand?"
"If it means losing you, then no," Neil said.
It's so much harder to convince a reader of a couple's love without using specific words, but the best relationships depicted in books are often like this, because there is no easy out, no easy phrase to fall back on and shortcut your reader to that point (it's why a lot of romance novels don't quite work for me - they favour the words over the emotions), but Sakavic doesn't go there. Instead, she silently builds Neil and Andrew's relationship BRILLIANTLY.

People, I WILL FIGHT YOU for this couple.

Their relationship is never going to be classified as "normal", same as neither one would ever be. But... they don't need normal. Both are far too scarred and far too ruined for that. They create their own normal. A normal just between the two of them. A normal that holds and protects and opens up. Just between them, just in the small moments. And it's enough. It's more than enough.
Andrew's disinterest in his psychological well-being was what had drawn Neil to him in the first place: the realization that Andrew would never flinch away from whatever poison was eating Neil alive.
Also, I was so happy there was no real "you're gay" / "I'm gay" conversation. There is no need to come out or even discuss the situation. There is no fear in Neil when he tries this thing with Andrew; no second-guessing or questioning, aside from the question of whether he's allowed such luxuries when he's going to die soon. There is no judgment and no fanfare. It's nothing worth talking about, anyway. The most we get is this;
"I've said all year I don't swing and I meant it. Kissing you doesn't make me look at any of them differently. The only one I'm interested in is you."
"Don't say stupid things."
"Stop me," Neil returned. He buried his hands in Andrew's hair and tugged him in for a kiss.

Also also they are hot together. I've got to admit, I wasn't expecting that, but I sure as hell am not complaining.

The whole thing was ENTIRELY BEAUTIFUL and it HURT SO GOOD.
"I hate you."
"Nine percent of the time you don't."
"Nine percent of the time I don't want to kill you. I always hate you."
"Every time you say that I believe you a little less."
It's not the only thing that happens - there is more physical pain in store for our foxes. There are dire discoveries and facing old ghosts. There is broken ground and broken bones. There is CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT in abundance. Andrew and Neil's for obvious reasons, but Kevin is a shining star in this one as well. And Allison. I really really really like what has become of Allison in these three books.

But I like all my foxes. Not equally, because I think I made it very clear Neil and Andrew are my problematic faves and I would die for them, but I never said I was fair.
"This," Neil flicked his finger to indicate the two of them, "isn't worthless."
"There is no 'this'. This is nothing."
"And I am nothing," Neil prompted. When Andrew gestured confirmation, Neil said, "And as you've always said, you want nothing."
The King's Men was an amazing finale to this beautiful series; it didn't solve all their problems, but then it never could. No one is fine by the end of it, but all of them are better. Their love for the game, and their love for each other--all of them--shines in a way to colors everything.

And I'm not gonna lie; I WILL BE READING THIS ONE AGAIN SOON! Life's too short to deny yourself the small things that first completely break you but then make you happy.

((I have so many delicious quotes of these two highlighted. I did warn that I was obsessed. OBSESSED.)) 

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