Status: Complete, Word Count: 235,000, Pairing: None, Genre: Fantasy/Adventure
Read the Fic Here: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/4684861/1/Alexandra-Quick-and-the-Lands-Below
Author’s Summary: Seventh grader Alexandra Quick returns to Charmbridge Academy. This year she will face bullies from another wizarding school, a secret Dark Arts club, and her father’s scheming, but her most terrible trials await her in the strange and deadly Lands Below!
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
Characterization: For the first half of The Lands Below, the characterization really just feels like an extension of what was going on in book one, with one exception that I’ll get to shortly. Alexandra is still impulsive, stubborn, and reckless and I still love her. She is equally, if not more, charming and somehow likable than she was in The Thorn Circle, and reading about her is still an absolute joy. She still plays off everyone else really well, and it’s great. Constance and Forbearance are also both great. They are also extremely charming, and it’s always interesting to slowly begin to piece together what it means to come from Ozarker culture through little things they say every now and then. In particular, their dynamic with the Rash brothers is incredibly interesting whenever it’s explored, even if it’s only briefly touched on in this book. David is here again, and he has a bit more of a role in this one, because he is one of the first characters to have the beginnings of a romance arc. Him and Alex pretending to be going out was simultaneously hilarious and anxiety provoking, and it was honestly a highlight of the first half for me. Darla and Angelique also return, and while Angelique has exactly the same level of depth in this book as she did in book one, Darla has some shit going on. I try not to get too into spoilers here, but this book starts her on an arc that lasts all the way to the end of Deathly Regiment, and it’s honestly fantastic. Her induction into the Mors Mortis society and slow descent into darkness is really intriguing to read about and Darla has some of the most shocking and dramatic scenes in the entire book. She’s excellent, and I was honestly blown the fuck away by how well done she was. Speaking of the Mors Mortis society, it’s used to give Alex some fantastic growth as well. In particular, the scene with the snake was really well done and did a great job showcasing her moral compass. Anyway, up until the second half of this story, the most interesting character work going on is easily the conflict between Anna and a new character named Tomo Matsuzaka. Long story short, Anna and Tomo come from different cultures that have a long standing dislike for each other, and this is another example of Inverarity diving head first into a complicated political conflict and just absolutely nailing it. It’s very well done, and it ends in a very satisfying way. However, easily the most interesting character in this book is Maximillian King. He is introduced as a standard run of the mill obnoxious bully who is an exchange student from Blacksburg, another school. However, he always has something interesting going on in the background, and when it is revealed what his deal is, holy shit is it an insane twist. It turns out that Maximillian is Alexandra’s half brother. He is also the son of Abraham Thorne, and this changes everything. Suddenly, Alex has someone to look up to and try to impress, and watching her relationship with Max develop over the course of the story is so fucking entertaining. Max is insanely well done, and he’s honestly enough to bump the score up to a 5, but holy shit I’m not even done, because this book also introduces Julia, Alexandra’s sister. Their dynamic is perfect. Like, I cannot begin to describe how much fun Julia’s character is, and she plays off Alexandra perfectly, and when she, Max, and Alex are all bantering together, it’s so fucking good. The chapters when Alex meets Julia are probably the strongest in the fic, and….yeah the characterization is fucking fantastic.
Action/Adventure: The action sequences in this book are so fucking intense, it’s insane. Most of the action takes place in the Lands Below during the finale, and wow those final chapters are amazing, but there is also some fantastic smaller stuff going on throughout the book. The JROC drills are surprisingly engaging, wizard dueling with Max and his friends is fun as hell, and the battle to get into the Lands Below is one of the most engaging in the series. However, easily the best action in this fic takes place during Alexandra’s escape from the Generous Ones at the end of the story. It is fucking insane how good that scene is. It is dramatic, intense, emotionally powerful, I could gush about it for hours. What this book does a great job doing is building emotional intensity into action sequences. Nothing here is just exciting for the sake of being exciting, it all has a very particular purpose, and I’m a big fan. The action is, in many ways, just as good as the characterization is.
Plot: Oh boy fucking howdy, the plot of this fic is amazing. It starts off just like book one in terms of tone and enjoyment, and it stays like that for the majority of the first half. I really like the stuff about Anna and Alex in the JROC, I like the Mors Mortis Society subplot, I think John Manuelito makes for a very intimidating and fun villain, even if he doesn’t have very much in the way of motivations, and it’s just an all around good time. Then, it’s revealed that Max is actually Alex’s brother and things get fuckin interesting. The Lands Below are a brilliant concept that are masterfully executed, The Generous Ones are absolutely brilliant antagonists, and there exists an emotional punch at the end of this book that is as shocking as it is heartbreaking. Also, Abraham Thorn makes an actual appearance in this book, and the conflict between him and the confederation continues to be murky and intriguing. Diana Grimm also shows up to be the confederation foil to Abraham, and it’s really interesting seeing this conflict become more and more layered. Overall, this book’s plot is really neat, and I think the stuff with Max, combined with the Lands Below, puts it right up there with the previous two categories.
Dialogue: The dialogue is really, really good. It’s everything that I want dialogue to be. It’s quick, it’s not overly verbose, the kids all sound like kids, and it has a great flow to it. The banter is top notch, and the dramatic moments are equally good. It’s all around great, and it’s an excellent read.
Writing Mechanics: As with the Thorn Circle, I don’t know how the mechanics of the actual fic are, cause I just listened to Sam’s audiobook, but I also know enough about Inverarity to know that they are likely very good, so I’m compromising and just assuming the mechanics are good in the actual fic.
Alexandra Quick and the Audiobook Project: Read by Sam Gabriel: Sam continued to absolutely blow me the fuck away in this book’s audiobook. His voices are still absolutely fantastic, with Julia’s being an all time high, and he just brings such a fantastic, dramatic energy to the whole thing that it’s truly hard to stop listening at times. In particular, the entire sequence with the Generous Ones had a gloriously creepy ambiance to it, and…it was just a brilliant listen. It truly enhanced my reading experience, and it fucking earns its mention here.
Overall: Alexandra Quick and the Lands Below is the transition from this series being great, to being fucking fantastic. The first half of this book is truly great for all the reasons I’ve listed above, but once Max is introduced, it just keeps getting better and better. It’s a steep uphill progression in quality, and by the time the ending arrives, it will fucking blow your socks off. This fic is struly something special, and it earns its spot in the Crusade Tier. Fives are not something I give out easily, and this fic has three of them. That’s how good it is.
Final Thoughts: This fic is a must read, especially if you’re a fan of action and adventure with fantastic character development to back it up. As a regular fic, this is already one of the best fics I’ve ever read, and if you factor the audiobook in, it practically transcends the tier system entirely.
Tier: Crusade-Worthy, with or without the audiobook
Written on 05/20/2021