Well damn! I've been hopping about your stories and blog just reading everything for the last couple of weeks. The Alexandra Quick series was read in one long, incredibly unproductive weekend. :)
I admit to liking fanfictions like AQ which only includes the world/universe of the series it is inspired by, but uses original characters and plots - creating a fresh storyline in a familiar world, so to speak. Yours is the first really decent one I've read so far though, and I agree with other reviews that your writing and plot/character management, especially the AQ series, is easily publishing standard (if that's the correct phrase). Perhaps more so than a lot of well known books on the shelves today. However I agree with your view that publishing AQ would cause it to lose too much of it's character as a story. The HP fandom needs some quality stories that aren't just romance and little else.
Anyway, I dislike leaving a completely useless review, so I'll just sum up some points that make AQ better than other stories in my eyes, and some points to improve on:
-The attention to detail. Especially on the plot and sub-plots. This is what makes AQ one of those stories which I can re-read multiple times and find something new each time, including subtle jokes which only a few authors bother to put in.
-Character development and detail. I didn't quite realize how much effort you put into this until reading your blog, but I admire the complex natures of the characters, and how they shift almost unnoticed over time. Another aspect of this is the skill of the characters, especially Alexandra herself. Almost all HPFF authors give their protagonists sudden bursts of previously untapped power and wisdom near the beginning of their story, but Alexandra's abilities, asides from her raw magical prowess, are actually well earned through arduous lengths of training and perseverance, spread fairly well throughout the books so far. I'm a little skeptical of how she almost managed to get the better of the auror Henry Tsotsie, but hey.
-Dead end subplots. This is something authors rarely have the courage to do - the amount of effort and "storytime" that went into the time turner red herring was remarkable. It might have irritated some readers, but it gave the story an additional level of realism, and bought it sharply back down to earth again with a much needed jolt.
-Binomial nomenclature. Yeah I know, it's not much of a con, but I'm currently doing a biology degree and have a habit for nitpicking. In the chapter "Without A Wand", Alexandra refers to Nigel as a storeria dekayi - using the Latin name of the species of grass snake Nigel belongs to. While you correctly wrote it in italics, binomial nomenclature dictates the genus name is always capitalized, so in this case it would be Storeria dekayi instead, even if written in the middle of a sentence. Just a little mistake, but thought you should know.
-Portkeys. I'm sure inconsistencies with magic have been pointed out in every other review, I haven't checked. I admit it must be difficult creating an entirely new culture while trying to stick to a pre-determined structure of magic, which would affect said culture. With this in mind I'll glaze over smaller inconsistencies and ones that can easily be explained, and go straight to the one that bugs me the most. Dumbledore could create a portkey with a single spell, in the space of a few seconds. His specialty is transfiguration, not artificing, and while he may have spent ages learning how to make a portkey that quickly it is highly unlikely. Portkeys in HP are considered fairly common and easy to manufacture, even if their use is regulated by the Ministry. Therefore I find it a little difficult to believe that they would be so expensive in America, and artificers spend ages sweating over their creation, if they were used so readily and easily (such as the quidditch world cup in book 4, for example).
I'm sure given more time I could come up with some more constructive(ish) criticism, but this review is long enough. Good luck writing book 5! Are you ever going to release the name, or just cruelly tease us until the book is finally complete? :P
Author's Response: Thank you very much for the thoughtful review! I will keep the binomial nomenclature in mind for the future - I didn't think to check a style guide on that item. The issue with Portkeys is actually not something anyone else has brought up. You make a fair point. My reason for making Portkeys somewhat difficult to create is that otherwise, it would be fairly easy to cross vast distances (the U.S./Confederation being considerably larger than the UK) which would have a major impact both on American wizarding culture and on my plots. The problem of introducing quick and easy teleportation into a society has been covered by such authors as Larry Niven. That said, yeah, it's kind of hand-wavey. And to answer your last question: I will announce it eventually, but I'll probably tease folks a bit more. ;)
I've been reading your Alexander Quick novels obsessively for the past week and I must say I am blown away. The level of care you've taken in developing an American wizarding culture is astounding. The Harry Potter universe is still there propping it up, but you've taken this story far beyond the normal realm of fanfiction. At first I couldn't stop thinking about Harry, Ron, Hermione, ect living in Britain and I was secretly hoping that Alex might take a trip across the Atlantic... and just happen to bump into them, but that desire has long since been smothered. You created characters that I want to keep coming back to for their own sake.
I think my only concern is that while you've given Alexander a large circle of interesting friends and family you haven't really given them a chance to shine. Anna and Julia remain little more than occasional confidants whom Alex goes to for moral grounding and the Alexandra Committee has become merely a group of researchers who were never able to truly take part in the action. Alexandra adventures are exiting and full of bravery, but they offer little of the unbreakable bonds of friendship through thick and thin that defined the Harry Potter series and most great adventure stories.
That being said I look forward to the release of AQATWA immensely. I hope Alexandra continues to do some growing up in her relationships with the numerous parental figures. (I was thrilled to see a few rays of hope shine through to the Claudia/Archie/Alex family). Alexandra's tale will no doubt be stuck in my mind for quite some time and it is with baited breath that I wait for book 5, but at least now I'll be able to get some actual work done :)
Been reading your stuff for a long while now, ever since I first read "Hogwarts: A House Divided" a couple of years back, but this is the first time I've left a review. I know that makes me an awful reader, as all writers do so much for so little, but there it is.
First of all I think your writing is terrific! Your creation of a whole wizarding USA that is so different from the UK that JKR created, but still completely canon-compliant is a staggering achievement. Your characterization is good. You don't get overly bogged down in descriptive detail, but still give enough for us to form a good mental image of the places and people in your story.
OK, that's the good part. Now I can make a little correction without feeling like a jerk!
In this chapter you have the grocery store in Shiprock (Orange Rock, I have no idea why you changed the name) selling beer. You can't buy beer in Shiprock or any other place on the Navajo Reservation. It's a small mistake, but as you are so VERY careful to keep your stories canon-compliant I thought you would probably feel the same way about a factual error about the muggle world too.
Please keep writing! I love the AQ series and you have left us at such a horrible cliff-hanger that I will be heart-broken if it doesn't run it's course. Be sure to look both ways before you cross the street, you have lots of readers depending on you!
Author's Response: Oops - I think I did know that the Navajo Reservation is dry, but that detail must have just slipped my mind in this chapter. Thanks very much for your review. I have just started writing the fifth book. :)
Whoa--I did not see that coming at all. I can see where Alex would be angry. I think I might be a bit nosier though and hang around and demand to be told the truth. I can't wait until I have time to read again and find out how you explain this big puzle. Great chapter.
I really liked this chapter. I couldn't believe it when Alex jumped into the frozen pond. I think she's developing feelings for Brian. I was hoping she'd give him a ride on her broom. I hope no one blames Alex for Bonnie's accident. She probably tried to follow Brian just to be nosy and get him in trouble. Besides, she was grounded.
Well, that was interesting. Alex has gotten several good ideas about how to "feel" her wand. Somehow I think she's looking in all the wrong places for her wand. Alex is quite the little actress isn't she? Great chapter.
I really liked what you did in this chapter with the old wizard office building--how Alex could see it as a condemned Muggle building and then as an abandoned office building. I hope that's not John Manueilito dressed up like a hag and coming after Alex. Great chapter.
I can understand why Abraham took Alex's wand. She'll be much more powerful if she can sense magic rather than being dependent on her wand. Plus, I think he wants her to learn to trust him and know that she's under his protection. Great chapter.
I'm still wondering if Larry is flirting with Alex or vice versa, with all of that challenging duels. It wouldn't be the first time a relationship started out that way. Alex's service proposal sounds a little crazy, or maybe I should say overambitious. Great chapter.
I've been reading two chapters on Monday in order to give myself a bigger hit of Alexandra but that makes the end seem to come sooner. Of course, I couldn't have expected three major battle scenes--two should be enough for one book.
I have to comment on the "spoiled Alexandra" meme I've seen in various reviews--of course, we're seeing it from her viewpoint but I don't see her acting unreasonably, given what she's been through and the responses she gets from the adults around her. I sometimes feel like your writing super!Alexandra a little bit but we are talking about a world where magic exists after all, and her father clearly is pretty super, so why shouldn't she be.
What is sometimes a little out of character or age appropriate-ness for me is her sexual awareness. After all, she apparently just discovered boys in this book. Perhaps it's a mistaken impression that boys are the ones who fret about dying a virgin but it seems like Alexandra has enough to be getting on with without delving too deeply into sex right now (and I guess ultimately, she hasn't really, even if she wants to seem ready for more).
All in all, an excellent story (again) and I can hardly wait for the next book. Except, of course, that that puts us almost to the last book, which is the end, which will be really sad.
I haven't been reviewing regularly because I'm abroad and tend to read new chapters on whichever fanfic site updates first, since I'm 7 hours ahead of America. But I swear, Alexandra has been what motivates me to get up on Mondays and Fridays, and I'm going to miss her until she returns in book 5. All I can say at this point is that I loved the book, love the characters more than ever, and am ridiculously curious about what comes next. Thank you for another awesome read. Seriously. I don't read any HP fanfics anymore except yours â€“ I just can't resist. The AQ series is amazing, and I really hope you continue to have the time, dedication, and enthusiasm to write about Alexandra.
Author's Response: Thank you so much. I have every intention of continuing.
It's over??? The end??? *cracks whip* get to writing the next book!
I love this series. So, when can I expect Chapter One of the next book?
Fantastic! I'm a big fan of the AQ series, and I'm very eager for Book Five! I am consistently impressed by your simultaneous creativity in creating a unique world and keeping it true to JKR's creation - bravo!
I can't believe the book is over!
That was a great chapter. I really enjoyed it. I wonder if the presence of the Rashes caused interference in Calling Down the Stars. Your description of the ritual was interesting--their procession to the site; their dress; the formality of the situation. I like that Alex had the last word--don't mess with me or I will curse you!! Great chapter.
That was a very interesting chapter. Alex is so smart to figure out how she could use an Elf to find John. I wonder if Larry and Bathseba perhaps broke up over Alex and their dueling. I think Quimley's advice is appropriate. Alex should tell her father about her life sentence. She's so stubborn to try to do everything herself. I have to admire how she keeps dueling Larry even though she loses. Eventually she'll beat him.
holy cow what a chapter best one ever
I'm really curious, as is Alexandra, about why John would want to kill her. Alex is so mature for her age. I loved how she handled Mary and was sensitive to the memory of her sister. Exciting chapter. I loved it.