“It’s over, he reminded himself. All the lies, all the desperate running to stay alive, was behind him for good. He had a home now – he had the Foxes and Andrew and a real name. He felt like he finally made it onto the ledge he’d been dangling off of for years.”
No one was more surprised than me when I fell in love with Nora Sakavic’s All for the Game series. The series follows Neil Josten when he becomes the newest member of the Palmetto Foxes’ Exy team, a sport the author created out of thin air. Yeah, a sport. I loved a book about sports. I can’t even tell you the difference between football and soccer, because they both have balls, and yet I binge-read this series in 3 days. When I discovered a fanfiction that fans were calling the missing “fourth book” of the series, I had to read it. After I finished the 37-long chapter fanfic, I sat in a daze – that fic was absolute perfection.
The fic begins after the conclusion of The King’s Men and follows Neil and the Foxes through Neil’s third year at Palmetto State, becoming Vice Captain of the Foxes, and the development of his relationship with Andrew. The fic’s author, crazy_like_a, extensively delved through Nora Sakavic’s extra content Tumblr page, and developed the fic through the information Nora provided. Crazy_like_a religiously follows Nora’s extra content, which is why so many fic readers are calling Lessons in Cartography the unofficial fourth book. And I agree with them. This feels like the fourth book we never got and I am so thankful that someone wrote this for the hardcore All for the Game fans.
Lessons in Cartography is the very definition of a slow burn: the chapters are long and detail Neil’s changing life, and they also introduce the new Foxes we were only teased about in the extra content. The violence and brutality of the original series is not present in this fic, but that doesn’t mean that Lessons in Cartography isn’t just as dramatic as AFTG. Trust me, it is, because … well, Neil. The plot is slow-going, much like the original series, as it takes time for some storylines to develop, but that only opens up the story for further character development.
Neil is an annoying little angel, like always, and I fell in love with him all over again. His third year is rife with change that is is unequipped to deal with: his friends’ graduation and eventually becoming Captain of the Foxes. He feels the stress getting to him, but what makes him get through it and come out stronger is that Andrew is by his side.
What I loved most in this fic was the development of Neil’s relationship with Andrew. The conclusion of The King’s Men was semi-satisfying in that we know that Andrew and Neil are in a romantic relationship with one another, and of course we have the extra content to read up on too, but there’s just something about reading Andrew and Neil’s slow exploration of each other that sets my blood pumping, and, thankfully, crazy_like_a delivers. Neil and Andrew’s relationship is the driving force of the fic because they are finally together: no more waiting for them to realise they like each other, no more waiting for stolen moments amid a breakneck, tense plot, because now they’re dating! And we get to read about what, exactly, that entails: lots of kissing, smoking, and snark from Neil, which is exactly what I imagined. Every one of Andrew and Neil’s scenes were written with the characters in mind (meaning that they don’t just jump each other the moment the story begins), as crazy_like_a is very respectful of Nora’s characters and allows Andrew and Neil’s relationship to develop realistically. It’s just wonderful.
Crazy_like_a is a remarkable writer and there were many moments I was left in shock by the sheer perfection of the author’s prose. It definitely has the same feel as Nora’s novels and at no point did I feel like I was reading a fanfic – it was almost as though Nora herself had written the fic, and I think that’s the highest compliment I can pay the writer of the fic.
If you are a fan of All for the Game, then you NEED to read Lessons in Cartography because it is everything you have ever wanted and more. I read this fic months ago, and I am still thinking about it … probably because I’ve reread it at least twice. What’s even better is crazy_like_a is currently working on a sequel to the fic called The Cartographer and the World that focuses on Neil’s fourth year. So far, there are only 15 chapters, but it is just as amazing as the first. Never stop writing crazy_like_a!
Read Lessons in Cartography here.
Featured image credit.
(If you are going to read this fic, I should mention that it is very explicit.)