If you’ve been reading the posts on this blog, you know that I’m a huge Brandon Sanderson fan, and I own pretty much all of his books. However, I’ve been reluctant to read the Alcatraz Smedry series since it’s middle grade, but I figured I would give it a try. I was really obsessed with young adult books in 2010 and early 2011, but have since cooled (the profusion of implausible dystopias featuring a teenage girl changing the face of society while having to choose between the smouldering forbidden bad boy and the sweet but mildly boring good boy – yeah, they’ve really turned me off.)
Anyway, I’m glad I got over it and bought a copy of Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians, because it’s really amazing. Alcatraz Smedry has been bouncing from foster home to foster home throughout his life – sooner or later, everyone gets tired of his propensity to break everything he touches. It’s his thirteenth birthday, and he’s pretty resigned to his fate. But then he receives a mysterious bag of sand as a birthday present which he disregards but then gets promptly stolen. And then an old man shows up claiming to be his grandfather, that Alcatraz’s continuous destruction of things is in fact a superpower, that the librarians of the world are in fact a cult that have been trying to take over the world for millenniums – and most importantly, that they really need to go rescue that bag of sand. Such a crazy tale has to be true, so Alcatraz sets off on an adventure to infiltrate the local library and save the world!
Alcatraz is an extremely funny narrator – he’s sarcastic, meta and extremely genre savvy. He is fully aware of the fact that he’s a narrator (the book is a book that he writes in-world), and he takes pains to be as obnoxious of a one as possible, frequently taking the time to comment on the structure of the story and the narrative devices he’s using to hook you in. It’s certainly not what I was expecting, and it works wonderfully. I had a smirk on my face throughout the book.
The plot and characters are pretty ridiculously silly, but despite that and Alcatraz’s constant sarcasm, the story still has meaningful character development and a solid emotional core. There’s a complex world conspiracy, dinosaurs, myths and misinformation and it all makes a weird kind of sense.
Highly recommended! I’ll be getting Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones pretty soon.
- “Naamah’s Kiss”, “Naamah’s Curse” and “Naamah’s Blessing” by Jacqueline Carey
- “Ship of Magic” by Robin Hobb