I read this book because it is written by Brandon Sanderson, my all-time favorite author, and I knew he was capable of creating some of the most unique and interesting magic systems and worlds that I have read. I wanted to know if he could do it even in a children’s book….and he did! I just couldn’t believe that he can write quality children’s stories as well as ones for older readers.
I thought the plot was unique, entertaining, and appropriately paced. The world building was absolutely fantastic! Sanderson has created another interesting magic system using glasses and abilities that would appear to be completely useless! I loved all the characters, except the villain, and thought the writing was terrific though hard to get used to. The cover is also amazing!
Alcatraz is a young orphan boy who bounces from home to home because no one seems to want him. Why? Because he breaks things, even without meaning to. He just can’t help it. On his thirtieth birthday a package arrives for him, his inheritance left to him by his parents. Turns out that it is only a stupid bag of sand, but he soon realizes that the bag of sand may be extremely important. Evil librarians have stolen the bag and want to use it to aid them in overtaking the Free Kingdoms. Alcatraz is thrown into a world he never knew existed and everything he knows may be a fabrication, created by the Evil Librarians. It is up to Alcatraz and his new friends to stop the malicious organization before it’s too late!
“By now, it is probably very late at night, and you have stayed up to read this book when you should have gone to sleep. If this is the case, then I commend you for falling into my trap. It is a writer’s greatest pleasure to hear that someone was kept up until the unholy hours of the morning reading one of his books. It goes back to authors being terrible people who delight in the suffering of others. Plus, we get a kickback from the caffeine industry…”
Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians is an incredibly entertaining story, not to mention being a bit complex for younger readers, which I absolutely love! I can’t stand children’s stories being so simple and predictable all the time, so this was definitely refreshing.
The plot moved at a great pace with tons of history, information, and action scenes all blended perfectly together. I was never uninterested in the story! I also thought it wasn’t too predictable. Sure I figured it would probably turn out okay in the end, but I didn’t know how they were going to accomplish it nor did I see the big twist at the end regarding one of Alcatraz’s parents. I was completely satisfied with the ending and can’t wait to read the next one!
This is where the story really shines! Sanderson’s world is one of the more complex ones that I have read in children’s literature. In this world, there are two separate nations. The Hushlands, which are Librarian controlled and include the United States, Canada, and England among others. Basically, all the places of which we are familiar. There is also a world we didn’t even know existed because the Librarians have managed to conceal it, called The Free Kingdoms, which are nations that haven’t fallen to Librarian rule (an awesome map of this world is provided on the inside dust jacket of the new hardcover edition).
Within the Free Kingdoms, there are people known as Occulators, who are able to use special lenses and harness their powers for various reasons. Some people also have Talents, abilities they are born with though may not seem to be very useful. Some of these Talents include breaking things, arriving late, or even tripping. I couldn’t figure out how these abilities were going to be of any use, until further on into the story when it all became clear and you see them used in action.
“People can do great things. However, there are somethings they just can’t do. I, for instance, have not been able to transform myself into a Popsicle, despite years of effort. I could, however, make myself insane, if I wished. (Though if I achieved the second, I might be able to make myself think I’d achieved the first….)
Anyway, if there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s this: great success often depends on being able to distinguish between the impossible and the improbable. Or, in easier terms, distinguishing between Popsicles and insanity.
There are tons of other things about this world including the Knights of Crystallia, more details about the Occulators, the history of the world and how everything we know is a lie, and many more. However, it was so much fun discovering it on my own that I don’t want to ruin it all for you. Just know that the world is amazing and much more complex, yet not too confusing, than any other children’s novel I have read thus far.
I loved the characters and thought for such a short novel they were pretty well developed. We get to know the most about Alcatraz because it is written in his point-of-view. Other characters include Grandfather Smedry, Bastille, Quentin, and Sing. Each one has their own unique ability and are able to assist in the mission. It’s their abilities that really give them their personality and I loved each of them! I can’t wait to see if we find out more in the next few books.
“Authors write books for one, and only one, reason: because we like to torture people.”
In regards to characters, the only thing I didn’t like was the “villain”. Blackburn is a Dark Occulator, but I didn’t find him to be very interesting. All he wanted was power, so he was just one-dimensional. Nothing really interesting about him. I was hoping for more, especially because this is Sanderson, but he let me down on this one. Perhaps in the following books this villain will reemerge and become more developed.
The writing style takes a long time to get used to. The main character tells the story, but continually interrupts it by adding side-notes. It is very witty. I didn’t like it at first, but eventually it grew on me and I appreciated it for what it was. There were several times in which I was chuckling and I can see how easily a child would be engaged by this style. The story really doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The author never talks down to their readers! I thought the vocabulary was more complex than a lot of children’s novels, but not so overwhelming that they won’t be able to enjoy the story. They will just learn some new words!
I LOVE this cover! The illustration is eye-catching and really fits the tone of the book. It is designed incredibly well and I love that there are not any blurbs. Though it doesn’t say the number in the series on the front, back cover actually lists all five! I thought it was awesome to see this on the back! This way I can easily tell which book this one is, as well as the other ones in the series without the bother of having to look it up.
If you fold out the dust jacket there is also an awesomely illustrated map of The Free Kingdoms, which is incredibly cool! This was a nice touch and much easier to read than one that would have been crammed on the inside pages.