Quick Review: Alcatraz Vs the Evil Librarians


Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors.  He’s a juggernaut in the fantasy genre, with his incredible Mistborn series and his epic Stormlight Archive series, as well as the final three novels of The Wheel of Time series.  In my eyes, the man can do no wrong.

In 2007, Sanderson released the first novel of a five part series, Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians.  In my opinion, this series is his most underrated work.  I wish more of his fans would give them a try.  They are worth reading, multiple times.

On that same note, the last book in the series, The Dark Talent, was released last week.  I picked up a copy and was eager to devour the story and finally see the ending!  However, once I sat down to get started, I couldn’t recall a lot of the details from the earlier novels.  And though Alcatraz did a brief recap in the introduction, I decided to take the opportunity to give the whole series a reread.

The setup is fictional non-fiction, with the author, Alcatraz Smedry releasing his autobiography.  But, Alcatraz is unable to freely print his words, so he disguises his adventure as a fantasy novel.

So starts the crazy antics of this world and the unlikely hero.

The world where accident-prone Alcatraz lives is run by Librarians–an evil cult that controls the world through misinformation.  On his thirteenth birthday, the orphaned Alcatraz is suddenly gifted with his inheritance: a bag of sand.  The next day, the inheritance is stolen, and his long-lost grandfather shows up to help him get the sands back.

During the adventure, Alcatraz learns that his family–the Smedries–all have special Talents, and that they are famous in the Free Kingdoms, the areas not controlled by the Librarians.  Alcatraz’s unusual habit for breaking things is really a manifestation of his Smedry Talent.  His grandfather, Leavenworth Smedry, has the Talent for arriving late to things.  The Smedry family uses these abilities in unique and interesting ways, which makes them a blessing rather than a curse (for example, Grandpa Smedry can arrive late to bullets).

Along with two cousins–Quentin and Sing–and a thirteen-year-old female Crystin Knight named Bastille, the group has to sneak into the downtown Library, the central base for the Librarians who stole Alcatraz’s inheritance.

The thing that stands out most in this novel is the humor.  I often feel Sanderson tries too hard to get funny dialogue into his stories, and it can seem forced.  Here, it flows naturally.  Alcatraz, the narrator, is nineteen and looking back on his childhood.  This adds a lot of hilarious comments–mostly Alcatraz poking fun at the readers, or himself.  There’s also a ton of randomness, like throwing the word “rutabaga” into the narrative for no reason.  Sanderson also has fun with typical fantasy tropes, with Alcatraz pointing out how ridiculous some of them are.

I laughed so hard, even on the reread of this book.

The plot is a simplistic heist, but the setting and the characters drive this story.  And with the end, Alcatraz suddenly realizes  he’s not as alone as  he thinks.  It has the perfect conclusion, which leaves the reader begging for the next in the series.

Again, this book is near-perfect.  It’s goofy, silly, and oddly touching.  One of Sanderson’s bests, and that’s saying a lot considering how amazing his other novels are!


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