Alcatraz VS The Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson | Book Review

Sunday 3 November 2019

For years Brandon Sanderson has been one of my favorite authors. I was introduced to him though a friend who was a fan of the Mistborn series. He turned me onto it and the rest is history. That was my first jaunt into the wider world of fantasy books. Until then my world was made up of Terry Brooks, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Pierce Anthony. With the introduction of Sanderson, I had my eyes open to a bigger world of books.
A few years ago I was fortunate enough to meet him and get some of my books signed. It was there that he made a joke about another series he wrote that I knew nothing about. It was called Alcatraz VS The Evil Librarians and it was a series of kids books.
The thing about kids books is that they never cross my mind. I normally just look at what new adult level books are out there, sometimes young adult, but wondering what children’s books an author has written was foreign to me.
That being said, the fact that one of my favorite authors wrote a kids book got me interested. Interested enough to read it. So here’s my review.
If you’re familiar with authors like Beverly Cleary or Roald Dahl, then you’ll know what level of reading to expect from Alcatraz Vs The Evil Librarians. If you’ve read the Lemony Snicket books by Dale Handler then you’ll be very familiar. But just because it’s a kids book doesn’t mean it won’t be enjoyable for anyone above the age of twelve.
This book is about thirteen year old Alcatraz Smedry, a foster child who has a power, kind of. He can break anything. Things just break around him with no purposeful action on his part. On his birthday, he gets a bag of sand from his long lost parents but it’s quickly stolen. After the theft, his grandfather appears out of nowhere and tells him that there’s a war going on with a cult of evil librarians and the sand was a very powerful artifact that could turn the tide of the war. Can Alcatraz use his amazing destructive powers to help save the day?  
The biggest complaint that people had about the book is that they felt talked down to.  So I went into it hyper aware of the storytelling. I did notice what people were talking about, what those naysayers picked up on, but I’m here to tell you that that’s just the way Alcatraz is.  This story is told in the first person and Alcatraz explains a lot, not because Sanderson assumes the readers are stupid, but because it’s part of the narrative. Allow me to explain. Spoiler free, of course.
In the book, there’s another world right next to ours. Similar to Harry Potter or Artemis Fowl. A world where there’s magical stuff going on and we don’t notice any of it. Since this is written in the first person, Alcatraz has to pause to explain things to us, where normally we’d get some paragraph of exposition. Alcatraz says things like “If you’re a Hushlander, you probably don’t know what a Oculator is.” So, to some, it could seem like the reader is being talked down to. But in reality, that’s not the case at all.
Let’s put all that aside and move on. Sanderson created a really colorful and interesting world and we just get a glimpse of it in Alcatraz Vs. The Evil Librarians. It’s a short book which turns out to be a double-edged sword. It was a really quick read. It only took me a couple hours of distracted reading. But I wanted more.  It was still a complete story, just one sliver of the whole tale. The books that I mentioned before, Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl, ones like that sit in the grey zone betweens a children’s book and a young adult novel, they feel more like a full novel while Alcatraz feels like a glorified short story. That doesn’t me I didn’t like it. I liked it quite a bit, but using it for my Popsugar Reading Challenge felt like cheating.
Sanderson spun a world of enjoyable and relatable characters and put them into a conflict that’s both intriguing and captivating. I’ve mentioned other series a couple times in this review but it’s really not fair to compare Alcatraz to those series as this book is truly it’s own creature. The best I can come up with is if Lemony Snicket and Harry Potter had a baby. That baby would be Alcatraz.
This was a good book and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The first one really got me hooked and I look forward to picking up the other books in this series and quickly reading them all. After reading so many epics it was a very nice change to pick up a book that I could have finished in an hour of focused reading.
I highly suggest this book to anyone who just wants a little fun and is able to just sit back and enjoy an easy to read book.
Alcatraz Vs The Evil Librarians gets an 8 out of 11

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