No one wears a cape in this book … just magical glasses

Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

FABULOUS.

So this book is kind of like… Artemis Fowl meets Percy Jackson meets Lemony Snickett meets a guy who things tourist dinosaurs with suites and British accents are funny. Ultimately, awesomeness.

This is the story of Alcatraz Smedry, just an normal foster kid whose spent his whole life drifting between homes that he could have been happy in if he didn’t have such an incredible talent for breaking things. His whole life changes the day he turns thirteen because a few things happen. 1) He tries to cook dinner for this foster parents and accidentally lights their kitchen on fire and 2) receives his inheritance which is, as it turns out, a bag a sand.

Shortly after that his Grandfather Smedry arrives and he’s whisked away in a global conflict to protect the Free Kingdoms from the Librarians.

That’s right. In this universe, we  CONTROL THE WORLD!

Okay, so my favourite part about this world was just how wacky it was, but how it all hung together so well, mostly because Alcatraz has a brilliant voice. This story is just… it’s beyond ridiculous. People’s magic talents include not making sense, breaking things, being late and tripping. They talk with dinosaurs who have British accents. There are fruits holding up the torches in the library. It’s like someone played word association, took ever tenth word and just threw it in.

But it works. It works because of the fantastic first person narrative. Alcatraz has such a fantastic way of speaking directly to the audience and ordering or convincing us that we’d be idiots not to suspend our disbelief. It’s exactly the kind of nonsense ten year old boys (and apparently me) love.

The story contains all the things a good fantasy should of course- fights, chases, getting captured, dueling, a crazy old mentor figure and a clueless hero who goes on to learn about the strength within but it’s also just so genre savy it’s laughable.  He regularly points out to the audience how he has had an epiphany but that it doesn’t change the way he acts. He insists that although theoretically he should have known better, when this is happening to you in real life it wouldn’t occur to you. He has brilliant plans that are actually not brilliant or plans.

It’s also very intertextual, constantly referring to books where the dog dies, where the orphan learns something, where the title doesn’t make sense. It’s just so clever.

All and all, I loved this book. Maybe 10 boys don’t like it as much as I do ’cause I’d never heard of it but I will now recommend it to anyone dumb enough to ask.

Last movie I watched: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 – cartoon adapted from Frank Miller’s Batman. And fantastic.

Last TV episode I watched: Batman fighting Joker after he stole Bane’s magic muscle fluid. Not that I’m complaining or anything, but why does the Joker just run around doing annoying things for no apparent reason in this series?

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2 thoughts on “No one wears a cape in this book … just magical glasses

  1. Lydia says:

    Have you read any of Sanderson’s books for adults? (or at least, older kids?) I finished Elantris recently. Mixed feelings. I thought it had some relatively unique ideas, and pretty good voice, but didn’t quite get the pacing right, and sometimes dramatic moments were a little blah. It was his first book, though. Also, Sanderson took over writing Wheel of…DUH. I can’t believe I was seriously about to explain that to you. I know you know that. Anyway, my opinion on THAT is that it has been a refreshing change of style, a voice that sounds a bit younger, which I think is in keeping with the young cast. (p.s. we’re older than like, every main character in WoT now. Another reason Davram Bashere is my fav.) End of rant.

    • devonkw says:

      I haven’t read any of his grown up stuff. Not on purpose, I just rarely read adult stuff. Unless it’s Batman comics. Whatever. I’m still meaning to finish the Wheel of Time only I can’t remember what happened in all the other books it was so long ago and they all run together in my head (’cause they’re all exactly the same). Anyway, apparently J.K. has just proven you can love an author’s kids books and not their adult stuff, so I’m probably going to stick with that.
      But I’ll look for his for his older people stuff, even though it can’t possibly be as good as Alcatraz.

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