Monday, July 6, 2009

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Brandon Sanderson’s writing but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from his young adult novel Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians. After all a good rule of thumb when it comes to movies is to avoid anything with ‘versus' in the title (Yes there are exceptions.) I needn’t have worried I found this book refreshing and overall fun.

The book is presented as an autobiography of Alcatraz Smedly a hero to those in the free Kingdoms, but unknown to us in the hushlands (Thus it is marketed as a work of fantasy.) Alcatraz often addresses the reader directly and has some entertaining opinions on the art of writing, the fantasy genre and literature in general. Alcatraz wants to prove to everyone that he is not a hero nor a particularly nice person. The young Alcatraz is an orphan passed from foster family to foster family because of his uncanny ability to break things. On his thirteenth birthday he receives a bag of sand, supposedly from his real parents as an inheritance. That same day he burns down the kitchen leading his latest foster parents to want to get rid of him. The next day a rather strange old man shows up, claiming to be his grandfather and wanting to see Alcatraz’s inheritance. It is then that Alcatraz discovers the sand has been stolen, the old man informs him by his social caseworker who is actually a librarian in disguise. Incidentally librarians covertly rule the known world through their control of information and subsequent spread of misinformation. And so begins the mission of infiltrating the downtown library with the help of some rather interesting characters.

As always Sanderson has come up with a unique and well thought out magic system, with two actually in this case. The first is a talent that everyone in the Smedly line receives. These are all different for each member and include; breaking things, arriving late, tripping and talking gibberish. All of which prove surprisingly useful. The second is Occulancy which is using specially crafted glasses to do different things, such as setting fires, freezing things etc.

Although obviously aimed at young adults I’d liken it to Shreck with a lot of ideas operating on different levels, ensuring that there is something for everyone. Anyone who liked The Harry Potter or Lost Journal of Ven Polypheme series will love these.I can’t wait to get my hands on the next one. 8/10.

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