Alcatraz VS The Evil Librarians
by Brandon Sanderson - (Alcatraz #1)
Published October 1st 2007 by Scholastic
Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians is the first adventure in a fantasy series for young readers by the #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson. The fast-paced and funny series is now available in deluxe hardcover editions illustrated by Hayley Lazo.
On his thirteenth birthday, foster child Alcatraz Smedry gets a bag of sand in the mail-his only inheritance from his father and mother. He soon learns that this is no ordinary bag of sand. It is quickly stolen by the cult of evil Librarians who are taking over the world by spreading misinformation and suppressing truth. Alcatraz must stop them, using the only weapon he has: an incredible talent for breaking things.
*An ARC was provided by Tor in exchange for an honest review.*
Alcatraz VS The Evil Librarians is the first book in a middle-grade series by freaking Brandon Sanderson. Yeah. Now you know why I picked these up. Though my Sanderson fangirling may have started with his adult high-fantasy, I've since become a fan of his YA work and now his MG work. Basically, if the man writes it, I'll be fangirling about it. Sooo, I take it you all know how this review is going to go now. The usual, yes?
The first book in the Alcatraz Series introduces us to Alcatraz, our 13 year old boy-hero, who spends most of his time trying to convince us that he's not a hero; that he's not a good person. I will admit that the guy has his faults, and that he could be seen as a sort of anti-hero...but the word 'hero' is still in there for sure. Granted, many of his faults stem from the fact that he only just learned that what he saw as his curse is actually his own 'special power, and that there's a magic world that he never knew about. You can't help but cutting the guy some slack for making a few poor judgement calls here and there. Despite a few missteps, Alcatraz is a character that I quickly warmed up to, thanks to his narrative voice, his humor, his endearing self deprecation, and his sass. Yes, the sass is strong with this one.
Sanderson immerses us into a quirky new magical reality, filled with odd magical powers, bigger on the inside enchantments, and a variety of magical items like glasses, swords, monocles, handbags, entire buildings, a bag of sand (can't forget that) Oh! And the title reference: evil librarians! It was that combination of completely new, with a hint of Doctor Who, Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl that ended up working so well for me. It all seems random and weird when I talk about it here, but within the pages of Alcatraz VS The Evil Librarians, it just all meshed in together perfectly.
As I mentioned, I instantly appreciated Alcatraz's character as well as his narrative voice. He regularly breaks the fourth wall and speaks to the reader. That sort of thing has annoyed me in the past but here it really worked: I felt like I was a part of the story! Additionally Alcatraz ends up gaining a ragtag team of friends and family to help him navigate this crazy and magical new world. A seriously powerful grandfather, a kimono wearing cousin, a gibberish talking friend and a grumpy teenaged girl who happens to be a knight and the most badass of them all. Honestly, I couldn't make this stuff up! But Sanderson could, which is why he's a BAMF...
To top it all off, Alcatraz VS The Evil Librarians is filled with illustrations of the characters and key scenes that are equal parts gorgeous and hilarious. It was a quick read and even though it was MG, I could see it working as YA as well, kind of like how Harry Potter started off lighter and more family friendly (if you ignore the dead parents and undead crazy guy trying to kills the hero at every turn...) but ended as a very mature YA. With 4 more books to go, I can't wait to see what kind of trouble Alcatraz and his new posse will get into next. If you like off-beat fantasy and read both MG and YA, you should definitely give these a try!
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars