Monday, April 1, 2013

Book Review: Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson (Alcatraz Smedry #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great story and characters in a fun storytelling package
Cons: I didn't read it sooner
The Bottom Line:
Ready for wild romp?
Join Alcatraz for this one
Enjoy ev'ry page




The Most Fun They Don't Want You To Read

Several years ago, a friend raved to me about Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians.  I kept it in the back of my mind, but I didn't do anything about it until now.  That was a huge mistake.  Aimed at late elementary school readers, this is a book that will entertain anyone who picks it up.

Alcatraz Smedry never knew his parents, instead spending his life going from one foster family to another.  His curse of breaking things causes him to never find a true home since he always seems to break what his families prize most.

On his thirteenth birthday, he gets a package in the mail claiming to be his inheritance from his father.  It's a box of sand.  But the next day, his grandfather shows up claiming the sands are important.  When they realize the sands have been stolen, Grandfather takes Alcatraz on a wild ride to get them back from…evil librarians?  Is Grandfather crazy?  And will Alcatraz's curse actually help them?

This book is so much fun, and I had a smile on the face the entire time.  The plot is a mix of zany adventure and fantasy, yet it is set in our world, so there are many things to smile and laugh about.  It takes a little while to fully get into the world created, but since Alcatraz is confused by what is happening as well, it actually works out okay.

The characters are great as well.  Despite his protests in the narration, Alcatraz is actually a good hero who makes the predictable character growth as the story progresses.  But that's okay because you like him more for it.  We meet several other interesting characters, and they seem real even if their place is the story is obvious early on.  (This is especially true of the obvious love interest.)

What really sets the book apart is the narration.  The story is told first person from Alcatraz's point of view, but it is from an older Alcatraz trying to set the record straight about his exploits.  He regularly talks directly to the reader.  In fact, each chapter starts with his thoughts on storytelling and narration.  Many of these observations are spot on, and I had to laugh at them.  Plus there's his insistence that the book is being banned in our country so we are lucky to have it at all since the librarians control so much of the world and they don't want the truth out there.  It's a way of storytelling that seems popular in kids' fantasy books right now and has to be handled just right in order for it to work.  Here, it works wonderfully.

I actually got an audio book version from the library.  There appear to be two versions by different narrators.  I grabbed the one by Charlie McWade at random, and I loved his.  His voice as all the characters, but especially Alcatraz is absolutely perfect.  If you are interested in going the audio route, I highly recommend this version.

But audio or in tradition book form, you need to check out Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians.  It's a fun book you won't want to put down.

And once you get started, you'll want to read the rest of the Alcatraz Smedry series in order.

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