Sunday, April 7, 2013

Book Review: Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia by Brandon Sanderson (Alcatraz Smedry #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great characters, laugh out loud narration
Cons: Plot a bit slow at times
The Bottom Line:
Laughs continue as
Alcatraz comes home to face
Plenty more danger

Homecoming to…Librarians?

What are you thinking, looking at the review for the third book in a series?  Shouldn’t you be reading a series and the reviews of them in order?

Oh, sorry.  I’ve been spending too much time in the presence of Alcatraz Smedry.  His sarcastic way of telling a story is delightfully fun, and that is just the thing he would pick on, too.  If you haven’t read the first two books, I do recommend you do before you pick up Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia.  But when you get here, you’ll find another fun read.

This book picks up about a week or so after the last one ends.  See, another reason to read them in order.  Alcatraz Smedry is finally coming home.  After years not knowing who he was and then months on the run from librarians, he is on his way.  But just as the destination is in site, something blows up the glass bird they are flying in, and he barely makes it home.

He arrives to find that things are in an uproar.  The Evil Librarians have approached the kings of the Freelands about creating peace.  Meanwhile, Alcatraz’s friend Bastille finally has to face the consequences of losing her sword.  And Alcatraz learns that something of value might be hidden in the Royal Archives (not a library).  How does this all tie together?

If none of that made much sense to you, you’ll understand why I said to read them in order.  There is a bit of explanation and recap at the beginning (which Alcatraz mocks you for needing), but it is best to get the explanations from the first two books.

Now you might be surprised to find that with all the plot points I referenced above, I actually found the book a bit slow at times.  This wasn’t quite the wild ride the first two books were.  I definitely see where the author was going with the plot he created, but it was a flaw.  Still, I found the book picked up as it went along, and the end really had me engaged.

The characters are a fun bunch.  They are a bit different, but they work for the story and provide plenty of laughs along the way.  And they are real enough that I care about the outcome.

What I enjoyed the most is the narration from a grown up Alcatraz trying to set the record straight about his true adventures.  (Yes, there is even an explanation for why that rascal Brandon Sanderson is taking all the credit for the book, although it’s in earlier volumes.)  In this book, we learn why he feels the need to write these books in the first place.

Anyway, the narration doesn’t just tell the story, but he regularly comments on it and how storytellers tell stories.  And each chapter opens with a sometimes random aside.  It regularly breaks the fourth page, but it is a riot, especially for those who are very familiar with the art of storytelling.  I’m not sure the target middle grade audience will get everything here, but adults certainly will.

I listened to this book on CD, and the narration by Ramon de Ocampo was a blast.  He captures all the characters well and has the perfect tack on the sarcastic asides.  He has me rolling and made the miles of the car trip fly by.

So, while not the strongest book, I definitely do recommend the Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia.  Not only will the target audience enjoy it, but adults will, too.

And be sure to check out the rest of the Alcatraz Smedry series in order.

This is my post for this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, hosted by the marvelous Shannon Messenger.  Check out her blog to read more entries.


  1. Well now...I must say I do like the notion of evil librarians (cackle!). Thanks for sharing and toooo funny on the out of order reviews. In my book club I had kids who had to read books in order and others who liked to read them out of order or didn't care if they got the third book first. Me..I one of those have to read in order types, even if the storyline allows you to read out of order, I still have it in my head to read book one, book two, book three. Which is what I will be doing with this series. Thanks again!

  2. It's a very fun series. I'm looking forward to the last one myself.

  3. That does look like a fun series! Great review!

    1. So far it has been a very fun series. One more to go!