Monday, April 1, 2013

Book Review: Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones by Brandon Sanderson (Alcatraz Smedry #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Humor, fast moving imaginative story
Cons: Nothing as far as I am concerned
The Bottom Line:
Lots of great humor
Imaginative story
Book is just plain fun

A Book Worth Checking Out at (Almost) Any Price

This summer, I finally got around to reading the first Alcatraz Smedry book by Brandon Sanderson.  Despite the fact that it is aimed at late elementary school kids, I loved it.  Naturally, that lead me to pick up Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones, which I enjoyed just as much.

What do you need to know?  Well, you need to know not to start here.  See, these books are narrated by an older Alcatraz himself, and he will often break the fourth wall to talk directly to us.  And he complains long and loud at the beginning of chapter two about people who don’t read a series in order so he has to give back story.  So do yourself a favor and start with book one so you can feel superior when you get to that passage.

But briefly, Alcatraz grew up thinking he was an orphan.  He’s only recently learned that his father is missing and he comes from a long line of Smedries who are very powerful in the fight against the evil librarians who have most of the world enslaved in the area known as the Hushlands.  Oh, and the Smedries have remarkable talents like breaking things or arriving late to everything.  You’d be surprised at just how handy these talents can be.

The book opens with Alcatraz sitting in an airport waiting for his grandfather to come get him.  After 3 months on the run in the Hushlands, they are finally on their way to safety away from the librarians who are hunting them.  But Grandpa is late again.

When Alcatraz is picked up, he learns that Grandpa has followed the trail of Alcatraz’s long missing father to the library of Alexandria, so Alcatraz and his new cohorts follow as well.  Will they be able to infiltrate this extremely hostile environment? And can they avoid checking out a book considering the cost?

The action starts in chapter one, and it’s not too long before the real plot gets going.  I never felt the pace lagged, and I always had a hard time putting the book down.  The cliffhangers (that he promises to stop using) certainly keep you reading at the chapter breaks.

There are only a couple of characters who return from the first book for any length of time, and I definitely felt like they were better developed here.  And we are introduced to a new cast of wacky characters I came to love.

The world that the author has constructed is clever and wildly imaginative.  It’s great to escape to it and see just what he’ll twist next.

But really, the joy of this book is the humor.  I live for the passages where Alcatraz comments on reality versus what we in the Hushlands think is true or when he deconstructs the story.  These passages make me laugh out loud, mainly because the sarcasm is just perfect for me.  Granted, these parts of the story aren’t a huge part of the book, but I enjoy them.  I can see where others might find it annoying since it does pull you out of the story, but I think it helps make the book.

For those who liked the first book, Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones is a great next step they will love just as much.  And anyone looking for a fun series to try to get kids reading should give this one a shot.  I bet they’ll be hooked before they know it.

And once they're hooked, they'll want to read the rest of the Alcatraz Smedry series in order.

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