Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Plenty of laughs and action
Cons: Climax is dark and abrupt
The Bottom Line:
Gives us laughs but dark ending
Hope there’s indeed more
A Dark Conclusion
It’s been five years since I last visited Alcatraz Smedry. Part of that was because the publisher canceled the series after four books, but part of it was because I didn’t pick up The Dark Talent as soon as Brandon Sanderson was able to find a new home for it. I’ve finally read what is supposed to be the final part of Alcatraz’s story, and it wasn’t what I was expecting.
For those who haven’t discovered the series, it is a hoot. They are comedic fantasy novels for middle grade students and the young at heart. In the first book, we learn that we live in the Hushlands ruled by Evil Librarians, and the Smedrys are part of the leaders of the resistance. Of course, since Alcatraz has been raised in the Hushlands, all of this is new to him as well.
This book opens where the last one ended. The Librarian army has just devastated Mokia, and Alcatraz, having recently given up the throne, is looking for a way to save his friend Bastille and keep his father from unleashing Smedry talents on the entire world, thereby destroying it. He hits upon the idea of infiltrating the biggest Librarian stronghold – the Highbrary, better known to the rest of us as the Library of Congress. Can he and his family do it without their Smedry talents?
Confused? Well, this is book five in the series, and Alcatraz will mock you mercilessly if you pick up the series here. While I won’t mock you, I will advise you to read the series in order because that’s the only way to fully embrace the fun.
Having said that, I did find myself able to slip back into Alcatraz’s world fairly easily despite how long it has been. The brief summary in the Author’s Forward and reminders in the rest of the book certainly helped. I’m sure there are details I would have appreciated more if I’d reread the other four books first, but I didn’t feel my enjoyment suffered that much.
And enjoy I did. The story is narrated by Alcatraz, and he inserts lots of wit into the tale. Not to mention footnotes. Yes, footnotes in a novel, and they are an absolute riot. I found myself laughing quite a bit along the way.
The story shoots off in some surprising ways, and I was always wanting to read just a bit more because I was enjoying myself so much.
And then came the climax. It is exactly what Alcatraz had been warning us was coming for five books now, yet I found it rather jarring. It’s very different in tone from the rest of the series. Not to mention short. Frankly, I didn’t feel like much was wrapped up in what is supposed to be the final book in the series.
Did you note how I worded that last sentence? If not, please go back and reread it. (I guess some of Alcatraz’s writing style has rubbed off on me.) At the very end of the book – the very, very end – after the discussion questions and author biographies, is a hidden note that makes me think we will see more about these characters in the future. At least I hope that is the case.
I’m giving this book four stars in the hopes that there will indeed be more. If the series ends with The Dark Talent, it will be a disappointment. But if we do indeed get the real rest of the story, I have a feeling I will find this book’s climax much less disappointing.
If you need to back up, here are the Alcatraz Vs. the Evil Librarians books in order.
This review is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.