Emily Michelle's Reviews > Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia

Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia by Brandon Sanderson
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Oct 23, 09

Read in October, 2009

Another great addition to the Alcatraz series. Alcatraz and company arrive in the free kingdom of Nalhalla only to discover that the king is considering a treaty with the Librarians that will cease hostilities. The catch: the Librarians get Mokia, the island nation that is home to Alcatraz's cousins Sing Sing and Australia. Convinced that the librarians have something up their sleeves, the Smedrys set out to uncover the truth and stop the treaty. At the same time, Alcatraz discovers he is a celebrity in Nalhalla and tries (though not very hard) not to be swept away by his new-found fame; Bastille faces trial back in Crystallia for losing her sword and failing to protect her charges. We meet several new characters including the king and prince of Nalhalla, a reformed librarian, more Smedrys with unpredictable talents, and a sinister Librarian leader who frightens even Grandpa Smedry.

This book is excellent for a number of reasons, beyond just Sanderson's hilarious writing style and our narrator Alcatraz's asides about fish sticks and responsibility, as well as the likable characters and ridiculous plot about evil librarians controlling the known world (I assume that if you're looking at the third book, you've already read the first two and know the quirky charms of the series already). There's an interesting story showing the Librarians actually operating and on the offensive; in the first book they're largely passive and in the second they're barely present, so it's fun to see what they're actually capable of. Beyond that, though, there's some great world building: we finally get to see one of the Free Kingdoms, which I'd been waiting for from the beginning; we find out more about Bastille's family and the Knights; we see just how famous and important the Smedrys are; and we learn more about the magic system and about the possible connections between similatic technology, Oculators and Smedry talents.

And behind the imaginative settings, wacky dialogue and crazy story, there's some rather serious, poignant stuff, although Alcatraz himself says he doesn't want this to turn into an after-school special. Alcatraz, who spent his life parentless and unwanted, has suddenly found that in fact both parents are alive, but unfortunately his father is too caught up in himself to notice that he has a son and his mother would sell him out without batting an eye. Craving the attention he's been denied all his life, he embraces his newfound fame and finds it all too easy to be swept away in it and forget who his real friends are.

One comment that could be slightly negative is that, as with the first two books, our narrator spends a lot of time on other subjects besides the plot, starting each chapter with an author's aside, frequently getting sidetracked into other subjects. They usually end up tying in somehow, and I always think they're funny, but they do annoy some people.

All told, this is an unusual, laugh-out-loud funny story, with likable characters, a nutty plot, solid world building and magic systems, and the occasional thought-provoking moment--definitely worth a read. Start with book 1, though, or Alcatraz will have to make fun of you.
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