Since these books are so short compared to what I normally read, I’ve decided to combine my posts about them.
Alcatraz Vs. the Evil Librarians
I’ve read these books before, so I knew what to expect going in. These books are very different from the rest of Sanderson’s works. The most obvious difference is the target audience. The Alcatraz books are directed towards kids, not adults. That makes the everything about the books a little more direct. The story is straightforward. The characters and their motives are less complex, and the world is a bit smaller and less grand. None of those are bad things, they actually work really well in the book.
Another big difference between Alcatraz and the rest of Sanderson’s books is that the author really comes through in the writing. It seems like Sanderson is using these books to get out a lot of his own thoughts and opinions. It can be a little distracting at times, and the frequent interjections and cut-aways from the action almost make the book read like an episode of Family Guy. Again, this isn’t bad, it’s just different.
Even though this series deviates from most of Sanderson’s writing, there is one aspect that is typical of the author, and that’s the magic system. The Smedry talents are unique and engaging, as well as humorous and unexpected. The use of glass for other powers is also different. Sanderson doesn’t give as many details as he normally does, but that works for these books.
The first book does a nice job of setting up the world, but the details and development are light. The humor and story were enough to keep me engaged and made the book fun. It’s an excellent read for a kid’s book, but as an adult, I thought it could have used a little more substance.
The Scrivener’s Bones
Since all the setup was done in the first book, the second one is able to focus more on story and development. The Scrivener’s Bones continues in the simpler style of the first book, but starts to expand on everything. The world gets a little wider, as most of the action takes place in Egypt, but also stays pretty localized, since they stay in a single location for the majority of the book. The characters get a little deeper as well. There are more Smedrys involved, but you also get the first glimpse of Bastille’s family, and you learn a bit about what makes her the way she is.
More than anything, though, this book fills in a lot of the history that was missing from the first book. Backstory is given on the whole Smedry line, and where Alcatraz fits into it. The magic system gets more details, and starts to get the definition found in Sanderson’s other magic systems. One thing that was really nice is that all this information came within the flow of the narrative. The story is much better than the first book, and increases the tension while still taking the time to really develop the world and the people.
Like the first book, there are a lot of interjections. Some of them are even more ridiculous and tangential than those in book one, while others connect to the story. Overall, they aren’t too bad, but they are moving into annoying territory.
The Knights of Crystallia
The feel of this book was similar to book two. It again widened the world, this time moving into the free Kingdoms, but also stayed localized by never leaving Nalhalla. There’s more on Bastille’s family, and the Smedry clan grows as well. Al’s father gets a little time in this book too, and he’s not really a pleasant addition.
Where this book differs is that there’s a lot more information about the librarians. This is the first book to really show variety in the personalities of the librarians, not just the goals of the different factions. Alcatraz learns more about his mother, and gains some insight into her nature as well. For me, the most important development was the inclusion of a solid, over-arching villain in She Who Cannot Be Named.
I didn’t find this book as funny as the previous installments. Some of that was because the story itself is getting a little more serious, and the opportunities for humor aren’t as prevalent. Some of that is also because the interjections and cut-aways aren’t as unexpected and start to grate a bit (primarily the ones that recap the previous books).
It’s been fun going back through this series. They’re a bit better than I remember, but not as good as most of Sanderson’s other books. I’m looking forward to reading the remainder.