This is part 2 of my review on the Alcatraz books. Part 1 can be found here.
The Shattered Lens
I liked this book a lot more the second time around. The first time I read it, it was really confusing. Some of that was intentional (the Hamlet quote section comes immediately to mind), some of it was me not paying attention.
I found this to be some of the best world building in the series. Not only do we see more of the free kingdoms, but we get to see what the actual war against the librarians is like. Mokia comes across as being much more relaxed than the other nations, and the assertion that different isn’t always superior is a fantastic development.
Probably the most important addition from this book is the insight into Al’s parents. Their personalities really blossom here. Al’s father is barely in the book, but still shows more of his personality. Al’s mother becomes a more important figure to the story as well. The information about the talents and glass is expanded, and the rules are starting to become clear.
I don’t think this is the best book in the series, but it’s a solid addition. I also think it’s a turning point in writing style. The previous books were mostly about having fun, but here the style shifts. The series takes a more serious turn, and starts bringing in more complex ideas. The change absolutely needed to happen, but it made the book feel a little out of place with the first three books.
The Dark Talent
The last book in the Alcatraz series is by far the darkest. Characters are killed, things look bleak, and Al finally ends up strapped to the altar. The title The Dark Talent is fitting, even though talents are rarely used in this book. A lot of the humorous tangents are gone, replaced by footnotes that don’t break the narrative as much. Al is growing up, facing difficult challenges, and the writing reflects that change.
I did find the book to be a bit more predictable than the previous installments. I think some of that was because of the lack of tangents. The narrative is more straightforward, so it was easier to see how things could happen. Despite the fact that I saw the twist coming, the book stayed engaging, and the reveal was well done.
I want to mention the ending, but I don’t want to give any spoilers since this book was released less than a year ago. I think the end of the Alcatraz series was appropriate, even though I know a lot of fans are upset about the lack of resolution. Al is just a kid in these books, and the ending fits where he’s at in life, even if there’s more to the story.