I only started reading the Alcatraz series after I’ve run out of Sanderson's adult and YA fantasy books to read, and these books quickly became bite-sized guilty pleasures on account of how hilarious and ridiculous they are.
In the Hushlands—those Librarian-controlled nations such as the United States, Canada, and England—this book will be published as a work of fantasy. Do not be fooled! This is no work of fiction, nor is my name really Brandon Sanderson. Both are guises to hide the book from Librarian agents. Unfortunately, even with these precautions, I suspect that the Librarians will discover the book and ban it. In that case, our Free Kingdom Agents will have to sneak into libraries and bookstores to put it on shelves. Count yourself lucky if you’ve found one of these secret copies.
So essentially, the real world as we know it is controlled by evil Librarians who keep the real deal/information away from the general population. Underneath the cover-up is a more fantastical existence where a certain lineage of people (i.e. the Smedry's) have seemingly ordinary 'abilities' like breaking things, being late, spouting gibberish and tripping; abilities which are called Talents that can be controlled and utilised as an advantage. How these Talents work is frankly quite brilliant and instead of explaining it, let me point you to the nearest bookstore (online or otherwise) to get hold of this book and read it already.
The map of the world as we (did not) know it.
I am pretty sure that I don’t have to mention that Sanderson has yet again conjured a cool magic system for this series, and demonstrated the magic in his usual well-crafted action scenes. In this series, it involves sand and ocular lenses. How? Just read it and find out!
The main character, Alcatraz Smedry is written in a first person, fourth-wall breaking perspective. His POV is sarcastic, witty and gives the impression that he can be an unreliable narrator. Each chapter also begins with asides and jabs regarding books and authors, all which ring true.
It is a writer’s greatest pleasure to hear that someone was kept up until the unholy hours of the morning reading one of his books. Plus we get a kickback from the caffeine industry.-----------------------------Hooks and cliffhangers belong only at the ends of chapters. That way, the reader moves on directly to the next page—where, thankfully, they can read more of the story without having to suffer some sort of mindless interruption. Honestly, authors can be so self-indulgent.------------------------------The ending of a book is, in my experience, both the best and the worst part to read. For the ending will often determine whether you love or hate the book. Both emotions lead to disappointment. If the ending was good, and the book was worth your time, then you are left annoyed and depressed because there is no more book to read. However, if the ending was bad, then it’s too late to stop reading. You’re left annoyed and depressed because you wasted so much time on a book with a bad ending.
What else is there? There are references to Sanderson’s own works and of other authors’ peppered throughout the story, which add to the fun factor. This new edition also has great illustrations that truly enhance the enjoyment of the book. The typical back matter, "About The Author" and "Acknowledgements", is anything but typical.
Here's Grandpa Smedry!
This is a book and series targeted for both young readers and adults who want to kick back with some silly, yet quite smart, humour. Character development was adequate in spite of the shorter narrative and I already have a favourite in Grandpa Smedry by the end of this novel. The writing is relatively simple but not condescendingly so in spite of the target middle grade audience. Given that it is a lot shorter than your typical Sanderson doorstopper, the pacing was brisk and action scenes were plenty and fun. It's like a light and fruity dessert after a heavy meal.