Review — Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians

The last set of larger fiction works by Brandon Sanderson that I had yet to read, this one is a middle grade fantasy series about a boy who finds out our world is run by a cult of evil librarians, and its up to him to save it. He, like many people in his family, has a talent. His is the ability to break things. Doesn’t sound like a talent, I know, but as you read it comes in handy on more than one occasion.

As Sanderson wrote this, he set out to break many rules of writing, like breaking the fourth wall, skipping back and forth between chapters, explicitly lying to the reader, etc. It’s a very odd series because of that: it isn’t a simple book series written for kids. It’s pretty funny to come across pages of screaming with no context simply to be ridiculous.

I realize how off-putting that may sound, but I would say its actually the best thing about the series in general. You can’t read this as you would normal books, and while it is targeted towards younger readers, it of course has jokes that they wouldn’t get. It also has a real, cohesive universe with a compelling plot and, as per Sanderson usual, a magic system.

The way I would characterize the writing of this series, and coincidentally the thing that I liked the least about it, is that the narration (not necessarily what’s happening in the actual story), is ludicrously silly. It does things (like pages of screaming) just to be funny, and its things like this that prove it was written for kids: its simply on a lower level than I would have liked to read it on. That said, I know a few kids that would love this series because of that, so its not really a bad thing.

The best thing about this series, for me personally, was the entirety of the last book. It’s all fun and games for pretty much the first three, but when bad things actually start to happen, Sanderson proves that he doesn’t “talk down to” his readers by adding a far more serious and darker last book. It’s nothing like the transition of the first and last Harry Potter novels, because as I said this series is characterized by silliness. It’s simply to say that while the narration and characters are silly, the plot and situation they find themselves in most certainly is not. As a spoiler I will most certainly not detail, the last book also had a couple twists that caught me way off guard, so I particularly enjoyed that, as well.

All-in-all, it’s a very well written series, as is always the case with Brandon Sanderson. It’s definitely not the first book I would recommend to anyone unfamiliar with his works, unless they were younger than thirteen. I think this is the perfect series for somebody in that age range that loves to read, primarily because it stands so far apart from everything else on the shelf. And even if I didn’t love this series, I still can’t wait for the next book (which isn’t really part of the original series).

3 thoughts on “Review — Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians

  1. As I always say when describing these books, it’s like Brandon Sanderson writing as Lemony Snicket. A Series of Unfortunate Events contains a plethora of completely ridiculous things and situations, and is simultaneously dark.

    When I first started reading Alcatraz, I thought this series was much lighter in tone. There was no constant overhang of “YOUR PARENTS ARE DEAD, YOU ORPHANS YOU” for example. Yet, after reading the end of the current series, I’d say they are even more alike.

    If you enjoyed A Series of Unfortunate Events, Alcatraz Vs. The Evil Librarians should be right up your alley.

    PS: as per an earlier blog post, Kollin, I really wanted to italicize all dem book name words.


    1. I think the last time I tried reading A Series of Unfortunate Events in like third grade, I didn’t enjoy it. Maybe I need to go back and actually give it a shot.

      Also: I have the power to help you out on that one.


      1. Whoa, how did you do that? Are you a wizard? Or a harry? OR A DRESDEN?

        Nevermind: I’ve looked for edit buttons before, but since they weren’t near “like” and “reply” I gave up. BUT NOW I KNOW.

        Liked by 1 person

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