Let’s see if this plot sounds familiar. A young boy being raised by people who aren’t his parents is told by someone he’s never met that he possesses extraordinary powers. The man takes the boy away from his home and shows him that there are others just like him with magical powers and that he has a destiny to defeat a powerful group of people who want to control the world. If you guessed Harry Potter, well you’d be right, but I’m talking about Brandon Sanderson’s book Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians, a hilarious send-up of the young-adult fantasy genre.
In this short but entertaining book, the reader is introduced to Alcatraz Smedry who receives a package in the mail on his thirteenth birthday. It’s from his supposedly dead parents who have given him…a bag of sand. Soon a man claiming to be his grandfather shows up and tells him that he has magical powers called Talents and that the world is actually controlled by evil librarians. Alcatraz also meets several of his hitherto unknown relatives who also have special abilities. Instead of what you might expect, Sanderson gives his characters rather unexpected abilities, including the ability to break things, the ability to always be late for everything and the ability to trip and fall down. These talents are put to clever uses as our heroes infiltrate the librarians’ headquarters…the downtown branch of the public library.
Interspersed with the humorous adventures of Alcatraz and his friends are Sanderson’s (through Alcatraz’s narration) funny comments on writing in general and fantasy novels in particular. I liked the part about how authors love it when people stay up too late reading their books because the authors keep ending chapters with cliffhangers. While this book isn’t as fully developed as the other novel I’ve read by him, Elantris, it’s not supposed to be since it’s aimed at younger readers. I had a great time with it and look forward to reading the second volume.