Thursday, July 5, 2018

Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia

Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia
by Brandon Sanderson
Recommended Ages: 10+

In this third "Alcatraz vs." book, fantasy powerhouse Brandon Sanderson continues his conquest of children's literature by poking fourth-wall-breaking fun at even more writing cliches, while at the same time developing the strange fantasy world to which young Alcatraz Smedry belongs in more detail than ever. His arrival at Nalhalla, the capital of the Free Kingdoms, is heralded by an explosion that almost kills him. He finds the high king, who happens to be the father of his best friend Bastille, on the verge of signing a treaty with the nefarious Librarians and handing over the besieged, Pacific island kingdom of Mokia. To stop this disaster, he must avoid letting his first taste of being a celebrity swell his head too much. Then he has to find out what book in the Royal Archives (not a library!) the Librarians are after, and get it before they do.

He must do this in spite of the distraction of being in the same city as both his evil, Librarian mother and the father whom he just rescued from being a soulless wraith forever - and neither of them is a more affectionate parent than the other. Luckily, Alcatraz has some friends on his side, with such amazing magical powers as "being a really bad dancer." Also, he's in a city where glass-based technology allows people to disappear from one place and instantly appear on the other side of town, and where other forms of transportation include riding on a dragon who has been sentenced to community service and traveling via a giant glass pig which, embarrassingly enough, opens at the butt. This weird, hilarious adventure will end up hinging on one of the Smedry clan's prerogatives as the heirs of an abdicated royal house: you just try to guess which one. It'll make you laugh, though.

In spite of his credentials as the author of thick, serious fantasy novels, Sanderson has also proven himself many times to have a handle on all the things that make for a quirky, funny, exciting adventure for kids, laced with smart in-jokes and sass. For more examples of this side of his work, please see The Rithmatist, the Steelheart trilogy, and the series of books starting with The Alloy of Law that feature an unforgettable character named Wayne. Then grow to realize that his Alcatraz side is even present in such fantasy powerhouse novels as Elantris and Mistborn.

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