Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

The cover for Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians

Alcatraz is a teenager who grew up in the United States.  The US, along with the rest of the Americas, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa, are the Hushlands, a region of the world controlled by evil librarians.  The rest of the world, the Free Kingdoms, knows about all sorts of advanced technologies, including magic glasses.  Alcatraz wrote this series as his true and factual autobiography using the pen name Brandon Sanderson (and published as young adult fantasy series rather than as a biography) to share knowledge about how the world really is with the Hushlands and to hide it from the evil librarians.

The series is pretty good.  It's action packed, and each novel is relatively short, so I read all five books in two weeks.  

Like Sanderson's other young adult fantasy series, The Reckoners, bad puns and analogies play a big role in the writing style.  In The Reckoners, the puns were bad because they didn't make any sense, which was fun in one way.  In Alcatraz, the puns are sufficiently crude or over the top to be funny in a different way.  One example: "It wasn’t that Dif [an overly enthusiastic character] didn’t fit in. It was like … well, Dif seemed to fit in too well. Like a finger in a nostril."  For all its crudeness, that analogy (and many others like it) is wonderfully descriptive and very fitting.

The books have a very meandering style.  The start of each chapter features the author stepping back and either focusing on a bit of relevant philosophy or getting a bit meta and writing about the writing style in the book and some of the literary tools that he's using (also nice because he can work in some self referential jokes).  Those asides are still written in character and are just as engaging and entertaining as the rest of the books.

Despite being fun, I didn't find the books super meaningful.  They aren't vapid, but neither are they as ethically or philosophically dense as Sanderson's other works.  That said, I judge a book (or a series) a lot by its ending, and the last Alcatraz book ends quite well.  I wasn't sure how he would manage to stay true to the tone and plot arc that he foreshadows early on, but he does.

If you're interested in a fun, lighthearted young adult fantasy novel, check out Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians!