Synopsis: On his thirteenth birthday, foster child Alcatraz Smedry gets a bag of sand in the mail-his only inheritance from his father and mother. He soon learns that this is no ordinary bag of sand. It is quickly stolen by the cult of evil Librarians who are taking over the world by spreading misinformation and suppressing truth. Alcatraz must stop them, using the only weapon he has: an incredible talent for breaking things.
Brandon Sanderson is popular and well-loved in the book community, so it’s kind of intimidating reading and reviewing his books. This is only my second book by him, I read Mistborn: The Final Empire last year. Sanderson is very creative, and his magic systems are unique, albeit weird at times.
I heard this series was a mashup of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and A Series of Unfortunate Events. I can’t say how accurate that is when it comes to ASOUE (I haven’t read that series yet), but I have read Harry Potter and Percy Jackson (both 5/5 star series). There are some parallels to HP and this book, and Sanderson’s sense of humor is similar to Rick Riordan’s before it got cringy.
Alcatraz has a Talent for breaking things. After breaking the stove and setting his foster parent’s house on fire, his case worker Ms. Fletcher comes to talk to him. That same day, Alcatraz received a mysterious package for his birthday containing a bag of sand and a scribbled note, a man broke into his house trying to kill him, and a wacky older man saying he’s his grandpa saves him.
Alcatraz discovers the sand is missing, and that the Librarians have it. He learns from his grandpa that he’s been living in the Hushlands, a territory controlled by Librarians, and that there are three other secret continents in the Atlantic and Pacific ocean full of people with special Talents called the Freeworld. Grandpa Smedry’s Talent is that he’s always late.
You’re probably wondering why breaking things and being late are considered Talents. Alcatraz hasn’t honed in on controlling his Talent, but things break to save his life, and when someone shoots at or tries to hurt his grandpa, he doesn’t get injured. Some other characters have talents like tripping and talking gibberish.
The Freeworld has “advanced” technology like swords and stairs, while the Hushlanders have guns and elevators. The librarians also lie about dinosaurs being extinct. The entire story is purposefully ridiculous, and honestly really stupid at times. Sanderson’s sense of humor is definitely an acquired taste.
I liked Alcatraz’s narration style, and I liked the first third and the last third of the book. The middle section where they were running through the library kind of bored me. I lost interest in reading this book for over a week because I was so bored.
My biggest problem with the book is that I didn’t like Bastille, I thought she was really hateful and needed to cut Alcatraz some slack. I have an itching feeling she’s going to be Alcatraz’s love interest later on.
Although I rated this three out of five stars, the ending intrigued me enough that I want to continue to the second book.