Books: Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones

Besides being fun to read, children’s books are also fast reads. It’s not often I finish two books in just a few days. There are some children’s books that take me longer – not because they’re difficult but because they lost my interest. But these books about Alcatraz Smedry don’t suffer from that fault in the slightest.

The first book (see my post a few days ago) was largely about introducing the characters and the truth about the world (the truth that the Librarians don’t want people to know). In this second book, Alcatraz is learning to use his Talent (breaking things) and the glass-based technology used by his people. He is certainly changing in some ways, especially how he relates to other people. But he is as impulsive as ever, and is quickly headed into even greater danger than before.

Sanderson (the supposed writer of these books) continues to play with the reader, taking breaks from the action (right in the midst of it, of course) to talk directly to the reader about what he has written. Some of these diversions were less amusing than in the first book, but they are all short enough that fall short of being truly annoying. And occasionally he says some serious things, though not often enough to make it a serious book.

Since his tongue is in his cheek so much of the time, it’s hard to know just what he really thinks of anything (especially as it’s supposed to be Alcatraz writing the book, not Sanderson), but he appears to have a poor opinion of much of contemporary children’s literature. I’ve read (mostly on worldmagblog) about how so many children’s books these days are depressing to read, full of death and seriously dysfunctional families, so the young protagonists in these stories are left to face life with little if any adult guidance and support.

I haven’t read any of these myself. But the comments Sanderson/Smedry makes about the kind of books the Librarians push on children certainly reinforces that impression. Alcatraz certainly doesn’t have the benefit of an intact two-parent household (far from it – he was raised in a series of over two dozen foster homes), but from the time he discovers who he really is, he has his grandfather (zany as he is) to teach and encourage him.

Of course, his grandfather isn’t around much in this second book. But he does have a cousin and an uncle, and two knights of Crystallia. He also has some very difficult puzzles to solve, and I enjoy the ingenious ways that he finds to resolve them. The solutions are unexpected (to me, at least), but don’t seem awkwardly contrived.

I’m looking forward to the next book, Alcatraz Versus the Knights Of Crystallia (yes, the knights are supposed to be on the same side as Alcatraz – but apparently the Librarians have invaded their territory). But I’ll have to wait at least six months, since it hasn’t been published yet.

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