Title: The Dark Talent
Series: Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians 1
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Nutshell: The world is not what you think it is. You live in the Hushlands, the territory controlled by the Evil Librarians, who supress your knowledge and technology. But somewhere out there are the Free Kingdoms, a place of unbridled knowledge and wondrous technology. Start your search-
What? Yes, I said librarians. Yes, I meant those nice, little, old ladies with horn-rimmed glasses. They’re sneaky.
Alcatraz can tell you. Alcatraz Smedry was a foster child in despair because he broke almost everything he touched, but when he received a box of sand for his birthday, he learned the truth.
What? Yes, sand. It was a very momentous occasion. Stop interrupting.
His grandfather, Leavenworth Smedry, rescues him and explains that he is the last in a long line of powerfully gifted people. His cousin, Kaz, can speak in gibberish. Leavenworth himself is always late. And Alcatraz? He breaks stuff! So incredible!
What? Of course I’m serious. If I have to tell you one more time…
So Alcatraz embarks on an epic, zany, sarcastic quest to save the world, find his parents, and discover the truth. Like how penguins are rocket-propelled, how France is a deception, and how to use found objects to do almost anything.
Read this book. Read all these books. Read. Every. Page.
That is all the guidance I can give you. Good luck.
1 This is the fifth book in a series. The Nutshell will be for the series. The Ramblings will be for the book, with spoilers for previous books.
Read-alikes: Lemony Snicket’s Unfortunate Events is very like this in tone. Randoms is like it more overall.
This is a very self-aware book. More so even than the Snicket books. It’s alarmingly self-aware. It’s novel Skynet.
It’s also a goldmine of easter eggs. Some are for itself (I guess those could also be called running gags.) and some are for Mr. Sanderson’s other books, and yet more are easter eggs for the world of fantasy novels as a whole. Alcatraz is often making snide remarks about fantasy books. Leavenworth swears with author names, most of which are very worth reading, so take notes. (Alcatraz probably tells you to take notes anyway in one of the books. He also tells you to read aloud, read ahead, and read standing on your head. 2)
This book is all about blatant subversion. Alcatraz (It’s telling that I refer to him rather than to the author.) subverts genre conventions, but of course that’s been done before, and Alcatraz never does things halfway, so he also subverts how to think about flaws, relationship dynamics, chapter numbers, his reliability as a narrator, and the typical subversions that genre-subverting books emply.
If I were half as clever, I’d subvert this blog post, but I’m not even sure what that means anymore. Subvert subvert subvertsubvertsubvert.
In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize that this is a broken book, in which Alcatraz has broken just about everything he can and still tell a story. Common structures, the fourth wall, trust… This is what happens when brilliance sets out to write a broken book that’s still good to read.
2 This may not actually be true.