People keep recommending Brandon Sanderson's books to me, and I really enjoyed The Rithmatist, so when I saw he had a series featuring evil librarians I added it to the school library. But I still didn't bring one home to read until this week over spring break.
This is a great read for middle grades (and up), who enjoy lots of humor mixed in with action and adventure. Just imagine a group whose first names are all the same as famous prisons - Alcatraz, Leavenworth, Sing Sing, Quentin, Bastille, etc. And their foes have names that also belong to famous mountains, like Shasta. Next, imagine that some of them have Talents that help them with their ongoing struggle to save the world; Talents like always being late, or breaking things, or tripping.
So, funny names, funny talents, funny premise (librarians don't really want to rule the world...well...then again), and all told from the POV of Alcatraz. Since Al has been raised in lands controlled by the Librarians, he is learning his family history and the reasons behind the conflict just as the readers are. It takes him a while to get into the swing of things, but he does eventually display some of the family spirit as they storm the enemy stronghold - the library. Something everyone should know "is that all libraries are far more dangerous than you've always assumed." The ending leaves plenty of room for the later volumes in the series.
Alcatraz warns readers that in books adults think are "meaningful" and should be given to young people to read, the main character's "dog will die. Or in some cases, his mother will die...(Apparently, most writers have something against dogs and mothers.)" Immediately, a list of books that fall into those categories begins to appear in the reader's mind. But Al also assures readers that his book is nonfiction and much better to read than those other books one might receive as a gift from some well-meaning person.
Some of my favorite parts reminded me of other stories, which I am sure the author intended in a story about librarians. His explanation of how time moves in books is shown by this example, "And I spent fourteen years in prison, where I obtained the learning of a gentleman and discovered the location of a buried treasure." (Any guesses on a title for that book?) Quentin uses his talent for speaking nonsense and says, "Churches. Lead, very small rocks, and ducks." (Movie quote from?) And when the author apologizes for the narrative becoming too deep, he says that "it won't be long before this story...turns into a terribly boring tale about a lawyer who defends unjustly accused field hands." (Last chance to show your amazing powers of book identification.)
All of this is just a roundabout way to say that the book was very enjoyable and sets things up nicely for readers to continue on with the series, and so avoid books where meaningful deaths of pets and parents occur.