As an Evil Librarian, I must say that this book is libel of the worst kind. If the world were secretly controlled by librarians, as author Brandon Sanderson claims, surely we would be able to accomplish all sorts of things, like come up with a plan for affordable health care and keep the Yankees from winning the World Series this year.
On Alcatraz Smedry's thirteenth birthday, his world changes drastically. Having spent the previous years of his life in a series of foster homes (sometimes for very short spans of time due to his "Talent" for breaking things), suddenly he finds himself propelled by an eccentric grandparent--whom he has never met before--into the forefront of a long-standing war between the Free Kingdoms and the Librarians, who rule the Hushlands. That would be where we live, in a society controlled entirely by Librarians and policed by their various minions. Sanderson's characters, including Bastille, the kick-ass knight who is also a thirteen-year old girl, are fun to watch as they attempt their seemingly impossible task: retrieve the Sands of Rashid from the bastion that is the Central Library.
In some ways, Alcatraz is like a well-made children's movie that has an extra layer of meaning that adults can appreciate. Sanderson's books always contain some humorous elements, but in this first-person volume for young adults, he really gives his zany, tongue-in-cheek character free reign to embrace silliness. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn't. At times, the narrative is in jeopardy of being too clever, but for the most part, reading it left me with a light heart. The book ends with a major cliffhanger, and I know there are at least three more in the series, which I definitely plan to read.