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The International Writers Magazine: Childrens Books Reviews

Alcatraz versus the Knights of Crystallia
By Brandon Sanderson
Orion books
ISBN 978-1-4440-0670-4
• Gill Hutchison review

“Books are a little like teenage boys. Whenever they start congregating they make trouble…” 


The residents of the castle-strewn land of Nalhalla where everything works by techno-glass are paranoid about libraries. Who could blame them with the Evil Librarians from books 1 and 2 of the series still intent on world domination?

Enter Alcatraz Smedry (travelling at 100 miles per hour, clamped upside down to the bottom of a glass bird which is about to explode) to save the day.

On arriving in Nalhalla, Alcatraz unexpectedly finds himself the centre of attention. To his amazement, he is royalty, presumed lost and now returning at last to his native land! Not quite sure how to deal with this sudden celebrity, he contemplates the event in his characteristic stream-of-consciousness style. He discovers that the whole Smedry clan, each with their own unfortunate Talent (making inappropriate comments; dancing like a kung foo fighter when music plays; tripping and falling down – usually when danger threatens; being late for everything) are the ruling family holding together a coalition of the Free Kingdoms currently at war with the Evil Librarians.

Alcatraz, Grandpa (Leavenworth) Smedry and Alcatraz’s possibly-more-than-friend Bastille arrive just as a very dodgy treaty is about to be signed; an end to the war in return for handing over the innocent country of Mokia to the not too tender mercies of the Librarians. Normally he would look to Bastille for support but she has to face a tribunal of the Knights of Crystallia and is in danger of being expelled from their ranks. However, as well as his Smedry talent for breaking things, Alcatraz shares the family gift of being an “Oculator”. This gives him the power to activate all kinds of useful techno-glass and lenses, including Truthfinder lenses, which give him a different perspective on exactly who can be trusted.

Alcatraz needs every power at his command. With equal amounts of help and hindrance from his completely bonkers family - easily distinguishable as they are all named after famous prisons – he goes to enormous lengths to scupper the treaty, though with his mother on one side and his father on the other it’s not all as clear-cut as he would like. Why is his father ignoring him? Why is his mother lying to her Librarian comrades?

After using his royal powers and the various Smedry talents to break free from the Librarians who have captured them, Alcatraz and his comrades hasten at snail’s pace through Nalhalla, eventually emerging from the butt of a giant glass pig to confront and unmask the traitor amongst the Knights of Crystallia.  Who is preparing to sell them all out to the Evil Librarians? An epic battle between Bastille with her mother’s sword and the greatest of the Knights solves the problems for the moment, but leaves enough unanswered questions for another book in the series: “Alcatraz and the Shattered Lens”.

Who can be trusted? Who is not who you think they are, thanks to the Disguiser’s Lens? How can Alcatraz stop his father concluding his experiments which will lead to doling out Smedry Talents to all and sundry?

And let’s finally be clear about Alcatraz and Bastille. Are they keen on each other or what?

© Gill Hutchinson May 2013
SCWBI Member
alhutch (at)

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