Wednesday, November 4, 2009

REVIEW: Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia

Sanderson, B.  (2009).  Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia.  New York:  Scholastic Press.


299 pages (Plus several

If any of you are my friends, have looked at this blog's archives, have been following this blog for a long time (I'm glancing in your direction, Pizza Girl.  *winks*), or are one of my students (who have little choice but to listen to me), then you've probably heard me proclaim my love for the Alcatraz series.  I loves it.  I really, really do.  That's why I was a little miffed that neither Brandon Sanderson nor Alcatraz Smedry sent me a personal note letting me know the book would be out soon.  Instead, I was left wandering around Amazon, unaware that the book had been published and released for a WHOLE 22 DAYS before I got my hands on a copy.  22 days of being denied The Knights of Crystallia.  For shame!  If I weren't me, I'd question whether I was a true fan.

Any-hoo, on to the book...

PLOT SUMMARY:  Alcatraz finally arrives in the free kingdoms, his arrival is sped by an explosion that sends him plummeting toward the ocean.  Good fun.  After he makes onto land, the Smedrys learn that the dangerous librarians are close to establishing an alliance with Nalhalla, their homeland.  They must spring into action to stop such a tragic shift in power.

My love for this series, is not a blind love, however.  I can comfortably say, I hate the cover.  Don't get me wrong, I love a photoshopped dragon taxi.  That, my friends, is an excellent use for Photoshop.  My issues is mainly with this portion...

...Alcatraz looks deathly pale and I absolutely hate the way Bastille's head is pasted in there.  It pains me, our few but dear readers.  It pains me fiercely.
Plus Bastille's hair is supposed to be long.  Duh.

Moving to the inside of the book, Sanderson does an excellent job of maintaining the pace, themes and humor of the previous two books in the series.  This time Socrates fishsticks and Alcatraz's own awesomeness and rise as a celebrity are up for discussion.
He did, however, create a new word that some adults might take offense to.  "Crapaflapnasti" includes a certain four-letter word.  Children shouting "afla" on playgrounds has gotten wee little ones in trouble for generations.  No, seriously, while some kids won't pause, others will laugh, and even others will stare in shock.  My childhood-self would have been one of the shocked ones.  Then I would have been entertained.  Say it over and over again in your head.  Crapaflapnasti.  Crapaflapnasti.  Crapaflapnasti.  Then I would have turned the page and never mention it to my parents. I had a friend who didn't think "crap" was a swear word as a child.  She still isn't welcome in my parents' house.  So, some parents and teachers may be upset by the idea of young impressionable readers running around with crapaflapnasti added to their vocabulary.  I, in contrast, want a T-shirt with the word printed across the chest.

I was a little nervous about reading this book.  I wasn't certain I was ready for Alcatraz to travel from our own librarian controlled lands to the Free Lands.  But Sanderson/Alcatraz constructs and describes those worlds well, with twists in perspectives and understanding of cultures that made me as a reader see my own culture in a new way.  I enjoyed it.  But some of my past students have said they felt that Sanderson/Alcatraz tries to hard as a narrator.  I, of course, failed them.


Aside from the usual attention this series pays to the craft of writing, the state of the hero and hints of a philosophy, Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia also explores the dream of celebrity.  In contrast to Harry Potter or Girl in the Arena, Alcatraz actually enjoys fame.  Students can discuss his reasons for this and think about that in terms of our own culture.


"So there I was, hanging upside down underneath a gigantic glass bird, speeding along at a hundred miles an hour above the ocean, in no danger whatsoever" (p. 1).

"You see, I'd grown up as a foster child in the Hushlands:  lands controlled by the evil Librarians.  They'd carefully watched over me during my childhood, anticipating the day when I'd receive a very special bag of sand from my father.
I'd received the bag.  They'd stolen the bag.  I'd gotten the bag back.  Now I was stuck at the bottom of a giant glass bird.  Simple, really.  If it doesn't make sense to you, then might I recommend picking up the first two books of a series before you try to read the third one?" (p. 2).

"I hate explosions.  Not only are they generally bad for one's health but they're just so demanding.  Whenever one comes along, you have to pay attention to it instead of whatever else you were doing.  In fact, explosions are suspiciously like baby sisters in that regard" (p. 13).

"I glanced to the side, then jumped as I saw an enormous reptile crawling along the sides of the buildings toward us.  Like a spider crawling across the front of a fence.
"Dragon!" I yelled, pointing.
"Brilliant observation, Smedry," Bastille noted from beside me.
I was too alarmed to make an amazing comeback.  Fortunately, I'm the author of this book, so I can rewrite history as I feel necessary.  Let's try that again.
I glanced to the side, whereupon I noticed a dangerous scaly lizard slithering its way along the sides of the buildings, obviously bent on devouring us all.
"Behold!" I bellowed.  "'Tis a foul beast of the netherhells.  Stand behind me and I shall slay it!"
"Oh, Alcatraz," Bastille breathed.  "Thou art awesomish and manlyish."
"Lo, let it be such," I said" (p. 34).



  1. I haven't read anything but the first Alcatraz book yet, but I really need to get crackin. This book sounds awesome. (I've always had a secret love of librarians because my grandma was a librarian, she would have loved these books.)

  2. I love Alcatraz! Or rather more Brandon Sanderson, whose other adult books are quite fabulous if you haven't read them. Did you know that he's going to be in Dayton on Wednesday on tour for his first Wheel of Time book, The Gathering Storm?

  3. Pizza Girl, so, would you say your grandma was the rare librarian who had Free Kingdom sympathies? That is the rarest, coolest and least evil kind of librarian.

    Erin, he is?! Squeeeeee! *Gathers all my Brandon Sanderson books close to my chest and prepares to steal the next car that comes by*

    Are you up for a road trip?

  4. It's a little complicated- I'm going with a group of WoT fans, one of whom was chosen to be a "Stormleader" so we're leaving at like 3:00, eating dinner someplace out there while awkwardly stalking Mr. Sanderson and his Stormleaders, ideally in the same establishment that the are partaking of food, drink, and merriment, and probably staying until Mr. Sanderson chases us away with a cattle prod (i.e. sometime after 10:00). If you were still interested, we might be able to squeeze you in depending on who all is driving and everything but I'm a little doubtful at the moment. Do you know of any other raving Sanderson fans around?



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