Monday, October 3, 2016

Review: The Dark Talent [Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians #5] (Brandon Sanderson)

The Dark Talent (Alcatraz, #5)
Title: The Dark Talent
Series: Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, Book 5
Author: Brandon Sanderson (site)
Publisher: Starscape (Tor)
Release Date: September 6, 2016
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Fantasy Adventure
Told: First Person (Alcatraz), Past Tense
Content Rating: Teen (violence/fighting/war, death, wooly sea sloths)
Format Read: ARC (publisher)
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Alcatraz Smedry has successfully defeated the army of Evil Librarians and saved the kingdom of Mokia. Too bad he managed to break the Smedry Talents in the process. Even worse, his father is trying to enact a scheme that could ruin the world, and his friend, Bastille, is in a coma. To revive her, Alcatraz must infiltrate the Highbrary–known as The Library of Congress to Hushlanders–the seat of Evil Librarian power. Without his Talent to draw upon, can Alcatraz figure out a way to save Bastille and defeat the Evil Librarians once and for all?
*          *          *

Review copy provided by publisher for an honest review. Thank you, Tor!!

*Warning: possible spoilers below!*

Series: This is Book 5 in the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series. For reviews of the previous books, see Book 1: Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, Book 3: The Knights of Crystallia, and Book 4: The Shattered Lens. (Book 2: The Scrivener's Bones, pending.)

In a Sentence: A return to everything I loved about the first two brilliant and hilarious books but with a little more weight, thrilling twists, and a shock of an ending.

Determined to save the world from his possibly well-meaning but probably misguided father and retrieve the antidote that will revive his friend, Alcatraz teams up with his evil Librarian mother and several Smedrys to infiltrate the Highbrary (aka the Library of Congress). But after accidentally declaring war on the Librarians to the entire world, the infiltration becomes more of a very loud, very public break-in that turns DC into a war zone. With the aid of some unexpected family Alcatraz is able to make his way into the Highbrary, but once inside he must face a bloody dinosaur, several methods on his "ways to die that don't sound very fun" list, his parents' true motivations, his mysteriously absent Talent, and a very dark, very ancient evil bent on destroying everything he holds dear.

While Alcatraz is one of my all-time favorite series, after a somewhat disappointing fourth book my expectations for this fifth were a little low. So it was with great happiness that The Dark Talent vaulted my expectations to deliver as entertaining and thrilling a read as the brilliant and hilarious first two books that started it all!

As expected with this amazing series, the writing was sharp with wit and action and really bad puns, the story full of exciting twists and turns and cake I did not see coming. Although the weights of responsibility, familial unrest, and war that have built up over the series did dampen the zany humor just a bit, the Smedry eccentricities along with Alcatraz's penchant for off-topic tangents and new discovery of informative footnotes rather perfectly balanced the darker elements. By this book Aclatraz has fully embraced being a Smedry, which made for highly amusing moments and dialogue, as well as accepted what it means to be a leader and all the responsibility and guilt that comes with it, especially in times of war, which made for a bit more adulting than one might expect in a children's book but generated some good takeaway lessons. Overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining read, and up until the last chapter the only thing keeping The Dark Talent from 5 Scribbles was the almost complete lack of my favorite character, Bastille, although I didn't feel her absence quite as keenly as expected except in the occasional need for a cutting remark.

And then: the last page.

After pondering it a while afterwards, the end really rather fit what came before and was properly foreshadowed through the entire series. At the time it hit though, it was probably the most complete shock of an ending I'd ever read, and had me rereading and flipping through the final pages of the ARC with wide eyes while I made many of the noises in Chapter Alice. I'd been under the impression this was the final book in the series, and for the series to end like that... While fitting, I was not happy. As in giving this book 2 Scribbles instead of 5 unhappy.

Luckily, I'd received an early finished hardcover just a few days before (thank you again, Tor!!). Still making Chapter Alice noises I scrambled for it and flipped to the end, praying that the ARC ending was some kind of misprint. It wasn't. But while the end remained the same, I discovered just how "unfinished" an Advance Reader Copy can be right before the hardcover flyleaf, a discovery that bumped this book back up to 4.5 Scribbles and now has me awaiting 2017 (cake I hope it's only 2017) with even more anticipation than I built up for this long-awaited fifth book.


Conclusion: A highly engaging and entertaining fifth installment in the Alcatraz saga with a shocking end but thrilling possibilities. Although the fourth book was somewhat disappointing this fifth returned to the brilliant and witty roots of the first two books, and I highly recommend the entire series for anyone who enjoys fast-paced, action-packed, fourth-wall-breaking adventures!

For Fans Of: Harry Potter

Scribble Rating
4.5 of 5 Scribbles

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