The Dark Talent by Brandon Sanderson

The Dark Talent, by Brandon Sanderson, was published in 2016 by Tor. It is the sequel to Alcatraz versus the Shattered Lens.

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?

Rating: 4/5

It was a little bit strange starting off this book because the format of it was so different. Tor completely revamped the series, giving them much better cover art as well as illustrations, and the style fits the books really well—but the change was still jarring to me.

However, once I got used to it, I was able to enjoy all the usual Alcatraz nonsense. The footnotes were hilarious, especially the detailed list of deaths he never wants to die, and the book itself takes a drastic swing towards the dark as Alcatraz recounts his final tale. The change in atmosphere is abrupt, as the book is much more of a downer story than the first four, but I thought the bleak nature of it balanced well with the humor.

It’s actually quite hard to fully talk about this book, as the ending is quite surprising and saying too much would be a spoiler. It might be the best Alcatraz book in terms of mechanics (meaning it’s less formulaic), and Sanderson really upends and even makes fun of the prior books and what goes on in them. I appreciate authors who deviate from formulas, especially those who are willing to poke fun at what they wrote. And the illustrations really help the overall “serious-but-not-so-serious” nature of the books themselves—they are a great addition to the series.

The Dark Talent takes the series into a darker, bleaker place, but is almost arguably the better for it. The new look to the series adds to the overall atmosphere, and this novel in particular is the perfect balance of funny and serious. Sanderson is particularly devious in his plot mechanics in this book, though saying more would be spoiler-ific. This may be my favorite book in the Alcatraz series.

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

You can buy this book here: https://amzn.to/2GyP8Dw

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The Shattered Lens by Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz versus the Shattered Lens (republished title The Shattered Lens), by Brandon Sanderson, was published in 2010 by Scholastic. It is the sequel to Alcatraz versus the Knights of Crystallia.

Alcatraz Smedry is on a mission to save the day! The boy with all the wrong Talents has a lot to prove and, as always, little time in which to do it. Ib this final adventure, Alcatraz faces an army of librarians—and their giant librarian robots—as they battle to win the kingdom of Mokia. If the Librarians win the war, everything that Alcatraz has fought so hard for could end in disaster. With his incredibly Talent for breaking things, some explosive teddy bears, and the help of his friends, Alcatraz must face the glass-shattering gigantic robots, an entire arm of evil librarians, and even his ow manipulative mother! But will he be able to save the kingdom of Mokia and the Free kingdoms from the wrath of the librarians before everything comes crashing down?

Rating: 3/5

Alcatraz versus the Shattered Lens is a step-up from the too-short-yet-too-long Knights of Crystallia. The conflict is decently long, important things happen throughout the book, and the ending is suitably intriguing.

I like the deeper look at the Talents that Sanderson gives us in this book, starting with Aydee’s math Talent and ending with Alcatraz manipulating the Smedry Talents to fit his plan. It also makes one of the main events at the end that much more important. The Talents are the most interesting thing about the Alcatraz series, in my opinion, so I’m glad we got to explore more of their mechanics in this one.

Something I found interesting about the background of this book is that you can sense Sanderson’s rift with Scholastic coming. Not only does the blurb say that this is Alcatraz’s final adventure, even though the series has stated that there will be five, but the fifth book is published by a different publisher. Not to mention Sanderson’s dig at the ridiculous cover art of the series (probably my favorite joke besides the Wheel of Time inside joke). (By the way, I’m displaying the republished art in these posts since it’s so much better). I’m not sure of the details behind Sanderson’s break with Scholastic, but I know that at least the cover art issue is fixed with the fifth book (thank goodness), so the change is likely a good one.

I still wouldn’t say this series is my favorite of Sanderson’s; it’s funny, but lacking in depth, with shaky plot mechanics at times. However, I’m looking forward to seeing how Alcatraz manages in the next book, given the revelation at the end of this book, and Sanderson has never yet disappointed me in the long haul (perhaps in the short, but never the long).

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

A clanking sound came from behind us. I glanced over my shoulder.

No fewer than fifty Knights of Crystallia were rushing down the hallway in our direction.

“Gak!” I cried.

“Alcatraz, would you stop saying—” Bastille looked over her shoulder. “GAK!”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2FhxFSz

The Knights of Crystallia by Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz versus the Knights of Crystallia (republished title The Knights of Crystallia), by Brandon Sanderson, was published in 2009 by Scholastic. It is the sequel to The Scrivener’s Bones.

When Alcatraz and Grandpa Smedry make a pilgrimage to the Free Kingdom city of Crystallia, the Smedry home base, Alcatraz is shocked to see that he is a legend. When he was a baby, he was stolen by the Evil Librarians—and his mother, a Librarian herself, was behind it. Now, with his estranged father, who is acting strange; his best friend, Bastille, who has been stripped of her armor just when they need a good knight; and Grandpa Smedry, who is, as always, late to everything, Alcatraz tries to save a city under siege. From whom? Why, the Librarians, of course! And, in particular, an especially evil Evil Librarian who has followed the Smedrys to Crystallia in hopes of shattering the city: Alcatraz’s very own mother!

Rating: 2/5

Alcatraz versus the Knights of Crystallia is as fun-filled and crazy as the first two books. Sanderson continues to build up the mystery and suspense by revealing things in small increments and hinting at bigger mysteries to come. Knowing Sanderson, everything will come to a whiz-bang finish and all the foreshadowing will make sense—after things get worse, as Alcatraz-the-narrator states in the book.

Overarching-plot-wise, I don’t really have too much negative to say. Sanderson is clearly setting things up in this book, introducing new faces and new mysteries for our heroes to solve. I know some of what is coming, so I can also tell he’s weaving in lots of foreshadowing and clues.

However, while I don’t have much to say about his plot technique, I do have quite a bit to say about the way he chose to develop it. Frankly, I found Knights of Crystallia too short of a book—the main conflict began and ended quickly, the pace was all over the place, and after reading it, I set it down and thought, “Wow, I feel like this was a waste of a book.” Even with all the plot building he’s doing in this book, it still feels like it is twenty pages long rather than almost two hundred, or at least, it feels as if the important parts only encompass twenty pages.

The book is clearly a bridge between plot points, a way to have the characters advance in knowledge without revealing too much at once. It’s too short, yet oddly long for what little happens. It’s stuffed with filler, even more filler than what the Alcatraz series is known for. There’s also no satisfying moment to make the book seem worthwhile. And the annoyance is that the book has to be read to understand some plot points; it’s not skippable, yet it begs to be skipped.

The Knights of Crystallia is basically a paradox. Too short, yet too long. Too important, yet not important enough. The whole novel is a plot device to bring the characters to a certain point, something that would take too long to do if entwined with more plot. I love Sanderson, but this book was difficult to get through.

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

“So…what does this have to do with me?” I asked.

“Everything, lad, everything!” Grandpa Smedry pointed at me. “We’re Smedrys. When we gave up our kingdom, we took an oath to watch over all of the Free Kingdoms. We’re the guardians of civilization!”

“But wouldn’t it be good I the kings make peace with the Librarians?”

Sing looked pained. “Alcatraz, to do so, they would give up Mokia, my homeland!”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2BraGCi

The Scrivener’s Bones by Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz versus the Scrivener’s Bones (republished title The Scrivener’s Bones), by Brandon Sanderson, was published in 2008 by Scholastic. It is the sequel to Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians.

Alcatraz Smedry has an incredible talent…for breaking things! It generally gets him into a lot of trouble, but can he use it to save the day? In this second Alcatraz adventure, Alcatraz finds himself on a mission to meet Grandpa Smedry when he gets swept up by a flying glass dragon filled with his unusual and mouthy Smedry cohorts. Their mission? A dangerous library-filled one, of course! They are on their way to the ancient and mysterious Library of Alexandria (which some silly people think was long ago destroyed!) where they must find Grandpa Smedry, look for clues leading to Alcatraz’s potentially undead dead father, and battle the creepy, dangerous soul-sucking curators who await them.

Rating: 4/5

I found Evil Librarians to be annoyingly self-indulgent, but either I was more prepared for it in Scrivener’s Bones or I didn’t notice it as much, because I enjoyed the tone much more in this book. The humor is definitely pointed at a select group of people (I think you have to enjoy a certain type of humor to really enjoy these books), but Sanderson utilizes the humor to give some important (and funny) lessons on author manipulation and other plot devices, all while selling his Alcatraz narration as someone who desperately wants everyone to know how much of a liar he is, even while telling a story he wants people to believe.

Sanderson also starts peeling back at his intricate plot in this book. Most of the book takes place in one location, the library of Alexandria, but you tend to forget that because it’s so fast-paced and interesting once the characters reach that point. There’s the overall plot being developed, as Alcatraz and Bastille wonder about and puzzle over the nature of technology and magic in general and Alcatraz’s Talent in particular. Then, there’s the “book plot” being developed, as they make their way through traps to rescue Grandpa Smedry and discover more about Alcatraz’s father along the way. Even while being funny and self-indulgent, Sanderson knows how to craft a plot.

Perhaps the one thing holding this book back from a higher rating is, well, for one, I do tend to do the gymnastics-judge thing of holding back higher scores for later books, but, for another, a few things struck me as a little odd and out-of-place that kept me from really enjoying this book.

It wasn’t so self-indulgent as before (or I didn’t notice it as much), but there were still points when Alcatraz backing away from the action to wax philosophical about bunnies and bazookas was a little annoying. However, the one thing that struck me the most at the end was Grandpa Smedry’s apparent lie that no one bothered to correct, or even appeared to think, “Why did he lie?” The only thing I can think of is that I’m misremembering details and that what I thought was a lie really wasn’t; if not, it means that Sanderson goofed up. I’m willing to guess it was my mistake, but still, that didn’t stop me from being completely and utterly thrown at the end of the book by an apparent authorial error.

I found Alcatraz versus the Scrivener’s Bones much more entertaining and much less self-indulgent than the first book. I was able to get into the tone of the book more easily and enjoy myself throughout the adventure, admiring some of the more prominent bits of foreshadowing Sanderson is throwing in (as I’ve mentioned, I’ve read this series before, up until the most recent book). Some things still threw me off a bit, but, overall, this book was an improvement over the first.

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

“Do you really have the Talent of Breaking Things?”

I shrugged. “That’s what they tell me. What’s your Talent?”

Australia smiled. “I can wake up in the morning looking incredibly ugly!”

“Oh…how wonderful.” I still wasn’t certain how to respond to Smedry Talents. I usually couldn’t ever tell if the person telling me was excited or disappointed by the power.

Australia, it seemed, was excited by pretty much everything. She nodded perkily. “I know. It’s a fun Talent—nothing like breaking things—but I make it work for me!”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2CTNZ7q

Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians, by Brandon Sanderson, was published in 2007 by Scholastic.

Alcatraz Smedry doesn’t seem destined for anything but disaster. But on his thirteenth birthday, he receives a bag of sand, and life takes a bizarre turn. This is no ordinary bag of sand…and it is quickly stolen by the cult of evil Librarians who are taking over the world by spreading misinformation and suppressing truth. The sand will give the evil Librarians the edge they need to achieve world domination. Alcatraz must stop them!…by infiltrating the local library, armed with nothing but eyeglasses and a talent for klutziness.

Rating: 3/5

I need to preface this review by stating that I love Brandon Sanderson. As an author, as a worldbuilder, he really is phenomenal. He’s incredibly prolific and has the knack for developing unique magic in all of his books. And that shows even in his books for younger audiences; The Rithmatist was wildly creative, and Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians is as well, especially the magic system.

The big draw of these books is the voice of Alcatraz-the-author, who interrupts and explains and rigmaroles his “origin” story, complete with cheeky winks and nods at Newbery Medal books and To Kill a Mockingbird. It actually reminded me quite a bit of Lemony Snicket, to be honest. And the reference at the end of the book to Harry Potter was amazing and completely on-point.

However, the one thing I discovered that I don’t like about these books (I’ve read them before, all but the most recent one) is that they are incredibly self-indulgent. You can tell Sanderson wrote these just to indulge his humorous side, the one that’s tamed a bit when he’s writing epic fantasy. And maybe I wouldn’t mind it so much if it wasn’t so obviously self-indulgent. But it is, and if there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s authors being blatantly self-indulgent.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The plot is great—did I mention how good Sanderson is?—the reveals are twisty and surprising in all the right places in all the right ways, and Alcatraz is that sort of bumbling, yet oddly competent boy hero that people love. He’s a lot like David in Steelheart, to be honest—I think Sanderson just enjoys writing those sorts of characters. Yet, the plot, when it wasn’t being funny or Snicket-esque (which is most of the time), is gratingly self-indulgent. Maybe some people are fine with that, but not me.

Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians is well-written, with a memorable protagonist and the sort of tongue-in-cheek, snide narrator that is funny most of the time. However, I found it a little too self-indulgent to be very satisfying, towards the end, and I actually began to get just a little annoyed. Different strokes for different folks, though. I honestly do like this series, because I think Sanderson is amazing, and I like most of the humor, but the tone hits me the wrong way at times.

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

“Now,” I said, holding up a finger. “I want to make something very clear. I do not believe a word of what you have told me up to this point.”

“Understood,” Grandpa Smedry said.

“I’m only going with you because someone just tried to kill me. You see, I am a somewhat reckless boy and am not always prone to carefully considering the consequences of my actions.”

“A Smedry trait for certain,” Grandpa Smedry noted.

“In fact,” I said, “I think that you are a loon and likely not even my grandfather at all.”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2BAyotK

Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

Calamity, by Brandon Sanderson, was published in 2016 by Delacorte Press. It is the sequel to Firefight.

Spoilers for Steelheart & Firefight.

When Calamity lit up the sky, the Epics were born. David’s fate has been tied to their villainy ever since that historic night. Steelheart killed his father. Firefight stole his heart. And now Regalia has turned his closest ally into a dangerous enemy. David knew Prof’s secret, and kept it even when the Reckoners’ leader struggled to control the effects of his Epic powers. But facing Obliteration in Babilar was too much. Prof has now embraced his Epic destiny. He’s disappeared into those murky shadows of menace Epics are infamous for the world over, and everyone knows there’s no turning back….But everyone is wrong. Redemption is possible for Epics—Megan prove it. They’re not lost. Not completely. And David is just about crazy enough to face down the most powerful High Epic of all to get his friend back. Or die trying.

Calamity was, honestly…a little disappointing. Maybe “disappointing” isn’t the correct word. “At times annoying,” maybe, or even “confusing.” There were several times throughout the book when I either 1.) expected more from a scene, 2.) became confused at the plot developments or 3.) grew irritated with the way Sanderson was taking the whole Epic powers idea. I’m not sure if I liked what Sanderson said about corruption and goodness and the choices people make, and I especially didn’t like it delivered in such a “This Is The Moral Of The Story” way. And the whole parallel worlds thing was confusing as all-get-out.

But—David is still a great protagonist, even if his similes are annoying, and I’ve grown to like Megan more and more with each book. Sanderson can still weave a plot very well, even if this time I felt slightly less satisfied at the end than I normally do with his books. And even though a certain part of David’s development in this book was shouted from the very beginning—seriously, it’s so obvious that the book might as well be screaming at you—I still enjoyed the culmination of that development. I also enjoy that it wasn’t used as some sort of excuse to have a huge final battle—you know, the kind where the protagonist gets initially defeated by the villain and then fully realizes his powers and defeats the villain. Instead, David simply does a lot of talking. The powers part comes later, and in true David fashion, doesn’t work out quite as well as he hopes.

I don’t think Calamity is as good or as gripping as Steelheart, and maybe not even Firefight, but it is, at least, a mostly satisfying end. The moralizing bit at the end made me roll my eyes and wonder what Sanderson was trying to say, but I think if you liked the first two books you will probably enjoy this one, too. All my complaints aside, I know I did.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Violence.

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

“Why do I get the feeling there’s something they aren’t telling us?” Megan said. “That girl was looking at these cupcakes like they were scorpions.”

“Yeah,” I said, nodding. “Right. Scorpions.”

Megan eyed me.”

“Or tiny nuclear warheads,” I said. “That works too, right? Of course, you could strap a scorpion to a nuclear warhead, and that would make it even more dangerous. You’d have to try to disarm the thing, but wow—scorpion.”

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/1UevKen

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

Firefight, by Brandon Sanderson, was published in 2015 by Delacorte Press. It is the sequel to Steelheart.

Spoilers for Steelheart.

Newcago is free. They told David it was impossible—that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet Steelheart—invincible, immortal, unconquerable—is dead. And he died by David’s hand. Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life simpler. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And no one in Newcago can give him answers. Babylon Restored, the city formerly known as the borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic Regalia, Babylon Restored is flooded and miserable, but David is sure it’s the path that will lead him to what he needs to find. Entering a city oppressed by a High Epic despot is risky, but David’s willing to take the gamble. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David’s heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic—Firefight. And he’s willing to go on a quest darker and even more dangerous than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.

Firefight improved on a lot of things that I wasn’t all that fond of in Steelheart, such as tuning down David’s ridiculous analogies (and, by the way, thank you, Megan, for pointing out that they’re not metaphors, as he’s been calling them, but similes. You have no idea how much that bothered me. Technically, even my use of “analogies” is incorrect) and fleshing out the nature of Epic powers and weaknesses. It’s an incredibly solid second book overall, and it has less of a “second book in a trilogy” flavor to it than most.

David becomes even more awesome in this book, which I love to see in protagonists—and Sanderson manages to balance keeping David the same character while also building on that and changing him in certain ways. I loved the part where he had to face his fear of the water, which led him to both resist what Regalia tried to do to him as well as inspire the same bravery in Megan (technically, that happened earlier). David is a great character because he inspires other characters to be more than they were before. He inspires Megan to face her own fears and sees things in other people that they can’t see themselves. I’m looking forward to how the third book will play out in regards to David, Prof, and Obliteration (and even Calamity).

I am a bit disappointed that most of the new Reckoner team were basically Red Shirts (expendable crew, basically), though. Both Val and Exel have pretty bland personalities and we don’t get as attached to them as we do the stand-out Mizzy or the first book’s Cody and Abraham. So, it’s a little obvious that Val and Exel are set-up to be expendable characters where we won’t care much if they end up dying—a sure sign that they will, at some point, end up dying.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Violence.

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Once, I’d absolutely hated Epics. I realized I couldn’t feel that way any longer. Not now that I’d known Prof, Megan, and Edmund. Perhaps that was why I rebelled against killing Regalia. It seemed to me she was trying to fight her Epic nature. And maybe that meant we could save her.

All of these questions led me toward dangerous speculation. What would happen if we captured an Epic here, like we’d done with Edmund back in Newcago? What if we tied up someone like Newton or Obliteration, then used their weakness to perpetually negate their powers? How long without using their abilities would it take for them to start acting like a regular person?

If Newton or Obliteration weren’t under the influence of their powers, would they help us like Edmund had? And would that not, in turn, prove that we could do the same for Regalia herself? And after her, Megan?

Overall Review:

Firefight improved on a lot of the things I had difficulty with in Steelheart, although that improvement was slightly mitigated by Firefight’s own problems, such as the blandness of some of the characters that clearly indicates their “This one’s going to die” status. As for the plot and the action, it’s Sanderson quality as usual—which means that it’s good. I’m excited to see where the revelations in this book lead us to in the final book.

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/1XLiArB

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson, was published in 2013 by Delacorte Press.

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary people extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. Epics are no friends of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man, you must crush his will. Now, in what was once Chicago, an astonishingly powerful Epic named Steelheart has installed himself as emperor. Steelheart possesses the strength of ten men and can control the elements. It is said that no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, and no fire can burn him. He is invincible. Nobody fights back…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, the Reckoners spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them. And David wants in. When Steelheart came to Chicago, he killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David has been studying, and planning, and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience. He has seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

I have to admit, Brandon Sanderson has never failed to disappoint me. Not only is he an incredibly prolific writer, churning out what feels like a book a year, but he is a consistently good crafter. His plots are tight and surprising, the action is awesome, and there is always an edge of humor to take away from the tension. I started reading Steelheart and I could not put it down.

Despite the fact that I guessed a few of the plot reveals, it was the sort of anticipatory guessing that I see as more positive than the guessing that leads to boredom; the sort of guessing where you can’t wait for the reveal just so you can squeal “I knew it!” in delight. And a few things that I guessed weren’t correct at all, so I was suitably surprised as much as I was wiggling in anticipation (I did actually wiggle while reading this book).

David’s nerdiness/awkwardness (there are not enough nerdy heroes) was a delight. I love it when heroes stave off bad guys using their wits, which is pretty much what David does the entire time (with moments of stupidity interspersed). The action scenes involving the take-down of the Epics were gripping, and pretty much exactly what I want to read when I read action.

I am glad that Megan got more dimensionality towards the end because for a while I was a bit worried that she was just the Hot Action Girl Love Interest and nothing else. But since Sanderson is awesome, and knows his stuff, she gets better, and more intriguing, and feels more like a character rather than a cardboard cutout.

I did think, though, that “Newcago” was a bit of a twee name, and the running gag of David’s terrible metaphors, while humorous, just went slightly over the edge into “too much” territory. I also spent way too long wondering how in the world Curveball’s powers worked. Does he spontaneously generate bullets so that he never runs out? Does he take them from somewhere else? Is there a giant warehouse stuffed full of ammunition just so Curveball can never run out of bullets? The characters mention at the end how incomprehensible some of the powers the Epics have are, which I was glad for since Curveball’s, above all the others, pretty much just boggled my mind.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Violence.

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

“Yeah, caber toss….It’s this sport we had back in the homeland. Involved throwing trees.”

“Little sapling? Like javelins?”

“No, no. The cabers had to be so wide that your fingers couldn’t touch on the other side when you reached your arms around them. We’d rip ‘em out of the ground, then hurl them as far as we could.”

I raised a skeptical eyebrow.

“Bonus points if you could hit a bird out of the air,” he added.

“Cody,” Tia said, walking by with a sheaf of papers, “do you even know what a caber is?”

“A tree,” he said. “We used them to build show houses. It’s where the word cabaret came from, lass.” He said it with such a straight face that I had trouble determining if he was sincere or not.

“You’re a buffoon,” Tia said.

Overall Review:

I had a few slight issues with Steelheart, but the book is amazing in suspense, action, imagination, and fun. I couldn’t put it down and I enjoyed wiggling and saying “I knew it!” at plot threads I guessed correctly and saying “Oh my gosh, what?” at plot threads I didn’t guess correctly (or didn’t guess at all). Sanderson is one of the most consistently good writers out there at the moment, and Steelheart is another win from him.

You can buy this here: Steelheart

The Rithmatist: The Unicorn Is A Very Noble And Majestic Animal

The Rithmatist is written by Brandon Sanderson. It was published in 2013 by Tor. It is the first in a series. Sanderson’s website can be found here.

Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk, Young Adult, Mystery

Summary/Blurb:

“More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the wild chalklings—merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the wild chalklings now threaten all the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery, one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.”

~Inside Flap

Passages/Quotes:

“Tell me honestly,” Melody said, whispering to Joel, “are you following me?”

Joel started. “What?”

“Well, you did take the same math class that I did.”

“We get assigned our classes by the campus office!” Joel said.

“After that,” she continued, speaking as if she hadn’t heard his protest, “you got a job at the campus office—the same place that I, unfortunately, have to do service.”

“I’ve had that job since the beginning of the term!”

“And finally,” she said, “you followed me to Fitch’s office. Pretty suspicious.”

“I didn’t follow you. I was here before you!

“Yes,” Melody said, “a convenient excuse.”

~Sanderson 94

The chalklings reached his defenses and hesitated. For a moment, he felt a stab of fear—similar to what he assumed Herman Libel must have felt while sitting defenseless against an attacking group of chalk monsters.

Joel doubted that Herman had been forced to face down unicorns though.

The creatures finally tested Joel’s defenses—which, of course, didn’t stop them. They rushed forward eagerly, surrounding Joel, then running about in circles. Joel cringed, imagining them stripping off his flesh. Fortunately, these chalklings were harmless.

“Unicorns?” he asked sufferingly.

“The unicorn is a very noble and majestic animal!”

~Sanderson 158

Cover Art

Warnings: Violence

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Rating: 5/5

What I Liked:

This was a fun book. Sanderson has a knack for writing really entertaining books, and this one is no exception. The illustrations in the book serve as guide pictures for the theory that is being discussed in the book, and help to lessen the complexity and subsequent confusion. It’s a very complicated, detailed magic system (something else Sanderson is known for), and it is glorious.

This is essentially a whodunit, but with a more overarching plot structure than most mysteries. The book is mainly self-contained, but leaves a lot open for sequels, such as the issue of Nalizar, the clocks/gears, and the inception ceremony.

Melody is mainly there for comic relief, but that does not make her any less a fully fleshed-out character, and Sanderson is good at maintaining that balance.

One of the many explanatory illustrations found in the book

The ending “battle” scene was so incredibly cool to read. I’m wondering if that means that the next book will take place in Nebrask, considering the ramifications of winning that tournament. Also, I love Melody and Joel’s banter about unicorns. I just love Melody in general.

The coins have gears in them! There are horses made out of gears! It’s steampunk!

Random: “Rithmatics” is a combination of arithmetic and mathematics. Chuckle.

What I Didn’t Like:

The drawings help, but the theory of Rithmatics discussed in the book is very heavy and complex and could be too complicated for some readers to handle. It’s also discussed fairly early on, so it’s a little hard to get into the book at first.

Overall Review:

Sanderson is known for churning out great books in a short amount of time, and The Rithmatist is no exception. It’s much less self-indulgent than his Alcatraz series, and the involved magic system, the detailed world, and the inherent fun-factor (it’s sidewalk chalk! That comes alive! I want my sidewalk chalk to come alive!) make this book a wonderful read.

Coming Up Next: Nightspell by Leah Cypess