Book Review: The Shattered Lens by Brandon Sanderson
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Series: Book 4 of Alcatraz
Publisher: Starscape (July 19, 2016)
Length: 336 pages
Great to know I can always count on the Alcatraz series to lift my spirits. The Shattered Lens may be book four of the sequence, but I’m just as hooked on the story as I was when I first picked up Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, the adventure that started it all. Brandon Sanderson continues to deliver plenty of laughs and action as he prepares to ramp things up for The Dark Talent; now that the illustrated hardcover re-issues of books 1-4 are out in the world, the stage is set for the long-awaited big finale, dropping September 2016.
You’d think a nice vacation for Alcatraz Smedry and Co. are in order, after foiling the latest Librarian scheme to attack the Free Kingdoms—but no. This time, urgent news has come from Mokia, a Free Kingdom nation currently under siege by the Shattered Lens, the most zealous of the Librarian sects. Thinking like a Smedry, Alcatraz hatches up a crazy plan to charge headfirst into the heat of battle, hoping that his actions would encourage the Knights of Crystallia to follow his lead and send support to Tuki Tuki, the capital of Mokia.
It doesn’t take long for Alcatraz to realize he’s in way over his head. The Shattered Lens’ army of giant robots have Tuki Tuki surrounded, and every day more and more of the city’s defenders are falling to the enemy’s coma-inducing weapons. Still, Alcatraz is determined not to let Mokia fall—not while he’s in charge. He only has to hold out until help arrives, which should be soon…ish?
This was another awesome installment, but I probably didn’t like it as much as the first three books. Obviously I’m not the target audience here, but while the plot, characters, humor, etc. are definitely more on the “youngish” side, on the whole I’ve found this series to be very clever and witty, engaging enough so that adults like myself can enjoy the stories. That’s why I was surprised when I read the first couple chapters of The Shattered Lens and felt for the first time that the series might have gone just a tad overboard with the silliness. Alcatraz’s ramblings at the beginning of each chapter, which has become somewhat of a tradition, also felt a bit forced this time around. Like I said though, these books weren’t written for my demographic, and what matters is that the kids will still love this one, but I just wanted to give the main reason why I felt this fourth book didn’t mesh as well with me as the first three did.
Now that that’s out of the way though, I want to talk about the things that did work for me. Let’s get to the most important subject first: teddy bear grenades. After all, how else are Free Kingdoms children supposed to protect themselves?! I also really enjoyed getting to visit Mokia, despite having to see it in its besieged state. Sanderson continues to expand the cast as well, adding another member to Alcatraz’s family tree which also means—yay!—more bizarre Smedry talents. Aydee Ecks, Alcatraz’s bubbly little cousin, has the talent of being really bad at math…and I just love the way she puts it to good use.
And speaking of Smedry talents, the one thing I haven’t really talked about in my reviews is the way “magic” works in the Alcatraz universe. Considering some of the intricate magic systems in Sanderson’s adult works, I originally dismissed occulator lenses and Smedry talents, etc. as being superficial and overly simplistic. But I was wrong. Much has been revealed so far over the course of these four books, connecting the dots and fleshing out what is known as the Incarnate Wheel, which is a theory used to divide the different talents up into groups. This style of describing and categorizing talents is pure Brandon Sanderson. Although there’s still this humorous, farcical element to the talent system in Alcatraz, it’s probably no less complex and thought-out than the magic systems in his epic fantasy novels, and I’m really starting to appreciate that.
All in all, it’s become quite evident that we’re now gearing up for the final book, as plot threads are coming together or being tied up left and right. It felt like this was the main purpose of the novel, for even though the siege of Mokia played a central role, it’s the big reveals in here that really stole the show. But there are still so many questions: What’s the real deal behind Alcatraz’s talent? How will things play out between him and Bastille? What’s going to happen with his parents? And will we really, truly, finally get that long-promised, oft-teased altar scene? Diving into The Dark Talent soon, so I guess I’ll be finding this all out in due course!