October 11, 2021

Abbreviations #141: Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, The Way of Kings + Howl's Moving Castle

I’ll point you in the direction of Macky’s clever review for the series, but I felt like it would still be appropriate to give you my personal thoughts on Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians too. This middle grade series starter centers around Alcatraz Smedry, who finds out on his thirteenth birthday that everything he knows about himself and the world around him is, in fact, a lie. Because the evil Librarians are out to take over the world by spreading lies and misinformation, and it’s up to Alcatraz and his up-until-this-point unknown family to help stop that from happening. As you might know if you’ve read my blog for a while now, I generally prefer to be able to connect with the characters I read about. That, unfortunately, did not happen when I read this book, simply because the characters felt crossed the line between real person and caricature for me. However, that didn’t stop me from enjoying this read! This is one of those rare instances where I was fully content to be dragged along by the plot (which is shenanigans piled on top of other shenanigans and shoved into a close with, you guessed it, more shenanigans) as it played out. I also enjoyed the humor of this story, which runs the spectrum from really out there zany to being patently sarcastic and witty (which Macky basically embodies). And the narration style, which might not work for everyone with the tongue in cheek remarks and the allusions to future plots, ended up working quite well for this book too! While I’m not really rushing to pick up the next in the series, I do eventually plan to because I so enjoyed my time with this book.

Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians (Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians #1) by Brandon Sanderson
Pub Info: February 16, 2016 (or. October 2007) by Starscape

Even though I’ve now read quite a few adult fantasy books, I still found the idea of starting The Stormlight Archive series very intimidating. After all, The Way of Kings is just about thousand pages long – and the rest of the books that have been released in the series so far equal or surpass it in length. But I couldn’t help being curious after seeing so many folks I follow on BookTube rave about it (and even more curious after my friend Kristin told me how much she loved it), and so, I finally took the plunge. The Way of Kings introduces us to three narrators: Dalinar, a decorated general in the King’s army beset by unexplained visions; Kaladin, a slave who works as a member of a warlord’s bridge crew despairing over the curse that causes him to fail all those he wants to protect; and Shallan, a young woman who aims to be apprenticed to a master scholar in order to steal the relic that the master possesses in order to save her family. Each of their perspectives is distinct from the others, and the lengthy page count ensured that there was ample time for the formation of a solid character-reader relationship with each of the three. I never once felt lost or bored no matter who I happened to be following at any given moment as well! I also appreciated how each main character (and a couple of other secondary characters too, specifically in the interludes) offered a different view of the world, and that contributed to the world-building right alongside actual descriptions and the insertion of sketches and maps. In terms of plot, while I normally do not gravitate towards war stories, it worked really well here. It’s probably got a lot to do with Sanderson’s writing and the way he gave human faces to people involved in the conflict. I’m glad I finally picked this tome up because I really enjoyed the time I spent reading it, and I’m looking forward to the next installment.

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1) by Brandon Sanderson
Pub Info: August 31, 2010 by Tor Books

My original experience with Howl's Moving Castle was, of course, the iconic Studio Ghibli film (which I enjoyed, though it's actually not one of my Ghibli favorites). I'd heard from many folks over the years that the novel that was the source material for this whimsical tale was equally incredible, and I'd been curious about it for ages so I finally took the plunge and read it this year. And friends, this book was so enjoyable! In Howl's Moving Castle, Sophie finds herself cursed by the Witch of the Wastes. She decides to make her way to the moving castle owned by the wizard Howl in order to find a way to break her curse, only to find herself swept up in a series of adventures with Howl, his apprentice Michael and the fire demon Calcifer. It was fun to pinpoint the details that made an appearance in the film, but it was equally entertaining (and a wonderful surprise) to discover that there was more to this story. I really enjoyed being swept up in this adventure with Sophie, Howl and the rest of the cast of characters, though I did feel like I wasn't as connected to it in a personal way as I would've liked. Still, I was entertained, charmed and engaged completely from start to end, and if that's not the sign of a good read, I don't know what is. I'd definitely recommend reading Howl's Moving Castle (and if you haven't yet, you should totally watch the film too)!

Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle #1) by Diana Wynne Jones
Pub Info: April 22, 2008 (or. April 1946) by Greenwillow Books


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