In this third Alcatraz adventure, Alcatraz Smedry has made it to the Free Kingdoms at last. Unfortunately, so have the evil Librarians–including his mother! Now Alcatraz has to find a traitor among the Knights of Crystallia, make up with his estranged father, and save one of the last bastions of the Free Kingdoms from the Evil Librarians.
Alcatraz is back for another rip-roaring story in The Knights of Crystallia, where he, Bastille, Grandpa Smedry and a host of other wacky characters need to rescue the Free Kingdoms from another dastardly plot hatched by the Evil Librarians to take over the Kingdoms and align the entire world with the (somewhat boring) vision Biblioden has for the “proper” ruling of the world. While we learned about some of the different Librarian factions in the previous books, as you might have guessed from the title, this book focuses on the order of the Knights of Crystallia, who are an integral part of Nalhalla and the Free Kingdoms.
With the move from Alexandria to Nalhalla, Alcatraz is learning more and more about the ways of the Free Kingdoms, its people and getting to grip more and more with what it means to be a Smedry. Not just with regard to the family Talents, but also the family’s social status—they are practically royalty. I loved how Sanderson made some of the family’s weirder and seemingly useless Talents, like cousin Folsom’s Talent of dancing poorly or cousin Sing’s tripping Talent, prove useful in the right circumstances. Alcatraz also learns that he isn’t just special because of being a Smedry, but also because he’s an Occulator, which means he is able to use the magical Lenses created from brightsand.
All of this specialness, combined with the renown of his exploits in the prior books goes somewhat to Alcatraz’s head. Where the previous books were marked by his talking smack about himself, in The Knights of Crystallia he goes the opposite direction, constantly reminding the reader and those around him how awesome he is. This is reinforced by his fame and the way he is treated like a celebrity, as is his father. Alcatraz learns that fame isn’t all it is cracked up to be, in fact it can be a bloody nuisance and be unhealthy for you. But, if leveraged well, it can also be a useful tool to get people to listen to you when it matters.
The Smedry’s aristocratic, almost royal standing also explains their names all resembling prison names, as the Librarians took aristocratic Nalhallan names and deliberately named prisons after them to discredit the Free Kingdoms aristocracy. And we also learn Bastille also has a prison name—she is the daughter of the king of Nalhalla. To complicate things even more, her mother is a Knight of Crystallia and Bastille desperately wants to resemble her and make her proud. And that why she is a full knight at the age of thirteen. We learn a lot about the Knights and their Order and their role in society, but also how their strength can be turned into a weakness.
As before, the chapters in the book start of with a mixture of madcap zaniness and philosophical ponderings. This time Alcatraz seems particularly taken with the Socratic method, the asking of questions, and the nature of objective and subjective truth. In an almost sneaky way there is an unexpected depth to his meanderings and introductions. The narrative also plays with the concept of loyalty and what a changed allegiance means to both the betrayer and the betrayed, and whether this can ever be a well-meant or even redemptive act. In this context, Himalaya rocks!
The Knights of Crystallia is fun, but is also quite the middle book in a series and as such doesn’t stand alone very well. As such, you should probably start with the first book and work your way through from there.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.