The Dark Talent (Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians Series #5)

The Dark Talent (Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians Series #5)

by Brandon Sanderson

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Overview

The Dark Talent is the fifth action-packed fantasy adventure in the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series for young readers by the #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson. This never-before-published, fast-paced, and funny novel is now available in a deluxe hardcover edition, illustrated by Hayley Lazo.

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?

“Like Lemony Snicket and superhero comics rolled into one.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765381408
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 09/06/2016
Series: Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians Series , #5
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 129,933
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)
Lexile: 710L (what's this?)
Age Range: 9 - 13 Years

About the Author

BRANDON SANDERSON is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Rithmatist and Steelheart, both of which were selected for the American Library Association's Teens' Top Ten list. He's also written many popular and award-winning books for adults. His middle grade series, Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, is now available in deluxe editions.

Read an Excerpt

The Dark Talent


By Brandon Sanderson, Hayley Lazo

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2016 Dragonsteel Entertainment, LLC
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-8153-2



CHAPTER 1

Doug


So there I was, standing in my chambers on the day before the world ended, facing my greatest adversary to date.

The royal wardrobe coordinator.

Janie was a perky Nalhallan woman wearing trendy Free Kingdomer clothing. Technically you could describe her outfit as a tunic — but it was only similar to a tunic in the same way that a high-end sports car is similar to a broken-down pickup. It was more like a dress with a belt at the waist, and had a large bow on one side with stylish embroidery up the sleeves.

It looked nice, making it a complete contrast to the monstrosity she held up for me to wear.

"That," I said, "is a clown costume."

"What?" Janie said. "Of course it isn't."

"It's a white jumpsuit," I said, "with fluffy pink bobs over the buttons!"

"White for the purity of the throne, Your Former Highness," Janie said, "and pink to indicate your magnanimous decision to step down peacefully."

"It has oversized floppy shoes."

"A representation of your magnificent footprint upon the kingdom, Your Former Highness."

"And the fake flower to squirt water?"

"So that you may shower all who approach you with symbolic waters of life."

I raised a skeptical eyebrow at her and walked over to the bed, picking up the poofy rainbow clown wig she'd brought for me to wear.

"Obviously," Janie said, "that is a representation of the varieties of cultures and peoples you served during your kingship." She smiled.

"Let me guess," I said, tossing the wig onto the bed. "The Librarians took this 'regal' costume worn by retired Mokian kings and, where I'm from, gave it to clowns. That turned it into something ridiculous in the Hushlands, like how they named prisons after famous Free Kingdomers."

"Uh, yeah," Janie said. "Sure ... Uh, that's ... exactly what happened."

I frowned at her evasiveness. At the moment, I wore only a bathrobe. My old clothing — green jacket, T-shirt, jeans — was gone. My jacket had been cut up, and the rest of my clothing had been vaporized in a rather unfortunate incident containing far too much Alcatraz nudity.

Outside my room, Tuki Tuki — capital city of Mokia — was utterly silent. The drums of celebration had stopped, as had the songs of joy. Their day of celebration past, the Mokians now mourned in silence to highlight the voices among them that had been quieted.

If I was right, that silence was about to get a lot worse. I refer you to the footnote for proof.

"What else do you have?" I asked Janie.

"Well, let's see," she said, obviously disappointed I wouldn't wear the clown outfit. I might be a former king of Mokia — though I'd only served for one day — but if that was the traditional costume of my station, I'd go without.

She reached into her large trunk and pulled out what appeared to be a dog costume, with furred feet, a tail, and a headpiece with floppy ears.

"No," I said immediately.

"But it's the official outfit for a retired prince of —"

"No."

Janie sighed, setting it on the bed and digging farther into her trunk.

"What is it with these 'traditional' outfits?" I said, poking the dog costume. "I mean, even without Librarian interference, you have to admit they're kind of ..."

"Regal?"

"Ridiculous," I said. "It's almost like you want your former kings to look silly."

Janie shifted. "Uh ... why would we want to do that? It's not like we want people to see former monarchs as foolish, so a ruler who has stepped down can never change his mind, stage a coup, and seize back the kingdom." She forced out a laugh.

"You're a terrible liar."

"Thank you! How about this nice cat costume? It represents the way you gracefully maneuvered the politics of the throne!"

"No animal costumes at all, please."

She sighed, then continued digging in her trunk. A moment later she cursed under her breath. The lights at the sides of the trunk had stopped working.

Curious, I walked over. Why did she even need lights? I soon saw that the inside of the trunk was much larger than the outside would indicate. The trunk was a neat trick, but nothing I hadn't seen before — in the Free Kingdoms, people use different varieties of glass to accomplish some pretty amazing things.

The lights at the sides were made of a special kind of glass to provide illumination — and that glass was powered by a special type of sand called brightsand. It worked somewhat like a battery for glass. (In the same way that shipwrecked people act like batteries for sharks.)

Her brightsand for the lights appeared to have lost its charge. Fortunately, I knew something else that worked as a battery for both sand and sharks: me.

I reached out and touched the glass of her lights. I might have — somehow — broken the Smedry Talents, but I was still an Oculator. That meant I could power special types of glass.

I dredged up something inside me and pushed it out — it was a little like trying to throw up when not nauseous. The glass lights shining into Janie's trunk burst aglow, brilliant as the sun. I yelped, startled by the sudden explosion of power. Usually there was a sense of resistance when trying to do this, but today the energy came right out.

I stumbled back as the glass plates actually melted.

"Wow," Janie said. "Uh ... you really hate these clothes, don't you?"

"I ..."

Let me pause here and explain an important point. When you are a coward like me, you should always take credit for something you didn't intend to do. You see, part of being a coward is being too afraid of not being seen as awesome to admit to not being awesome, though you have to be careful not to let on that you're too afraid of not being awesome to admit that not being awesome would indicate to those that want someone to be awesome that you are not as awesome as your awesomeness would otherwise indicate.

"I'm awesome," I said.

Sorry. I got a little confused in that last paragraph. Man, this writing can be as regal as a former Mokian monarch sometimes.

Janie looked at me.

"Ah, ahem," I said. "I saw a military uniform. What about that?"

I'd only seen a glimpse of it in the bright light: an outfit of Nalhallan design, with big epaulettes on the shoulders and all kinds of ropes and ribbons and buttons and things, intended to make officers stand out on a battlefield and get shot first so the soldiers doing the real fighting are safe.

"I suppose," Janie said, "I can try to dig that out — but I'll need to install some new lights first." She glanced at the bubbling globs of glass on the sides of her trunk.

"Uh, thanks," I said.

"You sure you don't want a frog costume? Technically it's supposed to be for a retired king who served at least seven days, but you could swing it."

"No thanks." I hesitated, but was too curious not to ask. "Let me guess. The frog costume represents how a monarch leaps hurdle after hurdle as a leader?"

"Nah. It's symbolic of how you survived your kingship without croaking."

Of course.

Janie got out another pack and began digging around for some lights. Embarrassed at having ruined her glass, I made an excuse about needing to use the restroom and slipped out. In truth, I just wanted to be alone for a little while.

The hallway outside my room was decorated with a woven mat, the walls constructed of large reeds, the roof thatched. I didn't see a soul. The place was freakishly quiet, and I found myself tiptoeing. (A common action of cowards like me.)

It seemed to me that with everything that had happened in the last few days, I should be doing something far more important than deciding what to wear. Tuki Tuki was safe, but I hadn't won this war. Not as long as Bastille and so many Mokians lay in comas, Librarians still ruled the Hushlands, and there were footnotes lying scattered around unused.

We needed to chase down my father and stop him from putting his insane plan into motion. Though ... maybe his plan wouldn't work anymore. I'd broken the Talents, after all. Maybe that would stop him from giving Talents to everyone else.

No, I thought. This is my father. He'd bested the undead Librarians of Alexandria and had uncovered the secret of the Sands of Rashid. He would be able to do this too. If we didn't stop him.

I heard voices in the hallway, so I followed them to a spacious room topped by lazy ceiling fans. Inside, my grandfather stood before a large wall of glowing glass that showed the faces of numerous people in a variety of ethnic costumes. I recognized them as the monarchs of the Free Kingdoms — I'd saved their lives at one point. Maybe two. I lose count.

Bald on top, my grandfather wore a bushy mustache and had an equally bushy ring of white hair that puffed out along the back of his head, like he'd been in an epic pillow fight and a mass of stuffing had gotten stuck to his scalp. He was, as always, decked out in a stylish tuxedo.

"Now, I don't want to act ungrateful," my grandfather was saying to the monarchs, "but ... Accountable Abercrombies, people! Don't you think you're a little late?"

"Mokia asked for aid," said Queen Kamiko, an Asian-looking woman in her fifties.

"Yes," agreed a man wearing a European-looking crown. I didn't know his name. "You wanted armies. We're sending them, along with the air guard, to help you Smedrys. What is the complaint?"

"My complaint?" Grandpa Smedry sputtered. "The war is over! My grandson won it!"

"Yes, well," said a dark-skinned monarch in a colorful hat. "Certainly there is still work to be done. Cleanup, reconstruction, that sort of thing."

"You cowards," I said, stepping into the room.

Trust me. I know how to spot cowards.

My grandfather looked toward me, as did the monarchs on the screen. The Free Kingdomers claim that they are nothing like the Hushlanders, but things like this glass wall — which was Communicator's Glass, designed for speaking over long distances — are very similar to Hushlander technology. The two could be sides to the same coin.

Ditto for those monarchs and the leaders of the Librarians. Politicians, it seemed, often shared more with one another than they did with the people they represented.

"Lad ..." Grandpa Smedry said.

"I will speak to them," I said, stepping up beside him.

"But —" Grandpa said.

"I won't be shushed!"

"I wasn't going to shush you," Grandpa said. "I was going to point out that you're addressing the world's collected monarchs in a bathrobe."

Uh ...

Right.

"It's a representation of my disdain for their callous disregard for Mokian lives!" I proclaimed, raising a hand with my finger pointed toward the sky.

Thanks, Janie.

"Young Smedry," said Kamiko, "we are grateful for what you have done, but you have no right to speak to us in such a way!"

"I have every right!" I snapped. "I am a former king of Mokia."

"You were king for one day," said a tiny dinosaur. I knew that one: Supremus Rex, monarch of the dinosaurs.

"One day is long enough to get some of the stench on me," I said, "but brief enough to not be overwhelmed by it. You send armies now? After the fight is won, and you realize that an alliance with the Librarians is impossible? I can't believe that you —"

"I don't have to listen to this," Kamiko interrupted, turning off her section of the glass. The others followed suit, switching off their screens until only one remained, a man with red hair and beard, looking sorrowful. Brig, the High King, Bastille's father.

I felt my anger fade, and I looked sheepishly at my grandfather. I'd stormed in and ruined his meeting.

"That was quite energetic!" Grandpa Smedry said. "I approve."

"I don't know," another voice said from the back of the room. My uncle Kaz was there, sitting and sipping a fruit drink, his adventuring hat on the table beside him. Four feet tall — and please don't call him a dwarf or a midget — Kaz was dressed in a leather jacket and sturdy hiking boots. He had a pair of Warrior's Lenses hanging from his pocket; he wasn't an Oculator, but he was pretty handy in a fight.

Kaz raised his cup toward me. "It was good calling them cowards, Al, but I think you could have slipped another insult or two in before they switched off their glass. And the send-off ... yeah, that wasn't suitably theatrical at all."

"True, true," Grandpa said. "The dramatic effect of your intrusion could have been much greater, and you could have been far more annoying."

And that's probably the best introduction I could give you to my family. In the last six months of my life, I'd taunted undead Librarian ghosts, recklessly used my Talent to lay waste to armies, run headlong into danger a dozen times over, and aggravated some of the most powerful Librarians who have ever lived — but compared to the rest of the Smedry clan, I'm the responsible, cool-headed one.

"I doubt insulting the monarchs will do any good, Leavenworth," the High King said to my grandfather, speaking through his glowing pane of glass. "They are afraid. A few days ago the world made sense to them — but now everything has changed."

"Because the Librarians were driven off?" I asked. Bastille's father looked very, very tired, with red eyes and drooping features.

"Yes," the king said to me. "Driven off by one person, and by a power they didn't know he had — a power they can't imagine or understand. They're afraid that what you have done will enrage the Librarians."

"Mokia was their sacrifice," Grandpa Smedry said, angry. "They foolishly hoped it would satiate the Librarians. And now they're convinced that the Librarians will return in force, determined this time to crush the entirety of the Free Kingdoms."

Politics.

I hate politics. When I'd first learned about the Free Kingdoms, I'd imagined how wonderful and amazing they'd be. I spent two entire books trying to get there, only to find that — despite their many wonders — the people in them were ... well, people. Free Kingdomers had all the flaws of people in the Hushlands, except with sillier clothing.

I thought of Bastille, unconscious. She'd be so embarrassed to be seen that way. Those monarchs had abandoned her, and Mokia, for their own petty games. It made me angry. Angry at the monarchs, angry at the Librarians, angry at the world. I sneered, stepping forward, and slapped my hands against the Communicator's Glass on the wall.

"Lad?" Grandpa Smedry asked.

The glass beneath my fingers began to glow.

Perhaps I should have been wary, considering what I'd done to Janie's lights. I just wanted to do something. I powered the wall glass. I threw everything I had into those panels, causing them to shine brightly.

"You can't call them back," Kaz said, "not unless they allow you to —"

I pushed something into that glass, something powerful. I had certain advantages, being raised in the Hushlands. Everyone in the Free Kingdoms had expectations about what was and wasn't possible.

I was too stupid to know what they knew, and I was too much a Smedry to let that bother me.

What I did next defies explanation. But since it's my job to convey difficult concepts to you, I'm going to try anyway. Imagine jumping off a high building into a sea of marshmallows, then reaching out with a million arms to touch the entire world, while realizing that every emotion you've ever had is connected to every other emotion, and they're really one big emotion, like an emotion-whale that you can't completely see because you're up too close to notice anything other than a little bit of leathery emotion-whale skin.

I let out a deep breath.

Wow.

In that moment, the squares of Communicator's Glass each winked back on. They showed the rooms of the monarchs, most of whom were still there, though they'd stood from their chairs to speak with their attendants. One had gotten a sandwich. Another was playing solitaire.

They looked at me, and I somehow knew that my face had appeared on each of their panes of glass, large and dominating.

"I," I told them, "am going to the Highbrary."

Is that my voice?

"You are worried I've started something dangerous," I said. "You're wrong. I'm not starting it, I'm finishing it. The Librarians have terrorized us for far too long. I intend to make certain they are the ones who are frightened and they are the ones, for once, who have to worry about what they're going to lose.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Dark Talent by Brandon Sanderson, Hayley Lazo. Copyright © 2016 Dragonsteel Entertainment, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Map of the Free Kingdoms,
Dedication,
Author's Foreword,
Chapter Doug,
Chapter Lilly,
Chapter Norton,
Chapter Bob,
Chapter Lilliana,
Chapter Mary,
Chapter Trillian,
Chapter Deckard,
Chapter Frog,
Chapter Alice,
Chapter Marco,
Chapter Melissa,
Chapter 13,
Chapter Shu Wei,
Chapter 15,
Chapter 16,
Chapter 17,
Chapter 18,
Chapter 19,
Chapter 20,
Chapter 21,
Author's Afterword,
About the Author,
About the Illustrator,
Acknowledgments,
Reading and Activity Guide,
Also by Brandon Sanderson,
Praise for the Alcatraz Series,
Copyright,

Reading Group Guide

About this guide

The questions and activities that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians novels. The guide has been developed in alignment with the Common Core State Standards; however please feel free to adapt this content to suit the needs and interests of your students or reading group participants.

Brandon Sanderson is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Rithmatist and Steelheart, both of which were selected for the American Library Association’s Teens’ Top Ten list. He’s also written many popular and award-winning books for adults. His middle-grade series, Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, is now available in deluxe hardcover editions from Starscape.

Hayley Lazo grew up just outside Washington, D.C. Her art can be found at art-zealot.deviantart.com.

About this series

Brandon Sanderson turns readers’ understanding of literary genres upside-down and backward in this lively adventure series. In the world of thirteen-year-old Alcatraz Smedry, “Librarians,” with their compulsions to organize and control information, are a source of evil, and “Talents” can include breaking things, arriving late, and getting lost. Add an unlikely teenage knight named Bastille, flying glass dragons, wild battles, references to philosophers and authors from Heraclitus to Terry Pratchett, and plenty of hilarious wordplay, and you have a series to please book lovers of all ages—one that will have readers reflecting deeply about the nature of knowledge, truth, family, and trust, all while laughing out loud.

READING LITERATURE

Genre Study:FANTASY

In the introduction to the first book in the series, Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, the narrator, Alcatraz Smedry, claims that his story is true, even though it will be shelved as “fantasy” in the world known as “the Hushlands” to which his readers (you) belong.

Fantasy is a literary genre that often includes:

• Characters who are magical, inspired by mythology, or who have special powers

• Settings that include unexplored parts of the known world, or new and different worlds

• Plot elements (actions) that cannot be explained in terms of historical or scientific information from our known world

While reading the books in this series, note when the author uses some of these elements of fantasy to tell his story. Students can track their observations in reading journals if desired, noting which elements of the fantasy genre are most often used by the author.

Older readers (grades 6 and 7) may also consider the way the author incorporates elements of the following genre into his novels, as well as how this genre relates to the fantasy components of the series:

Science fiction, which deals with imaginative concepts such as futuristic settings and technologies, space and time travel, and parallel universes. Science fiction stories frequently explore the effects of specific scientific or technological discoveries on governments and societies.

After reading one or more of the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians books, invite students to reread the “Author’s Foreword” to Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians and discuss why they think the author chose to begin the series by explaining where the books will be shelved in a library.

Technical Study:STRUCTURE & LITERARY DEVICES

The Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series can be viewed as the author’s exploration of the idea, concept, and value of books themselves as both a way information is shared, and the way it is contained. One way Brandon Sanderson accomplishes this is to question the very structure of the novel. Invite students to look for the following elements in the stories and share their reactions to these literary devices and structures.

POINT OF VIEW

In this series, the point of view through which the reader sees the story is in the first-person voice of Alcatraz Smedry. He also claims that he is using the name Brandon Sanderson as a pseudonym, thus this is an autobiography or memoir. Is Alcatraz Smedry a reliable narrator, giving readers an unbiased report of the events of the story, or is Alcatraz an unreliable narrator, making false claims or telling the story in such a way as to leave doubts in the reader’s mind? In what ways is Alcatraz reliable and/or unreliable? How might the series be different if Bastille or another character were telling the story? (Hint: For further examples of unreliable narrators in children’s and teen fiction, read Jon Sciezska’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, E. Nesbit’s The Story of the Treasure Seekers, Justine Larbalestier’s Liar, or Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.)

ASIDES

At times, the narrator directly addresses the reader, suggesting how s/he should interpret a comment or how to best enjoy the novel (e.g. reading aloud or acting out scenes). Does this change the reader’s sense of his or her relationship with the book? If so, how does this relationship feel different?

CHAPTER BREAKS

Discuss the unusual ways the author begins, ends, numbers, and sequences chapters particularly in books four and five. Is this pleasant or unpleasant? Have readers come across any other works of fiction (or nonfiction) that explore chapters in this way?

WORDPLAY IN WORLD BUILDING

To explain Free Kingdoms ideas, technologies, and objects in terms of the Hushlander (readers’) world, the author uses similes, metaphors, and analogies. To reflect protagonist Alcatraz’s own confusion and frustration, Brandon Sanderson employs invented words, puns, and even text written backward or in other unusual ways. Find examples of these uses of wordplay in the text. How does the use of these literary devices enrich the text?

Character Study: FAMILIES AND FRIENDS

Having been raised in foster homes convinced that both of his parents were horrible people, Alcatraz Smedry is often uncertain as to what it means to like, love, and trust other people. Since he is the narrator of the series, Alcatraz’s uncertainty affects readers’ perceptions of the characters he describes. In a reading journal or in class discussion, have students analyze the physical traits, lineage (parents, relationships), motivations, and concerns of major characters in the novel. How is each character related to Alcatraz? What is especially important about the idea of family relationships in this series? Does Alcatraz’s view of certain characters change in the course of a single book? Do recurring characters develop or change over the course of more than one book in the series? If so, how and why do the characters evolve?

English Language Arts Common Core Reading Literature Standards

RL.3.3-6, 4.3-6, 5.3-6, 6.3-6, 7.3-6

Themes & Motifs:DISCUSSION TOPICS for the SERIES

Sanderson’s Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians novels can be read on many levels, including as adventure stories, as musings on the nature of knowledge, and as fantasies incorporating elements of science fiction. Here are some themes you may want to watch for and explore with your classmates or students.

Talent

How does Sanderson use the word “talent” in traditional and nontraditional ways? Is talent important, valuable, even essential? What does Sanderson really mean by “talent”? How might students incorporate Sanderson’s unique interpretation of the word “talent” into their own sense of self?

Heroism

Throughout the novel, Alcatraz claims to be “bad,” “a liar,” “a coward,” and “not a hero.” What makes a “hero” in a novel, a movie, and in real life? Does it matter if a person acts heroically on purpose or by accident? What do you think is the most important reason Alcatraz denies his heroism?

Knowledge, Learning, Thinking

Find instances in the stories when Alcatraz admits to acting before thinking ahead to consider all possible outcomes of his plans. In these instances, is he simply being careless or does he lack some important information since he was raised in the Librarian controlled Hushlands? Compare and contrast the way people acquire knowledge in the Hushlands versus the Free Kingdoms.

Opposites

In The Shattered Lens, the narrator refers to the ideas of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, whose doctrines included (1) universal flux (the idea that things are constantly changing) and (2) unity of opposites (the idea that opposites [objects, ideas] are necessary and balance each other). The philosopher also believed that “Much learning does not teach understanding.” (The Art and Thought of Heraclitus, ed. Charles H. Kahn. Cambridge University Press, 1981). How might the series be read as an exploration of Heraclitus’ doctrines?

English Language Arts Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards

SL.3.1, 4.1, 5.1, 6.1, 7.1

SL.3.3, 4.3, 5.3, 6.3, 7.3

RESEARCH & WRITING PROJECTS

Keep a reading journal. Use the journal to record:

• Favorite quotations, funny lines, exciting scenes (note page numbers)

• Situations in which the main character is in crisis or danger, and notes on what advice readers might offer

• New vocabulary words and/or a list of invented words; deliberately misspelled words

• Sketches inspired by the novels

• Questions readers would like to ask the author or characters from the novels

Explore Glass

From Oculator’s Lenses to unbreakable glass buildings, glass is a core substance throughout the series. Go to the library or online to learn more about glass. Create a PowerPoint or other multi-media presentation discussing the physical properties, history, practical and creative uses of glass. Or create a presentation explaining how glass works in the Free Kingdoms. Include visual elements, such as photographs or drawings, in your presentation.

Silimatic Technology

This part scientific, part magical technology powers much of the Free Kingdoms. Using details from the novels, create an outline or short pamphlet explaining the rules and functions of silimatic technology as you understand it. If desired, dress as you imagine a Free Kingdoms scientist might choose to dress and present your findings to classmates.

Choose a Talent

Many of the characters in the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series have talents that seem more like problems. Think of a personality quality you consider a fault in your own life, such as messy penmanship, poor spelling, or the inability to catch a baseball. Imagine how that talent might prove useful in the world of Alcatraz. Write a 3-5 page scene in which you encounter Alcatraz and help him using your “talent.”

English Language Arts Common Core Writing Standards

W.3.1-3, 4.1-3, 5.1-3, 6.1-3, 7.1-3

W3.7-8, 4.7-9, 5.7-9, 6.7-9, 7.7-9

DISCUSSION STARTERS AND WRITING PROMPTS FOR INDIVIDUAL TITLES

ALCATRAZ vs. THE EVIL LIBRARIANS

Who is Alcatraz Smedry? Is his tendency to break things a curse…or a talent? Though his past has been marked by a series of disastrous foster home placements, his breaking ability is about to lead him to a future battling Evil Librarians and discovering the truth about his long-missing parents.

QUOTES

Discuss your interpretation of the following quotations in terms their meaning within the novel; in terms of your thoughts about books and libraries; and in terms of their relevance to the real lives of readers.

“Now, you Hushlanders may think that I took all of these strange experiences quite well…maybe if you’d grown up with the magical ability to break almost anything you touched, then you would have been just as quick to accept unusual circumstances.” (Chapter 3)

“Public libraries exist to entice. Librarians want everyone to read their books—whether those books are deep and poignant works about dead puppies or nonfiction books about made-up topics, like the Pilgrims, penicillin, and France. In fact the only book they don’t want you to read is the one you’re holding right now.” (Chapter 7)

“It has been my experience that most problems in life are caused by a lack of information. Many people just don’t know the things they need to know.

Some ignore the truth; others never understand it.” (Chapter 15)

WRITING PROMPTS

Reading Journal Entry: A BAG OF SAND

What would you make of the sort of birthday present Alcatraz received? Write a journal entry describing how you might have reacted and the emotions you felt (anger, curiosity, disappointment, confusion) upon receiving such a gift. Sketch your vision of this odd gift.

Reading Journal Entry: LYING

Throughout the novel, Alcatraz insists that he is a liar. Write an entry into your reading journal in which you explain what you think Alcatraz means by being a LIAR. Follow with your thoughts on one or more of the following questions: Have you ever acted or felt like a liar in ways similar to those of Alcatraz? Have you ever felt like people were not seeing you as your true self—or were making assumptions about you based on information from other people? How did you react? Did you try to make people see the truth or allow them to believe the falsehood? Is lying always bad? Is something that feels like a lie always a lie?

Explanatory Text: SANDS OF RASHID

Imagine you are Bastille, Sing, or Grandpa Smedry separated from Alcatraz but anxious for him to understand the truth about the Sands of Rashid. In the voice of one of these characters, write a letter of explanation to send to Alcatraz.

Literary Analysis: CLIFFHANGERS

“Hooks and cliffhangers belong only at the ends of chapters.”

Go to the library or online to find definitions of the novel-writing terms “hook” and “cliffhanger.” Find examples of these devices as Brandon Sanderson uses them in his novel. Then, write a one-page essay in which you agree or disagree with the above quotation from the book. Use examples from Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians and other novels to support your position.

English Language Arts Common Core Standards

RL.3.1-4, 4.1-4, 5.1-4, 6.1-4, 7.1-4

SL.3.3-4, 4.3-4, 5.3-4, 6.3-4, 7.3-4

W.3.1-3, 4.13, 5.1-3, 6.1-3, 7.1-3; W3.7-8, 4.7-9, 5.7-9, 6.7-9, 7.7-9

Lexile level: 730L, ATOS Book Level: 4.9, AR Points: 9.0, AR Quiz No. 118054 EN

THE SCRIVENER’S BONES

Has Alcatraz’s estranged father gotten lost in the secret underground Library of Alexandria? And is he willing to pay the ultimate price for limitless knowledge…the sacrifice of his soul?

QUOTES

Discuss the following quotations in terms of what they mean in terms of the novel; in terms of your thoughts about books and libraries; and in terms of their relevance to the real lives of readers.

“The things I am telling you here are factual. In this case, I can only prove that I’m a liar by telling the truth, though I will also include some lies—which I will point out—to act as object lessons proving the truth that I’m a liar.” (Chapter 4)

“The quickest way I’ve found to feel bad about yourself is to read a self-help book, and the second quickest way is to read a depressing literary work intended to make you feel terrible about humanity in general.” (Chapter 9)

“Many people would rather give up what remains of their lives than live in ignorance…. This is only one of the many ways that we gain souls.” (Chapter 9)

“Writers—particularly storytellers like myself—write about people. That is ironic, since we actually know nothing about them.” (Chapter 16)

“Think about it. Why does someone become a writer? Is it because they like people? Of course not. Why else would we seek out a job where we get to spend all day, every day, cooped up in our basement with no company besides paper, a pencil, and our imaginary friends?” (Chapter 16)

WRITING EXERCISES

Reading Journal Entry: KNOWLEDGE

The Curators attempt to trick Alcatraz and his comrades into reading. In a short essay or reading journal entry, describe what type of knowledge is most tempting to you. What is the most important kind of knowledge? Do you think you would be able to avoid the Curators’ traps? Why or why not?

Explanatory Text: ANCIENT LIBRARIES

With friends or classmates, go to the library or online to learn more about the Ancient Library of Alexandria and other ancient libraries or archives. Create informative posters about these places, their locations, history, contents, and legacy, and assemble them into a classroom display.

Literary Analysis: NAMES

Many Free Kingdoms characters have names associated with prisons. Make an annotated list of characters with prison names accompanied by facts about their namesake prisons. What reason(s) are given for the prison names by various characters in the story? Can you think of other novels, book series, television shows, or movies in which characters’ names are related to such things as historical figures or geographical landmarks? What impact does Brandon Sanderson’s naming choice have on your reading of the story?

Literary Analysis: FORGOTTEN LANGUAGE

Write a short essay explaining how the idea of a “Forgotten Language” is introduced in the story and how it becomes an increasingly important concept throughout the course of the novel. Why might the idea of language be something Brandon Sanderson seeks to put at the core of this series?

English Language Arts Common Core Standards

RL.3.1-4, 4.1-4, 5.1-4, 6.1-4, 7.1-4

SL.3.3-4, 4.3-4, 5.3-4, 6.3-4, 7.3-4

W.3.1-3, 4.1-3, 5.1-3, 6.1-3, 7.1-3; W3.7-8, 4.7-9, 5.7-9, 6.7-9, 7.7-9

Lexile level: 660L, ATOS Book Level: 4.7, AR Points: 9.0, AR Quiz No. 126447 EN

THE KNIGHTS OF CRYSTALLIA

Can Alcatraz handle the realization that, in the Free Kingdom city of Crystallia, he is incredibly famous? How will that change his friendship with Bastille, who has been stripped of her knighthood for failing to protect the “great” Alcatraz? And can either of them save the historic city from the Evil Librarians?

QUOTES

Discuss the following quotations in terms of what they mean in terms of the novel; in terms of your thoughts about books and libraries; and in terms of their relevance to the real lives of readers.

“Summarizing is when you take a story that is complicated and interesting, then stick it in a microwave until it shrivels up into a tiny piece of black crunchy tarlike stuff. A wise man once said, ‘Any story, no matter how good, will sound really, really dumb when you shorten it to a few sentences.’” (Chapter 8)

“People tend to believe what other people tell them…. And if we didn’t know who was an expert, we wouldn’t know whose opinion was the most important to listen to.

Or, at least that’s what the experts want us to believe. Those who have listened to Socrates know that they’re supposed to ask questions. Questions like, ‘If all people are equal, then why is my opinion worth less than that of the expert?’ or ‘If I like reading this book, then why should I let someone else tell me that I shouldn’t like reading it?’” (Chapter 13)

“I mean, why is it that you readers always assume you’re never to blame for anything? You just sit there, comfortable on your couch while we suffer. You can enjoy our pain and misery because you’re safe.” (Chapter 19)

WRITING EXERCISES

Reading Journal Entry: FAME

Upon arriving in the Free Kingdom city of Crystallia, Alcatraz discovers that he is famous. In the character of Alcatraz, write a journal entry describing how you came to this discovery, your emotions, and any planned actions you might take since discovering this new fame and its power.

Explanatory Text: KNIGHTHOOD

Write a short essay explaining the roles, responsibilities, and sacrifices made by members of the Knights of Crystallia. Is Bastille an ordinary or unusual knight? Why or why not?

Explanatory Text: SOCRATES

With friends or classmates, go to the library or online to learn more about the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates and the “Socratic method” of teaching and learning. Compile your information into a short report. Conclude with 1-3 paragraphs explaining why Brandon Sanderson references Socrates in the novel.

Literary Analysis: SPACE, TIME, KNOWLEDGE, AND THE PHYSICAL WORLD

Alcatraz is told that talents can have impact on space, time, knowledge, and the physical world, and that his talent (breaking things) is the one ability that can impact all four areas. Make a four-columned list to analyze these areas, noting the names and talents of various story characters whose abilities fall under each category, brainstorming other possible talents that could be included in each column and, finally, writing a short paragraph explaining the breaking talent and its breadth of impact.

English Language Arts Common Core Standards

RL.3.1-4, 4.1-4, 5.1-4, 6.1-4, 7.1-4

SL.3.3-4, 4.3-4, 5.3-4, 6.3-4, 7.3-4

W.3.1-3, 4.1-3, 5.1-3, 6.1-3, 7.1-3; W3.7-8, 4.7-9, 5.7-9, 6.7-9, 7.7-9

Lexile level: 670L, ATOS Book Level: 4.9, AR Points: 9.0, AR Quiz No. 133649 EN

THE SHATTERED LENS

The island of Mokia is under siege by the Librarians, and its fate may tip the scales for the Librarians’ conquest of all the Free Kingdoms…unless Alcatraz can sort out family, enemies, friends, talents, and the power of exploding teddy bears.

QUOTES

Discuss the following quotations in terms of what they mean in terms of the novel; in terms of your thoughts about books and libraries; and in terms of their relevance to the real lives of readers.

“Most members of my family, it should be noted, are some kind of professor, teacher, or researcher. It may seem odd to you that a bunch of dedicated miscreants like us are also a bunch of scholars. If you think that it means you haven’t known enough professors in your time.” (Chapter 6)

“That’s how they win. By making us give up. I’ve lived in Librarian lands. They don’t win because they conquer, they win because they make people stop caring, stop wondering. They’ll tire you out, then feed you lies until you start repeating them, if only because it’s too hard to keep arguing.” (Chapter 070706)

“Something stirred inside of me, something that felt immense. Like an enormous serpent, shifting, moving, awakening.”

“‘I want everything to make sense again!’” (Chapter 8)

“The Librarians…they try to keep us from changing. They want everything to remain the same inside the Hushlands…

In this case, it’s not because they’re oppressive. It’s because they’re afraid. Change frightens them. It’s unknown, uncertain, like Smedrys and magic. They want everyone to assume that things can’t change.” (Author’s Afterword)

WRITING EXERCISES:

Reading Journal Entry: WHO IS RIGHT?

By the end of the fourth novel, Alcatraz believes that his mother, Shasta, is in the right while his father, Attica, is on a dangerous path. Write a journal entry describing how you think this new perspective will affect Alcatraz’s relationships with his parents. Have you ever felt caught between two parents or other adults in your life? How might you use this experience to offer advice to Alcatraz about handling his situation?

Reading Journal Entry: MOKIA

Imagine that you have arrived in Mokia along with Alcatraz. Write a journal entry describing the sights, sounds, smells, and emotions you experience those first moments on the island nation.

Explanatory Text: HUSHLANDS VERSUS FREE KINGDOMS

Imagine that you are a scholar from the Free Kingdoms assigned to instruct Alcatraz about the two worlds that coexist on Earth. Prepare a speech, including an introduction of yourself, your name, and your relationship to Alcatraz, then address the following questions: What are the key distinctions between these two worlds? How do characters move between the worlds? Can all characters do so? What do you think would happen to the Hushlands if they were made aware of the Free Kingdoms? Why are the Free Kingdoms so anxious to remain free from the Hushland society created by the Librarians?

Literary Analysis: CHARACTER COMPARISONS

Using information from the novel, create a chart comparing and contrasting the characters of Bastille and Draulin, Shasta and Attica Smedry, or another pair of characters of interest to you. Write a paragraph or essay describing the importance of including both of your chosen characters in the book. How does the contrast between the characters represent a larger conflict in the story.

Literary Analysis: AN ALCATRAZ HANDBOOK

From exploding teddy bears to myriad powerful lenses to terms like “stoopiderific,” the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians novels have a vocabulary of their own. Create an Excel spreadsheet, graphic index, or other type of chart or booklet in which you list and define the language of Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians.

Genre Exploration: POEMS, SONG LYRICS, AND BEYOND

In the course of the series, Alcatraz’s talent is described as the most powerful, dangerous, and dark, yet he is a legend and a hero. With the complex descriptions in mind, write a poem, song lyrics, or a four-panel cartoon celebrating (or denouncing) Alcatraz Smedry.

English Language Arts Common Core Standards

RL.3.1-4, 4.1-4, 5.1-4, 6.1-4, 7.1-4

SL.3.3-4, 4.3-4, 5.3-4, 6.3-4, 7.3-4

W.3.1-3, 4.1-3, 5.1-3, 6.1-3, 7.1-3; W3.7-8, 4.7-9, 5.7-9, 6.7-9, 7.7-9

Lexile level: 680L, ATOS Book Level: 4.8, AR Points: 8.0, AR Quiz No. 140919 EN

THE DARK TALENT

To stop his father from carrying out a dastardly plan to unleash Talents across the Hushlands, Alcatraz must infiltrate his dad’s hiding place within the Evil Librarians’ great Highbrary—cunningly disguised as the Library of Congress. But can he trust his accomplices, including his terrifying mother Shasta and annoying cousin Dif? And, with his own Talent dangerously disabled, will he be able to find his father in time to save anyone—even himself?

QUOTES

Discuss the following quotations in terms of what they mean in terms of the novel; in terms of your thoughts about books and libraries; and in terms of their relevance to the real lives of readers.

“...the [tales] we tell ourselves these days always seem to need a happy ending…. Is it because the Librarians are protecting us from stories with sad endings? Or is it something about who we are, who we have become as a society, that makes us need to see the good guys win?” (Chapter Mary)

“Have you been with that fool of a grandfather of yours so long you’ve lost the ability to see the world as it has to be?” (Chapter 17)

Father said, “Son, you have to understand. Your mother is a Librarian. In her heart, she’s terrified of change—not to mention frightened of the idea of common people being outside her control.” (Chapter 18)

WRITING EXERCISES:

Reading Journal Entry: COWARDICE

Beginning with the “Foreword,” through chapters “Shu Wei” and 19, to the final pages of the “Afterword,” Alcatraz repeatedly calls himself a “coward.” Do you think Alcatraz is a coward in any or all of these instances? Write a journal entry explaining how you think Alcatraz would define the term coward, whether you use this term in the same way in your own life, and how you feel toward Alcatraz at moments in the story when he sees himself as a coward.

Reading Journal Entry: HAS ALCATRAZ FAILED?

Write a journal entry in which you agree or disagree with Alcatraz’s final page apologia. Has he failed and, if so, whom has he failed? Use quotes from the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series and/or from other novels or poems you have read, to support your position.

Explanatory Text: SMEDRYS

Throughout the novel, Alcatraz, Kaz, Dif, and other characters refer to certain actions or ideas as typical of a member of the Smedry line. In the character of Grandpa, Attica, Shasta, or Dif, write an essay explaining what it means to be a Smedry. Or, in the character of Alcatraz, write a letter to Bastille describing how you feel about belonging to the Smedry family.

Explanatory Text: AESOP’S FABLES

Brandon Sanderson makes several references to fables, particularly Aesop’s Fables, in The Dark Talent. With friends or classmates, go to the library or online to find a definition of “fable” and some facts about Aesop and his literary legacy. Read several of Aesop’s fables and select one that you feel could be applied to a scene in the novel. Write a short essay explaining why you believe Sanderson wanted to incorporate the idea of fables into this novel, and how and where you would reference your selected fable within the book.

Literary Analysis: AUTHORSHIP

The Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series is narrated by the character Alcatraz Smedry, who claims to be using the pseudonym of “Hushlands” author Brandon Sanderson. With friends or classmates, discuss how this double-layered claim of authorship affects the reading of the book and/or the reader’s relationship with the narrator. Then individually, write a short essay interpreting the following quote by Pulitzer Prize–winning author Junot Diaz in terms of the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians novels you have read:

“…we all dream that there’s an authoritative voice out there that will explain things, including ourselves. If it wasn’t for our longing for these things, I doubt the novel or the short story would exist in its current form.”

English Language Arts Common Core Standards

RL.3.1-4, 4.1-4, 5.1-4, 6.1-4, 7.1-4

SL.3.3-4, 4.3-4, 5.3-4, 6.3-4, 7.3-4

W.3.1-3, 4.1-3, 5.1-3, 6.1-3, 7.1-3;

W3.7-8, 4.7-9, 5.7-9, 6.7-9, 7.7-9

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The Dark Talent (Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians Series #5) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book series has been getting progressively darker, and I feel that this book was a great climax to that feeling. The storytelling felt very natural and the diction went well with its scenario.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the previous books. This one was a lot darker & didn't end up being the last book like we thought it would be. Also not as funny.
Carstairs38 More than 1 year ago
The Librarian army has just devastated Mokia, and Alcatraz, having recently given up the throne, is looking for a way to save his friend Bastille and keep his father from unleashing Smedry talents on the entire world, thereby destroying it. He hits upon the idea of infiltrating the biggest Librarian stronghold – the Highbrary, better known to the rest of us as the Library of Congress. Can he and his family do it without their Smedry talents? If you are confused by the above, this is the fifth in a middle grade fantasy series. It had been several years since I read the last one, and enough background is given to remind me about this world, but if you are new, I recommend you start from the beginning. As I was expecting, there are lots of laughs and some twists. What I wasn’t expecting was a rather dark climax that felt abrupt. At the very, very end of the book there is a clue that this might not be the end of the story. I hope that’s the case because otherwise, for a book that was supposed to be the final book in the series, it is very disappointing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Too amazing to describe.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't belive that he put the effort into this book that he had with the other books. I got the fealing he lost interest in the book and cut it off a shortly and neatly (un-sucsessfuly) then published.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
;)