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Literature / Alcatraz Series

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So, there I was, tied to an altar made from outdated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil Librarians.

Alcatraz Smedry is an orphan who has been passed around the foster care system for his thirteen years of life due to his habit of breaking anything he touches. It's nothing intentional, it's just that things he touches have a tendency to fall apart. Door handles, pots, ovens ... one time he picked up a chicken, only for it to lose all its feathers and only eat cat food from then on.

On his 13th birthday, he receives a letter from his parents, bequeathing his inheritance to him: a bag of sand. The next day, Alcatraz's grandfather arrives (late, as usual) to take him on an adventure to recover the sands from his evil Librarian caseworker Ms. Fletcher.

You see, the world is much larger and stranger than we've been led to believe. One-quarter of the world is actually controlled by a cult of evil Librarians, who rewrite history in their conquered lands to remove things like strange powers, magical glass, and talking dinosaurs. Despite what they teach, most of the world is not ocean—those "empty spaces" on the map are actually the Free Kingdoms, which the Librarians keep hidden from the Hushlands. Australia is a recent Librarian acquisition, and Hawaii is an outlying island of the continent of Mokia, also recently conquered.

Alcatraz — as a Smedry — has a Talent. In his case, the Talent to break things. His grandfather is always late, his father can lose things, his uncle can lose himself, his cousins can trip, or wake up really ugly, or speak nonsense. All these are important and powerful Talents that they use to fight the Librarians and preserve the freedom of the world.

The Alcatraz series is a stand-alone series written by Brandon Sanderson, unconnected to his Cosmere. The series at present consists of six books:

  1. Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (2007)
  2. Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones (2008)
  3. Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia (2009)
  4. Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens (2010)
  5. Alcatraz Versus the Dark Talent (2016)
  6. Bastille vs. the Evil Librarians (2022)

Not to be confused with The Alcatraz (mostly). Or the television series Alcatraz.

This series provides examples of:

  • Absent-Minded Professor: A lot of the Smedrys are intelligent academics while at the same time being eccentric, absentminded, or just plain strange.
  • Action Girl: Bastille is a perfect example of this. She is a 13-year-old knight and an expert fighter. Specifically, she's of the Little Miss Badass variety.
  • Affably Evil: She Who Cannot Be Named actually makes great chocolate chip cookies when she's not plotting the downfall of her enemies.
    Grandpa Smedry: We shouldn't eat these.
    Alcatraz: Are they poisoned?
    Grandpa Smedry: No, they'll spoil our dinner.
  • Ambiguous Situation: In the fourth book, Alcatraz wonders if Aydee is really that bad at math, or has just learned to blurt out the first number that pops into her head in order to activate her Talent. He spends a few paragraphs musing that he might be reading too much into a clever look in her eyes ... before realizing, as he's writing, that he can just go and ask her. He does, and she confirms she's doing it on purpose.
  • A Rare Sentence: In The Dark Talent, Alcatraz notes that his life lends itself to these. Case in point:
    Grandpa Smedry: Fine. You fetch your evil Librarian mother from the jail. I'll go warm up the giant penguin.
  • Author Filibuster: More like narrator filibuster. Alcatraz frequently breaks the action to say various random things that may or may not relate to the story. For example: "Blah, blah, sacrifice, altars, daggers, sharks. Blah, blah, something pretentious. Blah, blah, rutabaga. Blah, blah, something that makes no sense whatsoever. Now, back to the story."
    • Takes a darker turn in the fifth book, where Alcatraz flat-out admits the filler is there to make the books longer ... to delay him having to write out a horrible revelation at the end of the fifth book.
  • Better than a Bare Bulb: Alcatraz frequently plays with tropes and lampshades them left and right.
  • Beneath the Earth: The Highbrary is mostly under Washington, D.C., and the Library of Alexandria is a massive underground labyrinth.
  • Big Fancy Castle: Nalhalla is full of them. There are three notable castles: the massive black one that is home to the Smedrys, the fancy turret one that belongs to King Dartmoor, and the huge glass mushroom that is better known as Crystallia.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Book 4. The Librarians are defeated and Mokia is safe. However, the Smedry Talents seem to be out of commission, they have no way of waking the wounded, and they're about to head into the heart of the Librarian operation. Things have never looked bleaker for our heroes.
  • Blatant Lies: Much of what Alcatraz says at the beginning of the chapters, such as that time he claimed to be a fish.
  • Black Magic: Dark Oculary is an evil form of Oculary comparable to necromancy.
  • Blessed with Suck or Cursed with Awesome: All the Smedry Talents contain elements of both, to one degree or another. They take what seems like a major disadvantage and turn it into something that can be useful. For example, Grandpa Smedry is always late, which is usually a real pain, but it has also saved his life on multiple occasions because he keeps showing up too late for his own death.
  • Blow You Away: Windstormer's Lenses are capable of generating huge blasts of air.
  • Both Order and Chaos are Dangerous: The main enemies of the book are the evil Librarians, who are obsessed with order. However, they turn out to be right that giving Smedry Talents to everyone, as Attica Smedry wants to do, would result in catastrophe.
  • Brought Down to Normal: The Smedrys are hit with a dose of this after Alcatraz somehow breaks their Talents.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Just about every Smedry. They're smart and mostly academics, but they're ... well, Smedrys.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: Every single Smedry is special in some way or another, mostly due to their Talents. However, most of them have plenty of other unique traits and foibles.
  • Cats Are Mean: Alcatraz insists that kittens are cute so that they can draw you in, then pounce on you for the kill.
    Alcatraz: Seriously. Stay away from kittens.
  • The Cavalry: In The Shattered Lens, the city of Tuki Tuki just needs to hold out until Grandpa Smedry and 200 Crystins can arrive. However, it's also subverted: Alcatraz saves the day, rendering them moot.
  • Cerebus Retcon: The book's tendencies to go on long rambles before returning to the plot takes a dark atmosphere when Alcatraz himself admits that he's making the books longer to avoid getting to the Awful Truth.
  • Changeling Fantasy: Pretty standard (though repeatedly lampshaded). Alcatraz is a poor orphan who is constantly thought to be worthless, only for it to turn out that he's from a family of practically aristocratic magic wielders.
  • Chaos Is Evil: The Librarians believe that the flow of information in the world must be controlled, as lack of control leads to chaos much like the Smedrys cause.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Not only is the trope played straight a number of times, Alcatraz explicitly mentions the trope by name in the second book, and references it again in the fourth (although that time he was talking about Chekhov's Blue Teddy Bear).
  • Cheerful Child: Aydee Smedry is always perky, happy and outgoing.
  • Child of Two Worlds: Alcatraz is a Free Kingdomer raised in the Hushlands, so that he could properly infiltrate the Librarians. While he's generally ignorant of things Free Kingdomers would consider commonplace, he has a fresh perspective on all their customs and abilities. For example, it's common knowledge that science is stuff that anyone can do and magic is what's restricted to certain people. To Alcatraz, Free Kingdomer science seems just as magical as their magic — which is why he can see that it's the same thing.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: The Smedrys in general. Leavenworth Smedry deserves special mention, though.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The Torturer's Lens that Blackburn uses allows the user to cause the victim extreme pain to the point that prolonged use causes the victim's muscles to start tearing themselves apart.
  • Cool Airship, or maybe Cool Plane: The Dragonaut isn't technically an airplane that uses jet engines or an airship that uses oversize balloons to fly, but it is cool and it flies.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Just about every plan that Alcatraz comes up with.
  • Cultural Posturing: Most Free Kingdomers are convinced that every piece of technology they use is superior to the Hushlands equivalent. This extends to considering stairs more advanced than elevators (people can go up and down a flight of stairs at the same time, while an elevator can only go in one direction!). Sometimes justified by the fact that Free Kingdoms technology tend to be more advanced than it seems—e.g., torches that never burn out and that spread heat if and only if you want them to are arguably better than electric lights. Sometimes semi-justified by Free Kingdomers not actually knowing that much about the Hushlands and assuming that their technology hasn't advanced since the middle ages—e.g., they think swords are superior to guns because to them a "gun" is something like a flintlock pistol and a "sword" is a silimatic Absurdly Sharp Blade. A lot of the time, though, it's simply that Free Kingdomers absolutely refuse to believe that Librarian slave-states could ever do anything as well as them.
    • Defied by the Mokians. When Alcatraz, Basille, and the King of Mokia discuss the reed huts, Alcatraz wonders if the weave is stronger than steel (it's not; it's just a normal reed hut), and Bastille insists that the huts are more advanced than skyscrapers because they allow free air conditioning without electricity. The King tells them that they don't care if their way of life is considered primitive or advanced; they live in reed huts because that's what they like.
  • Dark Is Evil: Alcatraz's breaking Talent is referred to as the Dark Talent that brought about the fall of the Incarna. In addition, Dark Oculators are Librarian Oculators who practice evil forms of Oculary like Alivening things.
  • Darker and Edgier: The fifth book is overall much darker and more serious than the books leading up to it.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: This trope isn't used so much as it's repeatedly mocked. Alcatraz insists that authors must hate mothers and dogs because they are always trying to write meaningful books that kill off one or the other, or sometimes even both.
  • Department of Child Disservices: Alcatraz's child services worker was always telling him how useless he was. Turns out, she's his mother. And she's the nicer of his parents.
  • Destructive Saviour/Nice Job Breaking It, Hero/Person of Mass Destruction: Alcatraz is constantly breaking things. Usually this works out in his favor, but he still does quite a bit of collateral damage in the process. This comes to a head at the end of the fourth book, when he defeats an invading army, but breaks the city he was trying to defend as well as Smedry Talents in the process.
  • Discussed Trope: Sometimes the characters will discuss a trope, but more often Alcatraz explicitly describes what tropes or Narrative Devices he's using in his capacity as narrator.
  • The Ditz: Australia Smedry isn't dim-witted. She just has trouble remembering to be smart.
  • Downer Ending: The fifth book ends with Biblioden completing a ritual by killing Alcatraz's father (offered up by Alcatraz himself because he was afraid to die), Grandpa Smedry dead, the massive assault on the Hushlands covered up, and Biblioden's plans continuing without a hitch. Alcatraz is insensate by the end of it, and absolutely refuses to write any more. On a brighter note, the very end of the book is a letter from Bastille, saying that Grandpa Smedry managed to survive by reclaiming his Talent at the last second to arrive late to the bullet (though it will kill him sooner rather than later), and that she'll be writing the last book in the series. And she signs it "Bastille Smedry."
  • Dungeon Crawling: Every time they infiltrate a library, ranging from a typical American local library to the Library of Alexandria. Complete with traps, monsters and villains.
  • Eccentric Mentor: Grandpa Smedry is about as eccentric as they get.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The Highbrary is located deep underneath Washington, D.C. It is by far the most complex library the heroes have infiltrated yet.
  • Elegant Weapon for a More Civilized Age: The crystal swords used by the Knights of Crystallia. From the Free Kingdomer point of view, Sing's guns also qualify.
  • Enemy Mine: Shasta and Alcatraz agree to work together to stop Alcatraz's father, Attica, from giving everyone Smedry Talents. Neither is particularly happy about the arrangement.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: The Librarians will take in just about anyone.
  • Eviler than Thou: In the fifth book, Alcatraz sees the souls of the series' three recurring villains, showing them to have very different motivations for their actions:
  • Evil Librarians: Duh.
  • Eye Beams: Any Oculatory lens with "-bringer's" in the name (e.g. Firebringer's Lenses, Frostbringer's Lenses, etc).
  • First-Person Smartass: Alcatraz again. He'll often go off onto smartass tangents with no bearing on the plot.
  • Footnote Fever: Per Book #5. Not surprisingly, lampshaded and discussed.
  • Foreshadowing: Some of it is subtle. Most of it is not.
    Alcatraz: By the way, this is important.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Will Alcatraz Smedry be sacrificed by evil Librarians? Will he be killed by a Dark Oculator? Will he die when he breaks his own flying dragon ship? Will he be killed in the deadly pit filled with sharks who are wielding chainsaws with killer kittens stapled to them? Of course not, because he's still alive to tell the story. The suspense comes from finding out how he overcomes obstacles and whether or not anyone else dies.Of course, Bastille totally dies at the end of book 2.
  • Functional Magic: Even when the Free Kingdomers call it silimatic technology, the glass is still magic glass.
  • Fun with Acronyms: In the second book, Kaz's swearing follows a nut theme—hazelnut, nutmeg, National Union of Teachers ...
  • Game Changer: Attica's findings in the third book, which lead him to believe he can give everyone a Smedry talent. This results in Alcatraz teaming up with his evil Librarian mother in the fifth book to stop his father from bringing about the end of the world.
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: Oculators use Lenses that have a variety of powers. Each type of Lens has its own function. These include Lenses that can track a person's footprints, Lenses that shoot laser beams, Lenses that generate whirlwinds, etc.
  • Graying Morality: The series gradually blurs the lines between good and evil, leading Alcatraz to eventually question if the Librarians could actually be on to something with the whole obfuscating information thing.
  • Great Big Library of Everything: The Library of Alexandria is a massive dungeon-like place with almost every book in the world. However, it is run by undead librarians that try to steal your soul.
  • Guinea Pig Family: The Smedrys were this to the Incarna.
  • Guns Are Worthless: Seriously, you've got better luck with a knife if you're going up against the Smedry Talents, as they work best defensively. In the fourth book, an entire firing line shoots at Aydee, Kaz, and Alcatraz. Some of the guns don't fire because the soldiers miscounted the bullets and didn't load any, some of the soldiers get lost on the way to raising their guns to fire, and the rest of the guns just break.
    • Averted in book five, where Grandpa Smedry is shot in the face. On hindsight, it makes a lot of sense, since the Smedry Talents are broken in that book, but the series spends so much time playing this trope straight that when Surprisingly Realistic Outcome occurs it's completely unexpected.
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: Averted with Alcatraz and Bastille. Bastille tends to smash things apart with her huge Crystin sword, while Alcatraz, being infinitely more squishy than a super-powered teenage girl, prefers to hang back as the strategist or adopt more cunning solutions to his problems. In addition, his main weapons are Oculatory Lenses, where the offensive ones shoot rays of various substances at the target.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Parodied. The last page of book two involves a tearful death scene for Bastille, put there just in case you skipped to the end.
    • Played straight in book 5, when Attica gives himself up to Biblioden as a human sacrifice to save his son.
  • Hidden Agenda Villain: Not even the other Librarians seem sure what Ms. Fletcher is up to, but Alcatraz assumes it's nothing good. Finding out she's his mother, Shasta Smedry, just makes her mysterious motives harder to deal with.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The Highbrary has defenses that will make anyone using Disguiser's Lenses glow, giving them away. How does Alcatraz's father avoid this? By disguising himself as a Curator of the Library of Alexandria, which are supposed to be glowing.
  • How We Got Here: The first sentence of the series is Alcatraz explaining that he is tied to an altar about to be sacrificed, before cutting to the beginning of his adventures. The entire series is then a lead-up to that moment.
  • Humongous Mecha: The Evil Librarians have giant robots (and robats. Yes. Really.) as part of their arsenal. Bastille claims they are Awesome, but Impractical, but they still pose a real threat in Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens.
  • Human Sacrifice:
    • The very beginning of the first book, which doesn't happen until sometime in the fifth.
      Alcatraz: So, there I was, tied to an altar made from outdated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil Librarians ...
    • We finally see it in the fifth book. Biblioden has returned, and wants a willing sacrifice to make his ritual more powerful. He tells Alcatraz and Alcatraz's father that they can choose which one lives and dies. Alcatraz's father volunteers ... at the same moment Alcatraz offers up his father as well.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Inverted. The Librarian minions can generally shoot just fine. It's just that Smedry Talents can make them almost impossible to hit. For example, Grandpa Smedry is always late to where the bullets are going to be, and guns tend to spontaneously fall apart when fired at Alcatraz.
  • In Medias Res/Action Prologue: The opening of the first book starts with Alcatraz about to get sacrificed on an alter of outdated encyclopedias, but then he skips to a story of his childhood growing up and leaves the reader hanging.
  • The Infiltration: Played straight in Book 1, where Alcatraz infiltrates the local library. Mostly played straight in Book 5, where they infiltrate the Highbrary, though that time the Librarians are on high alert, since they didn't make the quietest entrance.
  • Insistent Terminology: There are most definitely no libraries in the Free Kingdoms. Those big buildings full of books are archives, all right? The Royal Archive in Nalhalla even has a sign over the door saying "The Royal Archives (not a library!)".
  • It Is Beyond Saving: Most of the Free Kingdoms thinks this of Tuki Tuki. Alcatraz is dead set on proving them wrong.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Of course, Our Dragons Are Different. For example, the Dragonaut is a dragon shaped flying ship, with six wings, and six legs. Oh, and it's made of glass, of course. Other dragons are serving prison sentences in Nalhalla by acting as taxicabs.
  • It Runs in the Family: "A family full of eccentric, weird, and sometimes insane relatives..." The Smedrys are especially known for being reckless, which annoys their bodyguards to no end.
    Bastille: Sometimes I think you Smedrys try to get yourselves killed just to get me into trouble.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: How Attica sneaks into the Highbrary. All Lenses glow when being used inside. So he uses Disguiser's Lenses to disguise himself as a Curator of Alexandria, which are supposed to be glowing. When everyone's scrambling to wonder why there's a Curator of Alexandria in the Highbrary, nobody wonders if he's a spy.
  • Kid Hero: Alcatraz Smedry, though he constantly insists that he's not as heroic as people think.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Because Alcatraz does all his narration in first person, there's no fourth wall for him. Sometimes, even within the dialogue, he'll make a reference to how the events of the story would appear if he wrote them as his memoirs.
  • Lethal Joke Character: Literally everyone with a Smedry Talent. For instance, Grandpa Leavenworth has a Talent for being late, and makes himself virtually invincible by doing things like arriving late to a spot where bullets are going to be, and cousin Australia can be a Master of Disguise using her Talent for waking up ugly.
  • Living Battery: All of the Smedrys. At the time of the Incarna, the first Smedry was given an unknown power in order to power Oculator glass. However, it proved to be too much and caused the destruction of their civilization. The Smedry Talents are a way of siphoning off that energy.
  • Long List: In book 5, Alcatraz says he doesn't like to been blown up and lists way to die, including Aveda Kedavra and being sued by J.K.Rowling. (As you see, some ways are less deadly.)
  • Loophole Abuse: Librarians are fond of speaking in half-truths on purpose.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Alcatraz's emotionally abusive case-worker turns out to be an evil Librarian cultist. Then it turns out that she's his mother.
  • Magitek: Silimatic technology might be considered either this or Magic from Technology. Just don't let a Free Kingdomer hear you call it "magic."
  • Making a Spectacle of Yourself: Sometimes it seems like the cooler a Lens is, the more uncool it looks.
  • The Masquerade: The Hushlands are controlled by evil Librarians who use their control of information to teach all sorts of lies about history, economics, geography, physics, etc. The Free Kingdoms are continents that have not yet been conquered by the evil Librarians, so they don't even appear on Librarian-approved maps. For example, one of the Free Kingdoms is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. You didn't really think there was nothing but water and tiny islands in all that space, did you?
  • Master of Disguise: Disguiser's Lenses allow the wearer to change their outward appearance. The only catch is they'll always be wearing the Lenses in whatever appearance they choose.
  • Medium Awareness: Not so much in the first few books, but Medium Awareness starts showing up a lot in the Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens. For example, characters would refer to the "last chapter" or say that a trip took several chapters to complete. Of course, the fourth book is bizarre even by the standards of this series and this could be in large part because of Alcatraz's sterling narration.
  • Meta Fiction: By the bucketful. For example, Alcatraz constantly comments on his own Narrative Devices, usually as a way to convince the reader how unheroic he is.
  • Milkman Conspiracy: The aforementioned cult of evil Librarians that control the world.
  • Minovsky Physics: The various types of glass. And brightsand.
  • Mole in Charge: Archedis, a Librarian spy, is this to the Knights of Crystallia.
  • Muggles: Hushlanders.
  • Muggle Foster Parents: Alcatraz went through dozens of sets of Muggle Foster Parents. None of them would keep him for long because of his unfortunate tendency to break their most valued possessions.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Penguins.
  • My Little Panzer: Teddy bears that double as hand grenades.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Near the beginning of The Dark Talent, Shasta is seen reading a book. While nothing specific is mentioned in the text, the illustration shows that the book is Mistborn.
      Alcatraz (narration) She stood up and tossed the book aside—a callous act for a Librarian. But then again it was merely a fantasy novel, so nothing that important.
    • Lenses can normally only be used by Oculators, who are born to specific families. Lenses forged in the blood of an Oculator, however, can be used by anyone. Sounds like Hemalurgy exists in every universe after all.
    • Windstormer's Lenses make wind that blows away from the user, and the lens with a pulling wind is called Voidstormer's Lens. The opposite of a Highstorm in The Stormlight Archive is a Voidstorm, and it blows in the opposite direction.
    • Alivened are a kind of golem animated from parts of the creator's soul, like compassion. The Lifeless in Warbreaker are also made from parts of soul, but safely taken from others who can live without it.
  • Noodle Incident: Grandpa Smedry and Draulin allude to one in The Dark Talent.
    Leavenworth: It really is just like old times!
    Draulin: Are you going to sink this city too?
    Leavenworth: That only happened one time. And everyone got out. Mostly.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome:
    • An entire chapter is lost at one point, and the awesome events contained within are continually referred to. Of course, the entire thing is Blatant Lies.
    • After Bastille is woken up from her coma, Alcatraz doesn't have a good angle to see what she's doing, but her Roaring Rampage of Rescue is enough to alarm Biblioden.
  • Old Money: The Smedrys are explicitly rich and powerful, but they gave up their kingdom to focus on adventures. They're still politically active, though.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Biblioden is a PG version of this. He hates everything "weird" and uncontrollable. Talking dinosaurs, magic glass, and especially the Smedrys. He wants to crush the Free Kingdoms to create a perfect, calm utopia where everyone obeys his will. When Alcatraz looks at him through the Shaper's Lens, this is represented by a pure black void.
  • Order Versus Chaos: The overall nature of the conflict between the Hushlands, where the Librarians control everything and everyone supposedly for their own good, and the quirky, colourful Free Kingdoms and the eccentric, heroic Smedry family in particular. The latter are pretty clearly the good guys, but the picture is made somewhat more complicated by the addition of sympathetic Librarian dissenters (showing that a little order can be good) and at least one Free Kingdomer, Attica Smedry, whose recklessness and yearning for personal heroism make him a villain (showing that too much chaos can be bad).
  • Other Stock Phrases: "So, there I was..." is the opening for every book in the series.
  • Out of the Frying Pan:
    Alcatraz: It seems that no matter what I did, I ended up in even more danger than I was before. One might even say I was "out of the frying pan and into the fire"... Personally I say "Out of the frying pan and into the the deadly pit filled with sharks who are wielding chainsaws with killer kittens stapled to them." However, that one's having a rough time catching on.
  • Painting the Medium: Alcatraz sometimes uses some unconventional text formatting to communicate things. In book three, he starts adding random punctuation to words, then swapping vowels for the letter q, in order to underline his difficulty in the current situation.
  • The Paralyzer: Both the Librarians and the Free Kingdoms have weapons that can put their targets into a coma for an indefinite amount of time. The cure for each is a secret that is not known to the opposing side, meaning, for example, those that are put into a coma by Librarian weapons can only be revived by one of the few Librarians entrusted with the cure. While these weapons do reduce the death rates for warfare between Librarians and the Free Kingdoms, they don't result in complete Non-Lethal Warfare, as a lot of other weapons, like swords, don't have a non-lethal setting.
  • Parental Abandonment: Alcatraz grew up thinking he was an orphan, only to eventually find out that both his parents are Well-Intentioned Extremist types: one of them fighting for the Librarians, and the other one pursuing a plan that might inadvertently destroy the world. Also, neither have much in the way of parental skills.
  • Pink Is for Sissies: While he agreed that the dragon shaped flying glass ship was awesome, Alcatraz was not very happy about having to travel in the pink butterfly shaped glass ship, complaining that they could have found something more masculine.
  • Power Glows: In Book 5. Any time a Smedry touches glass, it glows with the sheer amount of power being pumped into it.
  • Power Incontinence: The Smedrys in Book 5 can accidentally overpower glass to the point of exploding it.
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: The dinosaurs. Even when they're captured by evil Librarians and about to be murdered.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: Librarians are not very kind to those that defect from their ranks. They tend to remove them. Permanently.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Smedry family, although they gave up their actual royalty long ago.
  • Sadistic Choice: Biblioden asks Alcatraz and his father to choose which of them will die. Alcatraz ends up choosing his father, while Attica chooses himself.
  • Scary Librarian: Not all librarians are evil cultists. Some librarians are instead vengeful undead who want to suck your soul.
  • See the Invisible: The Oculator's Lens allows Oculators to see the general energies of a building, as well as sense what sort of powers different glasses have.
  • Semantic Superpower: The Smedry family Talents.
  • Set Swords to "Stun": Actually, swords are some of the few weapons that don't have a stun setting.
  • Sexually Transmitted Superpowers: The Smedry family have super powers. Smedrys by marriage get superpowers that match their spouse's, as demonstrated by Folsom and his wife Himalaya.
  • Ship Tease: There's a note at the very end of Alcatraz Vs The Dark Talent, signed "Bastille Smedry".
  • Shout-Out
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: True for both the heroes and the villains. Alcatraz and other Oculators have, of course, their variety of Lenses, and all are pretty intelligent people, while you can usually recognize a Librarian by their horn-rimmed glasses.
  • Single-Use Shield: Bastille wears a jacket made from spun fibers of Defender's Glass. It can take one blow that by rights should kill her, but then it's ruined and she has to get another.
  • Someone Has to Die: Biblioden enforces this trope at the end of Book 5.
    Biblioden: So which will it be? Which of you lives, and which dies? I'll let the two of you choose.
  • Stealth Pun: In the second book, Alcatraz spends one chapter telling the reader that he's a fish. Then he explains that, by telling such a Blatant Lie, he hid a smaller lie about the color of his sneakers. He makes a lesson that you should look past the fish and notice the shoes. The fish, then, is a Red Herring.
    • In the fifth book, Alcatraz meets a dinosaur whose species he can't quite identify and who keeps helpfully explaining the meaning of difficult words to her friends. He asks in a footnote if the reader has figured out what sort of dinosaur she is yet. She's presumably a thesaurus.
  • Stock "Yuck!": Alcatraz insists that fish sticks are the most disgusting thing in the world. He had to invent a word (crapaflapnasti) to describe something that disgusting. This, of course, means that crapaflapnasti can only be used to describe fish sticks.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The Shamefillers' Lens makes things so embarrassed that they explode.
  • Supernaturally Marked Grave: Allekatrase the First exists in a state of perfect stasis, owing to Allekatrase using his Breaking Talent on time itself there.
  • Take That!: The first book ends with Grandpa Smedry delivering a bit of a rant about how silly it would be to leave Alcatraz for a whole summer at a boring place he hates to live at, with people who aren't his real family and don't know anything about the magical world he's become a part of, and where his enemies know where to find him.
    • Also, after the dinosaurs ate themselves through the fiction M section to create a diversion, expect the almost stock anti-sparkle quip.
  • Talkative Loon: Quentin, one of Alcatraz's cousins, has the power to say utter nonsense. It makes him an excellent spy, since he can arrange to be literally unable to reveal information no matter the torture without actually having to kill himself.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Alcatraz and Shasta in Book 5.
  • Theme Naming: Inverted. The Librarians aren't named after mountains, and their enemies aren't named after prisons. The mountains and prisons are named after the people.
  • The Nudifier: Stuff-eater teddy bear grenades are weapons being used against the Librarians. Guess who gets hit with it? Alcatraz.
  • The Stinger: Make sure to read The Dark Talent all the way to the end. All the way to the end, just like staying through the credits in a movie.
  • This Is Reality:
    Alcatraz: When people try to give you some book with a shiny round award on the cover, be kind and gracious, but tell them you don't read "fantasy," because you prefer stories that are real. Then come back here and continue your research on the cult of evil Librarians who secretly rule the world.
  • Translator Microbes: The Translator's Lens allows the user to translate any written or spoken language—even the Forgotten Language.
  • Unusual Euphemism:
    • Shattering Glass!
    • Grandpa Smedry tends to use alliterative exclamations like "Clustering Campbells," (every one taking the form of "verb-ing last name of a sci-fi or fantasy author!") and Kaz will use various words likes curses. Even the oft-uttered "gak!" is occasionally used almost like a swear.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Almost nothing Alcatraz says can be taken at face value. Some things he tosses in just to make a joke about the format, sometimes he goes onto long rambles about something that doesn't seem to mean anything, and sometimes he outright lies in the text to make a point.
  • Villain Has a Point: The Librarians are usually wrong about the dangers of letting silimatic technology be commonly used. However, they are unfortunately right about how giving everyone in the world Smedry Talents like Alcatraz's dad wants to do would be the worst idea ever. Also, despite what the Free Kingdomers would tell you, there are advantages to organizing information.
  • Walking Tech Bane: Alcatraz. Not just technology, but pretty much everything. Alcatraz even broke a chicken once. And it's not only him; Smedry Talents in general tend to be particularly effective against Hushlander technology, due to the large number of moving parts.
  • Zany Scheme: Smedrys are full of them.

Alternative Title(s): The Alcatraz Series, Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians