Chapter Summary: Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians
This page contains a chapter by chapter summary of Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians. We hope this summary will make it easier to find specific areas of the book, as well as providing a quick plot refresher for anyone who doesn't want to take the time to reread dinosaurs the entire book.
The author explains that he is not Brandon Sanderson, but Alcatraz Smedry. This book is not a work of fiction, but an actual biography that is sold as a fantasy book in the Hushlands to avoid detection by the Librarians. The purpose of the book is to convince everyone that he is not a hero, but a bad person.
”So, there I was, tied to an altar made from out-dated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil librarians.—Alcatraz to the Reader
Despite this first line, the whole chapter is an introduction of Alcatraz Smedry, who is the narrator of the book. Alcatraz is an orphan who never spends more than a few months with any given family due to his propensity for breaking (not destroying) things. Today is his thirteenth birthday, and he has received a small package in the mail. It contains a note that reads:
”Happy thirteenth birthday! Here is your inheritance, as promised. Love, Mom and Dad—Alcatraz's birthday note
and contains a bag of sand. Alcatraz goes to the kitchen to prepare dinner and proceeds to set the kitchen on fire. He goes to his room and overhears his foster parents deciding that they must give him up. His caseworker, Ms. Fletcher, arrives. She warns Alcatraz that she is running out of families to place him with. She sees the bag of sand but seems dismissive of it.
Alcatraz is awoken by the sound of someone banging on the front door. He opens the door to an eccentric old man who wishes him a happy birthday and claims that he is his grandfather. He is late, as the boy's birthday was the day before. After a brief and chaotic introduction, the elder Smedry storms into Alcatraz's home and discovers that the sands have been stolen. Only Ms. Fletcher has been in his room, and from Alcatraz's description, Grandpa Smedry identifies her as a Librarian and urges the boy to come with him on a mission to retrieve the sands. Alcatraz, believing that the man he just met is crazy, lets his grandfather leave the house and locks the door behind him. He goes to the kitchen to have breakfast and encounters a man pointing a gun at him.
The person pointing a gun at Alcatraz turns out to be a Librarian in disguise as a foster care caseworker. Right as he's about to shoot Alcatraz, Grandpa Smedry crashes his car (an old Model T Ford) through a wall of the kitchen, knocking the Librarian out. Grandpa convinces Alcatraz that he could either stay here with the guy with the gun or escape with him. Alcatraz decides to join him and they both retreat from the scene. The car uses Silimatic technology as the older Smedry doesn't have to use steering wheel to drive it. As they drive away, Grandpa explains to Alcatraz that the Sands of Rashid are very rare and will produce some powerful lenses that may tip the balance in the war between the Free Kingdoms and the Hushlands. They are civilization's only hope and must retrieve the sand. Alcatraz doesn't believe him but goes along anyway because someone just tried to kill him. They arrive at a "gas station" that serves as a front for their base. Grandpa asks Alcatraz what his Talent is, and he is awed by such a powerful Talent. Alcatraz meets Sing Sing Smedry and receives his first lenses -- the Oculator's Lenses.
Alcatraz talks to Sing Sing and learns that his Talent is that he can trip and fall to the ground. He refers to Alcatraz as a "young Lord." He also meets another cousin, Quentin Smedry, whose Talent is saying things that don't make any sense. Since they are not in the direct Smedry line, they are not occulators, but they do wear warrior lenses. During a short lunch break, Alcatraz runs into the same Librarian agent that was at his house. Grandpa Smedry joins the scene, and the agent fires his gun at him, but the bullets miss. Then Alcatraz breaks his gun, and it falls to pieces. The attacker is scared off. Just when the team is about to leave their base and go to the library, Bastille arrives in her silver sports car.
Bastille is introduced to Alcatraz as the Crystin Knight tasked with protecting the Smedrys on their mission to Hushlands. Grandpa Smedry explains to her that they are going to infiltrate the main library in order to retrieve the Sands of Rashid. He takes Quentin and Sing Sing in his car, leaving Alcatraz to drive with Bastille. During the ride Alcatraz gets to know Bastille's background as a Crystin Knight and learns that he was actually supervised from a distance by Leavenworth, who kept track of his changing foster homes. Bastille complains a lot about how much trouble the reckless Smedrys are. When they arrive (Grandpa is late, obviously), Bastille asks Alcatraz to take an oculatory reading of the library building. She helps Alcatraz to interpret what he sees using the Oculator's Lenses, displaying her knowledge about oculatory powers. During their conversation, Alcatraz manages to irritate Bastille to the point that she smashes him with her handbag, just before the other team members arrive.
Alcatraz's grandfather arrives and goes over the plan with Bastille. Quentin is to go in to scout, then Sing will cause a distraction with his Talent, then they sneak in and retrieve the Sands. After Quentin goes in, Grandpa explains to Alcatraz that there are several factions within the Librarians, all competing for control. Sing finds a bottle cap that says "YOU ARE NOT A WINNER" and Alcatraz explains what this means. Even though the cap is worthless, Sing saves it for his anthropological research. Alcatraz realizes that his team is composed of two children, an anthropologist, a graduate student (Quentin), and a loony old man. Given the danger of the mission, Alcatraz can understand why Bastille is so grumpy. Grandpa gives Alcatraz his Tracker's Lenses and Firebringer's Lenses. He activates the latter accidentally just by touching them, scorching a big piece of pavement. He puts them in a black velvet pouch to keep them from going off accidentally. Grandpa gives Alcatraz an encouraging speech about his Talent and a partial explanation of why he didn't take him from the foster homes. He explains that the Sands are so important because it's information that is so important in their struggle with the Librarians. The Sands of Rashid are also somehow connected with the origins of the Smedry Talents. After Quentin's return from his reconnaissance, the team proceeds with the infiltration.
Sing Sing majestically trips and falls on one of the bookshelves, resulting in a little book avalanche. While the Librarians are distracted, the other team members approach the door marked with an "EMPLOYEES ONLY" sign. Alcatraz breaks the door's lock (doors are his specialty) and our heroes get in. The team splits into two groups -- Leavenworth and Quentin will go up to the third floor while the rest search the first and second floor. Grandpa warns Alcatraz to keep his Oculator's Lenses on if he runs into the Dark Oculator. Alcatraz, Bastille, and Sing make their way into an enormous room crammed with bookshelves fifteen feet high. They creep along the wall so Alcatraz can scan the shelves with his Oculator's Lenses. He stops short when he notices a strange map of the world on the wall.
The map shows the world as it actually is, with three additional continents located in the area of the Pacific ocean. The Librarians have made up "history" and control what is taught in schools in order to hide the reality of the Free Kingdoms and their magic and superior technology. Their discussion is interrupted when some apprentices walk by accompanied by some monsters made of sheets of paper. Bastille tells Alcatraz that they are Alivened. He decides that they most likely won't find the Sands here, so he suggests they go to the second floor, and they follow. They find themselves in a hallway with a bunch of wooden doors, and they decide to start searching them. The first one they try is occupied by some dinosaurs. One of them waves at Alcatraz.
Due to all the other crazy things happening to Alcatraz on this day, talking dinosaurs don't make much of an impression on him. The dinosaurs are from Nalhalla and speak with a Nalhallan (British) accent. They are field researchers who wanted to write a paper about life in the Hushlands, but they were quickly captured and are now in cages waiting execution. They promise to return for them. The next room contains a collection of books written in the Forgotten Language and Librarian's notes with attempts at translating it. Sing explains to Alcatraz that the Forgotten Language is a language they were made to forget three thousand years ago by the Incarna. He also explains the basic history of the Librarians. A man named Biblioden, also known as the Scrivener, taught that the world needed to be ordinary and that strange powers should be controlled. They leave the room, taking with them the notes and one of the books written in the Forgotten Language. They start to proceed to the next room, but Alcatraz sees two sets of fresh footprints going down the hallway, one yellow and the other very black, brimming with power. He decides to follow them.
They begin following the black tracks. Bastille stops Alcatraz when she realizes that they're chasing a Dark Oculator, and they lose the trail. The yellow footprints persist, though, so they follow those after Alcatraz convinces Bastille that they're running out of time and this is their best chance. They end up on the second floor balcony of a large room. Peering over the edge, below they see Ms. Fletcher and Radrian Blackburn, an especially powerful Dark Oculator. Bastille explains that Librarians name mountains after themselves, similar to their naming prisons after Free Kingdomers. Blackburn chides Ms. Fletcher for losing track of Alcatraz. She didn't get him herself that morning because she had lost her keys. By the way she talks, it seems to Alcatraz that she doesn't really want him dead. She demands payment for the Sands of Rashid. Alcatraz tries on his Oculator's Lenses and sees an aura around Blackburn, who then notices Alcatraz and zaps him with his monocle. He falls unconscious.
The three are now in a dungeon. Bastille is angry with herself for allowing them to get caught. She should have known Alcatraz would show an aura. Alcatraz blames himself. He tries to break the bars, but they are made of Enforcer's Glass. He asks Sing about some of his ancestors and their Talents. Sing compliments him, but he's hesitant to grow close to his new friends and family. He realizes that he began breaking the most valuable things of his foster parents so they would get rid of him quickly, thus allowing him to move on before he felt any affection for them. He realizes that he does destroy, not break.
As Alcatraz faces his weaknesses, he feels a sense of determination and leadership. He encourages Bastille to try to figure a way out, but she says it's impossible. Alcatraz figures out that her bitterness is because she can never be an Oculator, no matter how much she studies or tries -- it's tied to genetics. He tries to comfort her, but she rebuffs him. Shasta comes in and tries to negotiate. She wants to know where Leavenworth is, and she agrees to answer several questions if Alcatraz will tell her. He still refuses to talk, though, so Blackburn tortures him. As the agony fades, Grandpa cheerfully arrives, also captured.
Bastille is furious that Leavenworth has been taken away to be tortured. Then she's despondent because she has failed to protect him. He's not just a Smedry, but a member of the Council of Kings. He knows state secrets that might get tortured out of him. Alcatraz desperately tries to break the bars again, but it still doesn't work. Then he breaks the stone around the bars, but the guard comes over and says that is useless too -- the entire cell is made out of Enforcer's Glass. Alcatraz taunts the guard so he can try to engage his Talent, and Bastille manages to grab him and knock him out against the bars. They steal his key, exit the dungeon, then lock him in. They recover their weapons and follow Grandpa's footprints.
They run down the hallway, and Sing suddenly trips and falls. Bastille and Alcatraz hit the deck, but nothing happens for a moment. Then the wall explodes and an Alivened comes through the hole just created. As they run away from the first one, another appears from the other direction, and Bastille draws her sword to engage it. Sing shoots at the first one, but it's only slowed somewhat by the barrage of bullets. Alcatraz gets out the Firebringer's Lenses but only manages an uncontrolled blast, breaking one of the Lenses. Bastille stabs her Alivened, but it throws her aside, knocking her out. Alcatraz breaks the entire floor, and it tumbles down with it and is still. Then he slams his hand into the other Alivened and destroys it.
Alcatraz recovers the remaining Firebringer's Lens that is melting the stone floor and manages to stow it in the velvet pouch. Several Librarians arrive at the scene, and Bastille prepares to throw a knife at them. Alcatraz tells her to stop because they are unarmed and too numerous anyway. They scatter in several different directions. Sing realizes that the Awakened that Alcatraz "broke" is still alive, although much smaller and acting docile and confused. Alcatraz decides to leave it alone. They follow Grandpa's footprints. Ms. Fletcher's footprints are also still visible even though they are hours old. Alcatraz notices that the lanterns are shaped like cantaloupes, and he remembers when Quentin said "Cantaloupe, fluttering paper makes a duck." He's unable to figure out the connection.
Leavenworth's footprints lead to a door flanked by two guards. Bastille efficiently knock both out, and they look through a knothole in the door. Grandpa Smedry is arriving late to his torture, frustrating Blackburn. He does manage to stab his leg, but no blood comes out. Bastille is relieved, but she knows time is running out. He can only avoid the pain for so long. Quentin is hurt, but he has fully activated his Talent and can only speak gibberish. Alcatraz tries to create a distraction by freeing the dinosaurs, but they only politely move some books around. Alcatraz sends Sing with the two unconscious guards back to the Forgotten Language room, then he activates the Firebringer's Lens.
Alcatraz and Bastille run back to the hole, drawing Blackburn out. He drops the lens down to where the dinosaurs are. They go back to the Forgotten Language room and pick up Sing, then run back to the torture room, Blackburn off chasing the powerful Lens. The door is locked with glass, so Sing blasts the wooden door open with gunfire. Grandpa is able to hold back the pain and wounds from the torture, but it is very fatiguing. He already knows where the Sands are, having found a room earlier that was filled with traps. He and Quentin triggered all the traps (and got captured), so it should be open to them now. They head up the stairs.
Grandpa leads them to a room on the third floor. When they enter, Alcatraz (wearing his Oculator's Lenses) is blinded by all the power in the room. It's filled with shelves containing Lenses. Alcatraz has a feeling of home and now knows he wants to be an Oculator. They desperately look for the Sands that Grandpa saw there before, but Blackburn shows up holding a pair of Lenses -- the Sands have already been forged. Blackburn and Grandpa engage in an Oculator's duel, using multiple overlapping Lenses to defend and attack. Grandpa is vanquished and the Librarian soldiers capture the rest of the group, but not before Alcatraz can make a grab for the Firebringer's Lens, pretending to lunge for the Lenses of Rashid. Blackburn begins his interrogation again, threatening to kill everyone unless he talks. He starts with Bastille, using the Firebringer's Lens. However, it backfires. Alcatraz broke the Lens, so it shoots backwards. He remembered Quentin saying "Rutabaga . . . fire over the inheritance!" He breaks the bones of his captors and recovers the Lens.
The thug Librarians take off with their Oculator down. They don't do anything with Blackburn, who is powerless without eyesight. Quentin gathers up the unbroken Lenses lying about and Alcatraz puts on his inheritance, the Lenses of Rashid. Nothing happens at first, but then he realizes he can understand what Quentin is saying, which is gibberish to everyone else. Ms. Fletcher arrives with a full troop of Librarian soldiers. Alcatraz breaks floors and walls to escape to a stairwell. They head down to the main lobby of the library.
In the main lobby, people are browsing shelves and waiting to check out books like any "normal" library. A door bursts open and the dinosaurs walk in holding books. Mayhem ensues. A triceratops reaches the checkout desk and asks to check out some books with the library card from Alcatraz. The infiltrators make their way out of the front door in the confusion and escape in their vehicles.
Grandpa drives Alcatraz back to the Sheldons so he can make up with them. He tells Alcatraz that his father is very important in the war against the Librarians and feels that he is still alive. Through some leading questions about the Tracker's Lenses, Alcatraz confirms that Ms. Fletcher is his mother. His parents planted him as a spy so that the Free Kingdom could have someone on their side who understood Librarian culture. Grandpa promises to come back for him. He knocks on the door, and the Sheldons are relieved to see him. After dinner and some conversation, Alcatraz goes to his room and remembers the scribbles on the package. It's a note from his father who has another set of Translator's Lenses. He promises to send more information. Grandpa appears at the window to pick up Alcatraz. He thought he was going to live there with the Sheldons, but Grandpa says that would be stupid. Alcatraz writes a note to his foster parents and packs.
Alcatraz insists that all the good qualities he gained during the infiltration just sets up him for his fall. He really is a bad person.