Chapter Summary: The Dark Talent
This page contains a chapter by chapter summary of The Dark Talent. 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 the entire book.
Alcatraz claims to be a coward, offering this as an explanation for why it took so long for The Dark Talent to be published. He also briefly summarizes the previous four books in the series and informs us that he has now learned how to use footnotes.
Alcatraz is being outfitted by Janie for a public appearance as the former monarch of Mokia. He is presented with several costumes, including a those of a clown, a dog, and a frog, which are apparently the traditional wear of a Mokian former monarch. It is implied that this is so those monarchs cannot change their minds and stage a coup to take control of the country again.
The lights on the trunk containing the costumes go out, and Alcatraz attempts to power them as he has done before with other Silimatic technology and ends up overpowering them, causing them to melt. In order to have an excuse to leave while she replaces the lights, Alcatraz claims to need to use the restroom. While alone, he reflects on the need to stop his father's plan to give Talents to everyone and then hears voices, which he follows. He discovers his grandfather and Kaz having a meeting with the monarchs of the Free Kingdoms through Communicator's Glass about their failure to come to Mokia's aid quickly enough.
Alcatraz calls them liars while in his bathrobe, and the monarchs hang up the call, refusing to be spoken to like that. However, Alcatraz powers the Communicator's glass like he did the lights, reforming the connection. He delivers a dramatic speech about how the Librarians need to be stopped and he is going to do it, claiming to know something the Librarians don't.
The chapter begins with a "fairy tale", which is actually a summary of Alcatraz's life, with an added happy ending, which Alcatraz claims to be a lie.
Kaz, Alcatraz, and Grandpa discuss how best to infiltrate the Highbrary, suggesting economic sanctions and political propaganda as the first steps in a seventeen step plan. However, following an explosion, they instead decide to steal a ship and go in with guns blazing. They leave the room they were in and run into Queen Kamali, the new Mokian queen. She informs them that Alcatraz's speech from the last chapter was broadcasted on every piece of glass in the city, and that it caused resumed Librarian missile strikes on Tuki Tuki. Kamali tells them that she is ordering everyone into the shelters, and the three Smedrys refuse to join her.
Instead, they run through the city to find a ship to "steal". They select a giant glass penguin, but then Alcatraz remembers that they need to find his mother, Shasta Smedry. Alcatraz and Kaz take off through the city to retrieve her from her makeshift jail in the zoo, dodging missiles and discussing whether or not Alcatraz will be able to bring the Talents back. They finally arrive at the zoo, only to discover that the missiles had destroyed the wall and Alcatraz's mother is free.
In this chapter's chapter intro, Alcatraz informs the reader that the reason for the chapter intros is in order to delay the inevitable ending, once again referring to himself as a coward. He also claims that he is also probably too much of a coward to include this section in the book.
Alcatraz and Kaz step into the prison, and find his mother still there, despite the destroyed wall. She is reading a book, which is shown by the illustration in the page opposite to be Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. She explains that she didn't try to escape because Alcatraz is her best hope to find Attica and stop Attica. Alcatraz convinces her to allow Kaz on the mission with them, and the three of them set off for the landing field.
A different kind of missile appears, dropping murderous spider robots which proceed to begin destroying the city. As the three of them run from the robots, Alcatraz accuses Shasta of supporting this because she is a Librarian, to which she responds that he isn't truly a Free Kingdomer, causing them to have a giant argument about Free Kingdom vs. Librarian ideologies and Shasta's poor parenting. Eventually they reach a missile that had landed earlier and not exploded, and Alcatraz uses his anger and powers to cause it to blow up the robots.
Finally, they reach the landing field and the penguin ship and Alcatraz is told about the jet-rocket powers of adult giant penguins before they take off, making their escape.
They discuss ways to break in to the Highbrary, most of them involving crashes or explosions, and Alcatraz notices that Draulin is on board the ship. Grandpa Smedry and Draulin jokingly insult each other, causing Alcatraz to wonder if they are actually somehow friends. Draulin then punches Shasta in the face in order to test her defense field, discovers and destroys a listening device, and reveals that she also brought Bastille so that they can revive her as quickly as possible and count on her for help once they find the antidote to her coma in the Highbrary. Grandpa sends Draulin off in search of more listening devices, and Alcatraz follows her.
They go to where Bastille is asleep, strapped to a bed. Alcatraz thinks about how helpless she looks and then about how she would punch anyone who thought of her as helpless. Draulin talks about how she's been too hard on Bastille, and Alcatraz thinks to himself that this must be what it's like to have a parent who actually cares. Draulin then calls Bastille helpless, and Alcatraz punches her, because that's what Bastille would want.
He retires to his room, where he finds that Janie had somehow managed to leave him an entire wardrobe of clothes, including both Hushlands garb and the ridiculous costumes of a former Mokian monarch. It takes him a long time to choose what to wear because he keeps thinking about what his mother said about him not truly belonging anywhere. Then something catches his eye, and he puts it on before joining Kaz and Grandpa in the penguin equivalent of a cockpit. They determine that they are going to pick up Dif, another Smedry cousin, and it is revealed that Alcatraz chose to wear a tuxedo which matched his grandfather's, because he feels like he fits in as a Smedry.
In this chapter intro, Alcatraz discusses Aesop and the his fables, mentioning that as time progresses and we retell them more and more, the endings tend to get happier.
They fly to the Worldspire, which Kaz tells Alcatraz connects every person in the world, as well as transferring its experiences to random number of people at any given time. They pick up Dif, who turns out to be very enthusiastic and acts like he is trying very hard to be a Smedry, and whom Kaz hates. His Talent is that he's very forgetful. After speaking to him for a couple minutes, Alcatraz gets a surge of hatred for him, which he feels bad about. He wonders if this is how the rest of the world sees all Smedrys.
In this chapter's introduction, Alcatraz continues the train of thought of the previous chapter, speculating that maybe the reason that we have changed the endings of originally dark stories is because we need to be able to believe that happy endings are possible.
Alcatraz goes to Grandpa's rooms on the ship, where he is waiting to give him new Lenses. Alcatraz receives his single Truthfinder's Lense, a Shamefiller's lens, a Shaper's lense, and a new pair of Courier's lenses. In addition, Alcatraz learns that Grandpa Smedry is also capable of charging Silimatic glass more powerfully than before.
After this discussion, Draulin enters, looking for listening devices. In order to confuse the people listening, they refer to Draulin's search for bugs as her attempting to belly-dance in every room on the ship. She discovers a bug on the bottom of the table that Alcatraz and Grandpa have sitting at, which Alcatraz uses his newfound powers to reverse so that they can listen to what's happening on the other side. They learn that there is someone whom the Librarians are referring to as The Scrivener, and then the glass melts just as they arrive to Washington, D.C.
The introduction to this chapter is Alcatraz instructing the reader in a very specific way to make a sandwich, and then requesting the reader to travel back in time and teleport to his house in order to deliver it to him as he is writing.
When they arrive in Washington, D.C., Alcatraz is able to see it far more clearly than before using his Oculator's Lenses, noticing a giant, purple dome around the city as well as defensive structures surrounding every monument and the true glory of the Highbrary. They are attacked by the entire Librarian Defense Force, causing Kaz to have to take evasive maneuvers and Draulin, Grandpa, and Alcatraz to use boots made of Grappler's Glass to stand on the outside of the penguin ship and fight back, while Shasta tries to come up with a plan to infiltrate the Highbrary.
Alcatraz uses the Shamefiller's Lense to embarrass a missile into self-destructing, and is so disgusted by it that he is not able to use it to destroy anything else. He feels guilty and useless about it, but he observes that Grandpa is a true master of Lenses, uses multiple at once to fight off the attack. However, this doesn't seem to be enough, until they get a call from the Unified Free Kingdoms Air Guard offering to help. Alcatraz accepts their help, and "the real fighting begins."
The introduction to this chapter is Alcatraz discussing the wooly sea sloth in order to fool Librarians who may be reading over your shoulder that you're actually reading a science book and not his biography.
Alcatraz remains on the roof for a few moments, reflecting on his cowardice in allowing others to sacrifice their lives for his cause but not being able to use the Shamefiller's Lenses. He then returns to the cockpit, where Dif is very excited about the sudden rescue, and they hear Shasta's plan, which is to have Kaz act as a diversion while she, Dif, Alcatraz, and Grandpa secretly jump out of the ship and sneak into the Highbrary. While waiting for the right time to jump, Kaz says that he hates Dif because he feels like he's making fun of them, but Alcatraz believes that he's just trying too hard to fit in.
Alcatraz uses the Shamefiller's Lenses to destroy the protective dome around the city, and as part of it explodes, it mentions something about accidentally trying to stop the Scrivener. They fly through the dome and notice a plume of smoke, which Alcatraz observes looks like a barricade and someone else fighting back from the inside. They begin to prepare to jump, but Shasta and Kaz first stop to discuss whether or not Shasta will be willing to kill Attica if she has to; she then turns the same question onto Alcatraz. Shasta confirms that it is possible that the Scrivener has returned.
Draulin and Dif disguise themselves as Hushlanders, and then, as they're preparing to make the drop, Dif pushes Alcatraz out early.
The introduction to this chapter is Alcatraz mentioning the odd numbering of the chapters so far, and offering a cookie (not a dog biscuit) to anyone who noticed it.
As he falls out of the ship, he wraps himself in glassweave cloth and bounces off the ground instead of injuring himself. Because Dif forced them to jump early, the five of them are seen by troops and have to run away. As they run, they pass by a store, in which a television is reporting their invasion. They keep running, avoiding Librarian traps and explosions, and come upon a barricade, which Alcatraz hopes is a resistance made up of people trying to fight back against the Librarians.
As soon as they arrive at the barricade, however, Alcatraz sees a Librarian standing behind it. Grandpa Smedry mentions that now would be a good time for the Talents to return, and Alcatraz tries, despite believing that he only knows how to Break things, not fix them. As he tries, he sees a dark, translucent reflection of himself in a broken window, but that's all. The Librarians chasing them catch up, and Alcatraz thinks that it's all over, but suddenly the Librarians behind the barricade begin firing on the Librarians chasing them.
Himalaya Smedry and Folsom Smedry appear from the barricade and pull the five Smedrys and Draulin over the top to safety. Once they are safe, Himalaya's Librarians introduce themselves as the Librarian Liberation Libationists, and Himalaya and Folsom inform the five of them that they, too, saw Alcatraz's speech and have been waiting for him to show up. The LLL offers to help them to break into the Highbrary by trying to break in themselves, as a distraction.
The introduction to this chapter is to "enlighten" the reader as to the grossness of human beings, especially with regards to disgusting noises that people make.
Dif, Grandpa, and Alcatraz agree to attempt to draw fire to cause the Librarians to destroy the street so that they can get into the part of the Highbrary that is underground. The Librarians use a gigantic SMEDRYBUSTER 2300 to try to kill them, and it turns out that Himalaya didn't know that the Talents didn't work, so Grandpa ends up having to use his Windstormer's Lens to blow them out of the way into safety. Despite its drawbacks, this plan is successful in blowing a gigantic hole in the middle of the street, through which the entire group enters the Highbrary.
The introduction to this chapter is Alcatraz explaining that after all of his tricks and deceptions to the reader throughout the series, they won't expect him to actually fail when he says so. However, he insists that he is being honest, and that this is the best way to really make the readers feel his pain.
Alcatraz, Draulin, Dif, Grandpa Smedry, and Shasta climb down into the large cavern of the Highbrary. The altar of outdated encyclopedias makes a brief and unnamed appearance. A discussion is held about how to find Attica; they decide to split up to try to find the cavern with the Forgotten Language books. There is a disagreement about how to split up the group, and Alcatraz uses the Shaper's Lens on Shasta.
He sees her standing on a street with Hushlands homes on one side and Free Kingdoms homes on the other. She is pressing her hands down on a pillar, trying to keep a darkness from bubbling out from inside it. A small child, presumably Alcatraz, cries out for her, but the darkness comes up again when she turns to him, and she continues pressing it down.
Disturbed, Alcatraz puts away the Lens. They make final preparations to venture into the Highbrary, with Dif, Shasta, and Alcatraz in one group and Draulin and Grandpa Smedry in the other. Alcatraz realizes that Grandpa Smedry is scared; Grandpa then explains how this mission is a sort of final attempt to save the Free Kingdoms from Librarian invasion. With that, they part.
Dif, Shasta, and Alcatraz head off together and are met by several Alivened monsters. Alcatraz uses the Shamefiller's Lens on the floor of the cavern, causing it to explode and destroy the Alivened. They proceed into an indexing room and force the librarians there to give their robes to them for a disguise. They head into the library to find a higher-ranking librarian in order to get a map of the place. Alcatraz and Shasta argue about which way to go, so they try to set some rules for how they will interact. As they argue about which one gets to decide what to do with Attica, they run into a troop of librarian soldiers led by a Dark Oculator. They are summarily conscripted.
The Dark Oculator leads them in a march to an unknown destination. Alcatraz is alarmed as the Shamefiller's Lens spontaneously starts working, but he manages to power it down. Dif somehow escapes the troop. The others speculate on their mission -- perhaps it is to deal with the Curators of Alexandria that have been reportedly seen. As they engage Alcatraz in the discussion, one of them starts to recognize him, but luckily the oculator orders them to be quiet. They stop at an empty corridor. Savage roaring sounds emanate from the tunnel, and she orders the group forward to investigate. She dons her lenses and notices Alcatraz. He pretends to be on an errand for the Scrivener, and while that saves him from discovery, it means he has to go into the tunnel by himself to find out what the noise is.
Chapter Shu Wei
Alcatraz creeps fearfully down the tunnel. Dif suddenly appears, running after him to join him. Alcatraz is buoyed by the company. They encounter a large pit with a rope bridge, and Dif starts across first, Alcatraz eventually following. They pause to look at the carvings on the walls and the huge fan below them, feeding the ventilation system. Alcatraz gets out his Truthfinder's Lens to use against the monster, and Dif sweeps his arm around and knock the lens out of his hands. It rolls off the bridge and breaks on the fan below. Dif is very sheepish and Alcatraz is furious, but he realizes that he's had many blunders himself and forgives him. They get to the other side of the bridge and head into a doorway on the left. They find a tyrannosaurus rex with bloody teeth. Alcatraz is relieved.
Douglas, the T. Rex, has bitten his lip, which can cause substantial bleeding with his teeth. The other dinosaur researchers are here too to observe the Librarian reaction to his speech. Alcatraz chats with the dinosaurs, but Dif refuses to join in, looking on in disdain. Alcatraz tries to enlist their help, but they decline, seeing as they are not soldiers. They do agree to make a lot of noise to give the impression of a fight. Alcatraz wanders over to a mirror and sees a vision of the destruction of the Incarna. He examines the mirror with his Oculator's Lenses but sees nothing special. He asks Dif if he's sure that his Talent is still working and explains that everyone else's isn't. Dif suggests that they sneak out the back way, but Alcatraz insists that they won't know where to go.
They head back over the bridge. Alcatraz shows the waiting Librarians the bloody sword. Suddenly the fan starts going much faster, and Dif and Alcatraz hang on in the swirling vortex. Their hoods are thrown back from the wind, and when the Dark Oculator looks toward Alcatraz, she screams and runs away, the other Librarians following. Only Shasta remains, holding an authenticator lifted from the Dark Oculator. She refuses to use it until she and Alcatraz agree on how to handle Attica: Alcatraz can talk to him first, but she may deal with him once it's clear that he won't change his mind. She turns it on and projects an image of the Highbrary. They find the room where Forgotten Language texts are kept and head that way. Alcatraz calls Himalaya, and she reports that they are pinned down and cannot escape. As they continue on, he turns down a different corridor to first get to the medical storage, hoping to find the antidote for Bastille. The authenticator grants them access.
They go through the doorway and spy two technicians, arguing about the appearance of the Curators. Shasta pretends to have authority and orders them to help with wounded outside. As a pretext for getting some of the antidote, she tells them that the rebels are using some of their own weapons on them. One of them proffers a tiny vial of highly concentrated antidote that smells of cinnamon. Shasta demands to have it, but they refuse since it's a "level-eight superchemical," so she orders them out to the inner sanctuary where the fighting is. They leave, but the cabinet with the antidote is locked. Alcatraz fails in his attempts to break into it and suddenly spies his reflection in a glass case. He talks to his reflection -- he asks it if it is the Talent, but the reflection shakes his head no. It claims that it is he (Alcatraz) and is tired of taking the blame for things that aren't its fault. Shasta worriedly approaches, and Alcatraz angrily again tries to summon his Talent on the cabinet, but he can't quite get it. Instead he uses the Shamefiller's Lens on the wall behind, making it explode and knocking over the shelving, which is open on the back side. He grabs a vial and they escape as the Lens goes haywire and destroys the whole room. As they run away, Alcatraz puts on the Courier's Lenses and talks to Grandpa. He had turned on the fans full blast to cause chaos. He has also activated the self-destruct mechanism to further distract the Librarians. They agree to meet in the Forgotten Language room. Next he phones Kaz and tells him to rescue Himalaya's group and retreat. They make their way into the room and it appears that no one is there, but Alcatraz has already figured out how his father got in there. He's using Disguiser's Lenses to appear as a Curator of Alexandria.
Shasta compliments Attica on his disguise, and then pulls out a handgun. Alcatraz reminds her of her promise, but the fate of the world is more important. She hesitates, however, and tries to convince Attica herself, but he won't change. Alcatraz convinces her to let him have a chance, and she lowers her gun. Attica hits her with his Concussor's Lens and invites Alcatraz over to show off what he has learned. He tries to keep him talking, hoping for Grandpa to arrive to help deal with him. Attica has learned that it wasn't the Talents that destroyed the Incarna but a power source that they couldn't control. Alcatraz figures out that the Incarna created the Smedry line to carry the power source, but that when the Talents go away or betray them, as Alcatraz the First complained had happened, the power goes out of control since it has "nowhere to go." Attica needs to go to the Worldspire to give everyone Talents, but it's unknown what will happen if non-Smedry's obtain them. Attica is not really listening to Alcatraz, so he tries the Shaper's Lens on his father. He sees him on a pedestal, receiving adulation from the people with Alcatraz and Shasta at his side. Grandpa arrives with Draulin, and Dif confirms that this is everyone in the party. Then he shoots Grandpa in the face.
Grandpa crumples to the floor and Draulin and Attica attack while Alcatraz simply stands there, stunned. Draulin is brought down by coma shots and Dif shoots Attica's lenses with the gun. He then holds it to Alcatraz's head and commands Attica to stand down. Alcatraz realizes that Dif is really Biblioden. He starts to read through Attica's notebooks at lightening speed. As he does so, Alcatraz looks through the Shaper's Lens at him and sees nothing but a terrible empty darkness. Biblioden finishes reading and calls Kaz on the mobile phone. He pretends to be Dif again and asks Kaz to wait instead of taking off, but it doesn't matter because the penguin is disabled as they speak. They throw the phone away and head out of the room. In desperation, Alcatraz runs back toward the room, holding the antidote. One of the soldiers knocks him down, and he pretends to accidentally drop it. The vial falls over the edge of the walkway. Biblioden reveals that he is going to create a bloodforged Lens in order to extract the power from the Smedry line, then use it at the Worldspire to make everyone in the Free Kingdoms a power source, destroying them like the Incarna. They head toward the altar.
Alcatraz is tied to the altar by Librarians of the Order of the Shattered Lens. He smiles at Biblioden because he thinks he'll be rescued, as it always seems to happen. Looking toward his other captive, Biblioden announces that he will release one of them if one is sacrificed willingly. Suddenly, the smell of cinnamon is reported by one of the soldiers, and Biblioden realizes that Alcatraz dropped the antidote on purpose. Bastille emerges from the penguin and begins to attack. As she makes headway, Biblioden realizes he has to speed things up, so he puts the gun to Alcatraz's head and demands the choice, counting down from three. When he gets to one, Alcatraz yells for him to kill his father instead, while at the same time Attica volunteers to die.
Alcatraz lays in a stupor as Draulin, Kaz, and Bastille arrive. Attica's bloody corpse lies on the altar. Biblioden and the other soldiers were picked up by a ship and have flown off. The self destruct has not been turned off; apparently, Biblioden has rigged it so it will go off and kill all witnesses to the day's events, even at the cost of the Highbrary. They carry Alcatraz away.
The Highbrary was indeed destroyed, necessitating a huge cover-up by the Librarians that was eventually accomplished. Alcatraz apologizes for being a coward, but it was something he needed to reveal to the world. He will write no more.
On a cold floor
In a room full of texts nobody could read
An old man groaned then stirred
and pushed himself to his hands and knees
He'd been shot the bullet would someday kill him
He says it will happen, inevitably. There is, indeed, no escaping that bullet.
but he can delay it, and he has been doing so for years.For in that moment of panic-that moment when the end was impending-he'd reached out in desperation to his talent.
It had come to him.
And the old man had arrived late to his own death.
Alcatraz refuses to write any more. I've tried for months to get him to agree to do it, but he won't. He's a stubborn idiot, so it looks like I'll have to take matters into my own hands as usual.
Therefore, I hereby declare that I will write the real final volume. This story won't end until I say so. ”—Bastille Smedry