Quick-take: Action-filled fun.
Alcatraz Smedry and crew are on their way to the Free Kingdoms for the first time. Of course, things start blowing up and an adventure ensues.
I've grown accustomed to the needless side commentary that happens alongside the story. It's now become self-referencing. Alcatraz in the story may allude to the Alcatraz writing his biography and then happen back in the story. It's all a cycle that is only slightly amusing. I would much prefer it just did not exist at all, but I can accept it. I think the target age group for this series is young, and perhaps a 14 year old me would like that kind of thing? Maybe so.
All the usual characters are there. Grandpa, Alcatraz, Bastille, Australia, etc. There is some predictable foreshadowing in this, but also some plot turns that I did not expect at all and were very impressive. I actually backtracked to re-read a section a few times thinking, "Hold on, did that just happened?" Always satsifying when I need to do that.
It helps that a pile of new characters were not introduced. Well, there were a few, but just minor focus. Not much time was burned on new backstories and abilities. It basically said: Here is a Smedry, and this is the silly talent. Good? OK, lets move on to the exciting events.
This was a true middle book in that the main story arc was completed with absolutely nothing meaingful being accomplished. Truly, you could just delete this entry entirely and lose very little. At least it was an enjoyable ride, wasn't it?
Score 4/5. If only the story progressed more I'd give it a 5. I'd give up here but know there are 5 books, and they are all pretty short. I'm 80% complete. The entire series is roughly the size of the single volume Warbreaker novel, which I really enjoyed. If I look at the entire series as a whole, I could see this scoring a 5, annoying side commentary notwithstanding.