The Rithmatist is written by Brandon Sanderson. It was published in 2013 by Tor. It is the first in a series. Sanderson’s website can be found here.
Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk, Young Adult, Mystery
“More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the wild chalklings—merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the wild chalklings now threaten all the American Isles.
As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery, one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.”
“Tell me honestly,” Melody said, whispering to Joel, “are you following me?”
Joel started. “What?”
“Well, you did take the same math class that I did.”
“We get assigned our classes by the campus office!” Joel said.
“After that,” she continued, speaking as if she hadn’t heard his protest, “you got a job at the campus office—the same place that I, unfortunately, have to do service.”
“I’ve had that job since the beginning of the term!”
“And finally,” she said, “you followed me to Fitch’s office. Pretty suspicious.”
“I didn’t follow you. I was here before you!”
“Yes,” Melody said, “a convenient excuse.”
The chalklings reached his defenses and hesitated. For a moment, he felt a stab of fear—similar to what he assumed Herman Libel must have felt while sitting defenseless against an attacking group of chalk monsters.
Joel doubted that Herman had been forced to face down unicorns though.
The creatures finally tested Joel’s defenses—which, of course, didn’t stop them. They rushed forward eagerly, surrounding Joel, then running about in circles. Joel cringed, imagining them stripping off his flesh. Fortunately, these chalklings were harmless.
“Unicorns?” he asked sufferingly.
“The unicorn is a very noble and majestic animal!”
Recommended Age Range: 14+
What I Liked:
This was a fun book. Sanderson has a knack for writing really entertaining books, and this one is no exception. The illustrations in the book serve as guide pictures for the theory that is being discussed in the book, and help to lessen the complexity and subsequent confusion. It’s a very complicated, detailed magic system (something else Sanderson is known for), and it is glorious.
This is essentially a whodunit, but with a more overarching plot structure than most mysteries. The book is mainly self-contained, but leaves a lot open for sequels, such as the issue of Nalizar, the clocks/gears, and the inception ceremony.
Melody is mainly there for comic relief, but that does not make her any less a fully fleshed-out character, and Sanderson is good at maintaining that balance.
One of the many explanatory illustrations found in the book
The ending “battle” scene was so incredibly cool to read. I’m wondering if that means that the next book will take place in Nebrask, considering the ramifications of winning that tournament. Also, I love Melody and Joel’s banter about unicorns. I just love Melody in general.
The coins have gears in them! There are horses made out of gears! It’s steampunk!
Random: “Rithmatics” is a combination of arithmetic and mathematics. Chuckle.
What I Didn’t Like:
The drawings help, but the theory of Rithmatics discussed in the book is very heavy and complex and could be too complicated for some readers to handle. It’s also discussed fairly early on, so it’s a little hard to get into the book at first.
Sanderson is known for churning out great books in a short amount of time, and The Rithmatist is no exception. It’s much less self-indulgent than his Alcatraz series, and the involved magic system, the detailed world, and the inherent fun-factor (it’s sidewalk chalk! That comes alive! I want my sidewalk chalk to come alive!) make this book a wonderful read.
Coming Up Next: Nightspell by Leah Cypess