As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students study 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.
Bestselling author Brandon Sanderson brings his unique brand of epic storytelling to the teen audience with an engrossing tale of danger and suspense—the first of a series. With his trademark skills in world-building, Sanderson has created a magic system that is so inventive and detailed that that readers who appreciate games of strategy and tactics just may want to bring Rithmatics to life in our world.
Released: May 13th 2013 Pages: 378
Publisher: Tor Teen Source: Library
First Look: ***** The premise of this book looked so cool--an alternate history world where magic is controlled by chalk drawings? YES. I'd heard good things about Brandon Sanderson's books, but I'd never read one before now.
Setting: ***** Few books can make me say "I want to live in this world! How soon can I move in?" (Notable examples of this include the Fire and Thorns trilogy and the Matt Cruse series.) The setting of The Rithmatist is just plain cool. Even without the Rithmatists, the alternate history aspect is interesting. Instead of the United States being one big continent, it's composed of loosely aligned islands.
The addition of the Rithmatists made it even cooler. It's obvious that the new concepts introduced in this book, the concepts of Rithmatics, are well thought-out. It all makes sense, and is very well-developed. It would've been easy for the author to skim over the top of these ideas and tell readers the bare minimum about them in order to understand the story. But no, instead he went above and beyond. There are drawings explaining various aspects of Rithmatics, and I read them eagerly. You'll have no trouble understanding the story if you skip these pictures, but for me, I found that they made the book so much cooler.
Characters: ***** The only distinct sense that got about Joel was that he desperately wanted to be a Rithmatist. Other than that, I found him a bit bland. I liked him, but there wasn't anything that made him stand out from the crowd of all the other YA protagonists. It's quite possible that he'll come more alive, as a character, in the second book and beyond. In this book, though, I wish he would've seemed more three-dimensional.
Melody annoyed me. She spent a lot of her time complaining, though I grew to like her more near the end of the book. I would like to have a round of applause, though, for the relationship between Melody and Joel. At the beginning of the book, they were at odds with one another, but they became friends. At this point, they have not fallen in love. It's sad how rare this is. I'd love to see more of this type of focus on friendship instead of romance.
Plot: ***** It moved a little slow towards the beginning. The mystery was there, but things didn't really start picking up until halfway through. It did keep me guessing, though, as to who was behind the attacks.
I loved Melody and Joel's cooperation at the end. It was a neat twist, and fulfilling for both characters.
Uniqueness: ***** It was a fresh, unique read like nothing I've seen before. It had a wonderfully different alternate historical setting, and an inventive new magic system.
Writing: ***** I don't have much to say in this area. There wasn't anything that bugged me, and nothing in the narration distracted me from the story. For that, I appreciated the writing. Still, I wish I could've gotten more insight into Joel's character, and the narration might have been a way to help with this, since it provides the connection between the character and the reader.
Likes: I want to be a Rithmatist. Really. You have no idea how much I want this.
Not-so-great: Nothing not already mentioned above.
Overall: The Rithmatist is a fun, engaging, and refreshing read. Though it was a little slow to start off and the characters weren't as fleshed-out as I would have liked, I still enjoyed it. The setting, with its ultra-cool and different magic system involving creatures and defenses made entirely of chalk, was fantastic. I want to live there. Overall, I liked this book, and I'll be eagerly awaiting the sequel.
Similar Books: It has elements of steampunk and alternate history like Leviathan or the Matt Cruse books (and has a protagonist similar to Matt Cruse as well), a "magical" boarding school that reminded me a little of Hogwarts from the Harry Potter books. For whatever reason, it also reminded me of the Bartimaeus trilogy.