Release Date: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Tor Teen
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 of the American Isles.
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. (courtesy of Goodreads.)
The Rithmatist is a good book that has the potential to be the start of a great series. But it's not quite there yet. It features a fascinating fantasy concept, likable characters, a boarding school, action, danger, and more. However, the book held itself at a slight distance, preventing me from truly forming a connection to it.
I loved the idea of Rithmatics. Basically, certain people can draw chalk figures on the ground that come to life. Other chalk drawings are complex geometric circles and lines that function as defensive shields. We are given an introduction to Rithmatic theory in between chapters. You can skip these pages if you'd like - the story still works without them - but it would take away some of the richness of the worldbuilding.
As cool as Rithmatists are, I don't totally get it. By the end of the book, my head stopped spinning as I came to a basic understanding of the chalk monsters. I still don't understand why only certain people can become Rithmatists. Or all the mathematical complexity of the figures. Hopefully, future books will explore this further.
Joel is in essence a muggle. He is a non-Rithmatist who tries to ingratiate himself into the Rithmatist world. With good reason. He's incredibly knowledgeable about the drawings necessary to create and defend against Chalklings. He knows the theory and is perfect at drawing - basically he can do everything but get his chalk drawings to work.
The book has a middle grade feel to it. As such, the relationship between Joel and his co-hort Melody is a friendship rather than a romance. This is quite refreshing as it's rare to have boy-girl friendships. Melody's been told that she's a lousy Rithmatist for so long that she lacks confidence in her drawings and also is easily offended. She's adventurous and daring, but doesn't have the same zest for life as Joel. Somehow the two work well together.
The plot was decent. That's a generic term, I know, but it describes my waffling feeling. There's a surprising amount of action and intrigue for a book where the fighting consists of chalk figure drawings. Akin to a riveting chess game or the final round of a spelling bee. Things that shouldn't be exciting yet somehow are. At the same time, it seemed like not a whole lot happened. Plus, you have some character tropes that felt overplayed - there's a Dumbledore-ish type and a Snape.
I enjoyed The Rithmatist. By the end of the book, I cared about Joel and wanted to explore Rithmatics further. But I don't necessarily feel invested in the story the way that I hoped to. It's enough to make me want to read on, but doesn't leave me drooling for the next book.
Rating: 3.5 / 5
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