Review: The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

Review - The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
Review: The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

The Rithmatist

Written by Brandon Sanderson
Illustrated by Ben McSweeny
(Tor Teen - 5/14/2013)
Series: Rithmatist #1
Genres: Fantasy, Steampunk, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover (378 pages)
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5 Stars

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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.

My Thoughts

This review was so hard for me to write, because I love The Rithmatist so much. It’s left me unable to form coherent thoughts, and so instead I must resort to expressing myself through gifs.

Exhibit A: A tweet I posted one month after finishing the book.

Exhibit B: The gif.

Left: Me. Right: Also me. (Both: thinking about The Rithmatist.)

Left: Me. Right: Also me. (Both: thinking about The Rithmatist.)


So where does this leave me?

Well! After a month of bouncing excitedly, I seem to have calmed down enough to type out some actual words into complete sentences!

If it’s not obvious by now, I adored this book. I have to admit that I was somewhat skeptical of the whole magical-duels-via-chalk-drawings thing, and Joel’s sports-fan-like enthusiasm in the beginning had the potential to turn me off, but by the end of the first chapter I was very intrigued. Sanderson was clever, I think, to create a protagonist who is so fascinated with Rithmatics but yet unable to be a Rithmatist. This way, the reader is embraced as an outsider and ushered into the museum carefully and deliberately.

The math behind Rithmatics was especially fascinating to me, despite the fact that I hated geometry class in high school. Each chapter begins with an instructional diagram of a Rithmatic technique, getting more and more complicated as the book goes on. I loved this because I felt like I was learning Rithmatics right along with Joel and Melody, and having visual aides for what was happening in the book helped tremendously.

The story played out like a mystery, and I was right there with Joel the entire time, desperate to figure out what was happening. Each of the characters was well developed and endearing, and even the villains were vivid and interesting. The world was awesome; the “flooded Earth” concept was really interesting, and it made for some cool dynamics in regards to politics and relations. Armedius Academy reminded me a little bit of Hogwarts combined with a college campus, colored with a steampunk feel, which was a lot of fun and easy to visualize.

I enjoyed every single word of The Rithmatist, and when I finished reading the last page, I wanted to flip right back to the beginning and read it all over again. The Rithmatist is probably my favorite book of 2013, and it’s a strong YA debut for this seasoned fantasy writer. If you haven’t read this book yet, I really hope that you do, because it’s such a pleasure to read. (And please don’t even mention that the next book won’t be out until 2015. I just can’t handle it!)

Read 22 comments

  1. I liked The Rithmatist, but it wasn’t as strong for me as Sanderson’s other more adult-geared fantasy novels. Perhaps I went into it expecting that same greatness just with a different audience and that’s why it didn’t ring as strong for me. The “alternate America” was partially what really threw me, as I couldn’t figure out exactly what the world was supposed to look like here. I do love what you said about Joel’s non-ability helping the reader be drawn into the story as an outsider – that’s a great observation and you phrased it so nicely!

    • I’ve heard this sentiment from a few other people, too, but I think I’m in a different boat because this is my first FULL Brandon Sanderson experience. I’ve started Mistborn but I’m still in the beginning. And I read the books he finished for the Wheel of Time series, but those weren’t ALL him, you know? And I guess since this one is YA and the rest of his work is “adult” perhaps the lighter feel seemed appropriate? I don’t know! I’m glad you still enjoyed it though.

      Did you read this as an ARC? I have a hardcover and it has a map in the front, which definitely helped me to visualize and understand the whole “alternate America” world in the story.

      • I read the e-book version, which didn’t have a map. :( Normally, I don’t pay attention to maps because I won’t remember what’s where anyway, but in this case, it would’ve helped a lot. Maybe I’ll Google it now that I know it exists! :)

        The lighter feel was entirely appropriate to YA (which isn’t to say YA is fluffy, but just that this particular book didn’t carry quite the heavy mantel of his adult fantasy). Mistborn, Elantris and especially The Way of Kings have that immense, heavy tension of scope and world-building that I just didn’t feel in The Rithmatist. I did enjoy it though!

  2. 2015?! Good grief, I’ll probably wait a little while to read this one then. Apparently Brandon Sanderson has a book coming out next month, but I believe it the start of even another series. How does he keep up with it all? Anyhow, I am definitely intrigued.

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  4. This. Sounds. So. Good! I find it interesting that Brandon Sanderson took the time to build up a system for the Rithmatics in his story. That must have taken lots of thought and effort! The story sounds like something that I would easily be caught up in, and the characters and world also sound good :) I am definitely planning to read this soon!

    And 2015? That’s just mean D:

  5. < Has never read anything by Sanderson :) This book sound really good though! So I might have to change that. I'm glad that you really liked this one!

    I sometimes find it hard to write reviews for books that I love too, I just want to do the book justice you know? I hope you get to enjoy more Sanderson soon!

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