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May 4, 2013 / minusbar

Book Review: The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson

Book Review: “The Rithmatist” by Brandon Sanderson

If you’d have told me 368 pages ago that I would read a story about people in circles fighting with chalk and actually like it, I’d have called you crazy! That’s exactly what has happened though…  I’ve never been a fan of books in the YA genre. That’s not to say there aren’t books I’ve enjoyed in the genre, it just means that I often go into these reads predispositioned to dislike them. Luckily though, “The Rithmatist” is one of the rare few books, like “Ender’s Game” and “Harry Potter”, that transcends my preexisting bias and thoroughly impressed me. Brandon Sanderson is a master storyteller, I was foolish to expect anything less than an amazing read.

The magical system implemented in this novel is unlike any I had ever read before. The Rithmatist’s magical system is controlled through chalk symbols, circles, lines and doodles; each chalk marking indicates a certain magical property. These symbols and markings could easily have been dry and confusing to read about if not for the wonderfully detailed explanation and diagram sketches provided throughout the book. Everything was so vividly explained that I fully understood what was happening and why. It was nice to know that the magic system operated on certain properties, and the system was grounded by a sense of calculation.

Going into this read, I knew there were steampunk and fantasy elements, but I was surprised at how much mystery was involved with the story. I’ve never been a fan of mystery, but I found myself thoroughly enjoying the guessing game Joel plays to solve the case of his Rithmatist school mate’s abductions. Throw in a war in Nebrask, an island filled with killer chalkling creatures, and the fact that no one’s willing to talk about what’s really going on there, and things are bound to get interesting.

I could tell this book was designed for younger readers, but that didn’t really impede my ability to enjoy the storytelling. Everything about the plot was satisfying for an adult reading; it was just seen through the eyes of a younger person. Luckily though, Joel, the protagonist, is a competent character that I didn’t mind following. If this story had been focused more heavily on his female friend, Melody, I might be singing a different tune right about now. She was an obnoxious little busy body with a positively tragic penchant for trouble. Luckily though, she did get better towards the end, which I was grateful for.

Overall, I couldn’t recommend this book more. It’s a very quick read, wasting no time getting the plot moving. And, most important to me, it tells a very complete story, while also clearly giving room for a larger story in the sequel. It looks like Brandon Sanderson has yet again hooked me with an epic series. Now please excuse me while I draw up a Easton Defense circle to fight some wild chalklings.

If you’d like to read this book, it’ll be available everywhere May 14th, you can pre-order now.

This book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.


Roger Bellini


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