Fantasy Book Review: The Rithmatist

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

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.

Joel is an incredibly bright boy who wants nothing but to be a Rithmatist. Unfortunately, he wasn’t chosen. So he spends his time learning as much as he can about Rithmatists and its history – to the neglect of his actual school work. His new friend Melody is a Rithmatist, but lacks the some of the basic skills and would rather spend her time doing something else. She’s a spunky, clever girl who pushes Joel to do and be more. They are a fun pair.

Unsurprisingly, Sanderson’s world-building with this young adult debut is exceptional and inspired. If readers are into games, geometry and strategy, each chapter introduces Rithmatist drawings paired with guidelines and strategy – adding a creative and realistic element to this new world. Rithmatists draw lines with chalk that can create barriers of defense or creatures that attack.

This unique fantasy fused with steampunk is a must-read for teens and adults alike. Full of mystery, suspense, intrigue – The Rithmatists is impossible to put down and refreshingly unpredictable. I’m not sure what I enjoyed more – the vivid characters, the clever story, or the rich fantasy world. Together these make for a solid and impressive novel that I wholeheartedly recommend.

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