The Rithmatist

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson, Rithmatist #1

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.

Brandon Sanderson is a well known author in the fantasy world having picked up the Wheel of Time series from Robert Jordan and having written numerous other stunning books like the Mistborn Trilogy, one of my all time favorite series. The Rithmatist is Brandon Sanderson’s first venture into the young-adult genre. Delivering for them an engaging, interesting and very cool read.

Recently I have been reading a lot of children’s and young-adult fiction, constantly hoping to read about new themes and ideas , and so far this journey has proven to be quite fruitful and I am more than happy to add The Rithmatist to this list as well. It might be a bit of the setting of The Rithmatist that does put a certain other young-adult series back in the daylight, Harry Potter. Now often you do make a comparison for yourself however I don’t whether that is fair do. But The Rithmatist did remind me of it. Mainly due to the school setting and several characters. However I must stress enough that it is completely different and Brandon Sanderson really creates his own unique and engrossing story, where The Rithmatist lays a solid foundation.

In The Rithmatist you follow the footsteps of the chalkmaker’s son Joel, who is studying at the famous Armedius Academy. Joel is just one of the more ordinary students who follows the normal classes, but Joel wants more. Above everything else he wants to be a Rithmatist. Other students also take part in the Armedius Academy following a different route, and those students are known as Rithmatists. When I first read about the whole idea behind this book I frankly didn’t really know how this would unfold but the book makes this aspect of Rithmatists work. A Rithmatist is a special student able to making chalk drawing come to “life”. They follow the class Rithamtics where they learn the fine details of it. Now I bet you are guessing what it is they draw, well they aren’t simply a few doodles here and there. The Rithmatist shows a clear science – if you can call it that – behind Rithmatics. Which I bet a lot of youngsters will find pretty cool to read about. Also I think your guessing why are they needed? Well The Rithmatist takes place in an alternate – steampunked – version of America where in the center isle, Nebrask, stands the Tower where wild chalklings roam free and the Ritmatists are specially trained to contain this threat from spreading across the world.

But what is Ritmatics precisely? Like I said they aren’t just doodles. First a Rithmatist basis are the circles of defense that he draws around himself, there are numerous each suited for a different purpose. You have several variations 2, 4, 6 and even 9 point circles this all has to do with strenghting them and much more. Its really created in a well though out manner. Second come the chalklings. A Rithmatist is able to draw specific pictures like that of a knight or a spider than come to live and attack the other Rithmatist or other chalklings. This drawing of both the circles and the chalklings come pretty precise because the straighter your line or the rounder your line, the more power it has. Same goes for the chalklings, when you draw them with more detail they become much stronger and obedient. All in all I can stress enough how cool this chalking part is in The Rithmatist. Brandon Sanderson definitely thought a new cool idea to introduce to young readers.

Coming a bit back to Joel now. With what I mentioned above who wouldn’t want to be a RIthmatist? Well it’s Joel dream but unfortunately he cannot become one, he wasn’t chosen during his inception rite. But this doesn’t stop Joel from learning more and more about Rithmatics he even goes as far as attending the lessons of Rithmatists. Joel seems to know more about Rithmatics than some of the Rithmatists do. However dark times are encroaching on Armedius Academy as Rithmatists students are disappearing without any clues of to who is behind it. Now it falls to Joel, among others to find out more about how this could have happened. In his search he is not alone, actually he is working for the Head of the School and on of the professors Fitch. First being taken on as more of an elective course for the summer but Joel slowly finds out the exact reason of his work. Also Joel is on one part assisted by Melody but on another part she also causes a bit of friction. Melody is quite the teenager, bit of a diva girl with her bold exclamations of “Ow what a tragedy” and finds that appalling doesn’t quite give the same ring to it. Joel and Melody have a lot of adventures that were just shown right to really catch the attention of the younger reader.  

What I really like about this book were the drawings. They really worked there own wonders to highlight the aspect of Rithmatics. Each time after a few pages you are confronted with several of the defense drawing of Rithmatists and how they are build up, what the strengths and weaknesses are. But also about other things like the Lines of Vigor or Forbiddance. This really gave a cool ring to the book and furthermore during some scenes where the chalklings are mentioned there a beautiful drawing in the sidelines.

The ending of the book leaves nothing to be desired. All along the way there was just this possibility of something occurring to Joel that would make him more special, I liked how Brandon Sanderson steered away from the obvious and letting Joel be Joel, but special in its own way, whether an earlier encounter might still pose to be fruitful for Joel just has to be seen in the next book. Plot wise you’re in for a surprise as well as the final perpetrator of the disappearances is found. It’s a treat!

Brandon Sandersons foray into the young-adult fantasy has left me with high hopes of this series. What I have read so far of his adult fantasy books, he transforms and translates it back into bite size chalks for the younger audience. The whole setting of The Rithmatist is just boyishly cool to read about. The end does leave a lot of space open for a great continuation. Even once you finish the book Brandon Sanderson readily invites the reader to think more about the series and the storyline itself.

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