Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson is steampunk (or, to be more technically correct, gearpunk) set in an alternate North America where magicians called Rithmatists duel with chalk figures that come to life.

Joel has always been fascinated by Rithmatists, though he knows he will never be one. Joel is a non-Rithmatic student at Armedius Academy, one of only eight schools in the United Isles where Rithmatists are trained. As the son of a chalkmaker and a cleaning lady, Joel could never have afforded tuition at Armedius, had not Principal York given Joel a scholarship after his father died. Joel dreams of becoming a scholar of Rithmatics, though his grades in his normal classes are lackluster at best. When he sees a chance to study with Professor Fitch, a Rithmatic professor, over the summer, he jumps at the chance. Little does Joel know that the quiet, orderly world of Armedius is about to be turned upside down by the disappearance of several Rithmatic students. When the principal asks Professor Fitch to help the police by examining the Rithmatic lines found at the scenes of the disappearances, Joel is drawn in to the the investigation as well. He's also drawn in (much more reluctantly) to a friendship with Melody, a young Rithmatist who is seeing Fitch for remedial tutoring over the summer. Can Joel, Melody, and Professor Fitch unravel the mystery before other students are taken?

Once again, Sanderson has come up with an innovative and complex magic system, a detailed and imaginative setting, a gripping plot, and fully realized characters. In fact, my only real quibble with the book is that Melody is a stereotypical "spunky redhead" -- where are all of the spunky blondes and brunettes in novels, huh? But that didn't take away from my enjoyment of the story. Fans of Sanderson's adult novels may find this a little simplistic, but I think the target audience (young teens) will find a lot to like here.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)


  1. I had the same quibbles you did, but still liked the book. I like Brandon Sanderson's writing and have read most of his books including his finishing off Robert Jordan's series.

    1. I'm also a Sanderson fan, but not nearly as much of one as my brother, who will read anything by him! I was never able to get in to the Wheel of Time series, so haven't read those.