Review: The Rithmatist
Title: The Rithmatist
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fantasy, children's/middle grade
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Rithmatist, Brandon Sanderson's New York Times bestselling epic teen adventure is now available in paperback.
More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. 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 learn 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.
A New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of 2013
Brandon Sanderson is so good at coming up with crazy ideas that sound ridiculous but the more you think about them, the more sense they make. Take the premise of The Rithmatist: Certain members of the population have a skill of making their chalk drawings come to life, and they duel each other as practice for dueling the wild Chalklings that threaten to destroy human civilization. At first you might roll your eyes (seriously? How could chalk drawings be scary?), but by the end of the book I promise you'll be sold.
Even if this is a children's/MG book, it has all the trademarks of Sanderson books that I have come to love. The great thing is that even if the audience and characters are younger, there is no dumbing down or resorting to cliches. Sanderson still manages to surprise you with his brilliant story-telling and world-building, which I find impressive since a lot of authors make their children's books a "lite" version of their other books. The world-building especially is fantastic, since it takes our familiar world and adds in just a few elements that change things subtly without being too obtrusive.
I loved that Joel is not a rithmatist himself but that he admires and really wanted to become one. He contrasts so much with Melody, who is from a family of Rithmatists but is useless at drawing her chalk figures properly. Together with the endearing Professor Fitch, these kids try and solve the mystery of who is targeting and harming the schoolchildren, and why. You would think that a 20-something reading a children's book would be able to guess the ending of the mystery, but nope! Either I've just lost it, or Sanderson is brilliant (Let's be real, we already know the second of those is true).
I highly recommend this for Sanderson fans as well as fans of fantasy looking for something less dense than the usual thousand page tomes. I hesitate to call it "lighter" because this book is quite dark for a children's book, but it is also endearing and humorous and wonderful as well.