I know, I know. Another Young Adult novel? Jeez, read some real literature, Jessica. I’m trying to clear out some of the YA literature from my shelf. That and I have just been in the mood for something very light after all the school final projects I’ve been doing. But, as you know, I haven’t had very good luck at finding anything good. Until now! Brandon Sanderson is a very well known fantasy writer, but I haven’t read anything by him before. He’s one of those authors that I’m afraid to get into because if I don’t like him I might have my fantasy fan card taken away. Though The Rithmatist isn’t as popular as Sanderson’s Mistborn series, I still think it deserves attention.
The world of The Rithmatist is somewhat similar to our own. The story takes places in the United Isles of America instead of the United States. Technology in this world is not nearly as advanced and most machines have a steampunk feel. Also, people can make chalk drawings (called chalklings) come to life, duel, defend, and kill people- that is, if you’re a Rithmatist. A select few become Rithmatists and they defend the United Isles from wild chalklings. Rithmatists have a respected place in the upper crust of society, but Joel wishes he had been chosen as a Rithmatist simply because he finds their magic system so intriguing. When Rithmatist students at Joel’s school begin to go missing Joel finds his way into the solving the mystery of the disappearances as well as the cultural ins and outs of Rithmatists. So yeah- the world building is really good in this. There are some minor holes that left me questioning aspects of the United Isles and the history of the world, but I feel like they can be answered and expanded upon later.
A large part of the mystery and the world revolves around Rithmatics, which is the magic system used by Rithmatists. Luckily, before every chapter there are mini lessons on Rithmatic lines of power which include simple drawings. This makes the magic system easy to understand and allows for referencing when the novel talks about a specific line of power of defense. This may be off-putting to some readers because the focus on the magic system sometimes gets a little heavy, but I feel that this much depth to the magic system is a good thing. It makes for a much more interesting world than one having characters recite random magic words or wave their arms around. Understanding Rithmatics takes a small amount of effort, but it adds to the reading experience.
I am not blown away by any of the characters in the novel, but I also do not find them particularly lacking in any specific department. However, I feel like the supporting characters are more colorful than Joel. That isn’t to say Joel is paper thin. He is just… normal. Even though Joel is our “hero” he isn’t some special snowflake like many YA main characters. He doesn’t have it easy and he doesn’t start off in a good position socially, financially, or magically. I also like that he has to think. He doesn’t just rush into bad decisions and have them work out right because he is the chosen one. Most of his actions make perfect sense and I look forward to his growth in future installments.
So all in all this was a really good book. It was creative, fun, and a quick read. I will definitely be reading more things by Sanderson and yes- I think I have my fill of YA literature for the time being.