Series: Rithmatist #1
Published by Orion on May 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Mystery/Thriller, Steampunk, Young Adult
Source: My copy
Amazon • Amazon UK • Book Depository
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.
I have a confession to make – this is the first Brandon Sanderson book I’ve read (*prepares for excommunication from fantasy fans*). I do have a couple sitting on my shelves but I haven’t had much of a chance for epic fantasy lately! Enter The Rithmatist, with great reviews from some of my trusted fellow reviewers and I had to get a hold of a copy.
The world as we know it is rather different in The Rithmatist. The story is set in the United Isles of America – an archipelago connected by the springrail, a railway driven by enormous springs. This is the early twentieth century in an alternate track of history – one where wild chalklings are held at bay by an army of Rithmatists, working their magic using lines of chalk.
The steam-punkish world (actually sort of more gear- or spring-punk) and magic system Sanderson has created for this story is extremely unique and detailed. It’s so detailed that it requires pretty much the whole first half of the book to teach the reader enough about the basic principles of Rithmatics that we can understand what’s going on in the second half. This makes the early parts of the book a little slow, however I was quite fascinated by the different types of geometic shapes that can be used in Rithmatic defenses. It’s really a geometry geek’s dream, and the illustrations all through this story are just perfect for visualisation.
The cast of characters is very diverse, but I think my favourite has to be Melody. She’s just such a quirky person, her exuberance nearly bursts out of the page like one of her little unicorns. Joel is a young man clearly still missing his father, but it’s really nice to see him get a connection back by the end of the story. I also thought it was great that the person behind the disappearances is very shadowy and unexpected right up to the end. There’s plenty more to come in this story and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
I’m just going to have to get around to reading that The Way of Kings tome on my shelf, aren’t I? That or book two of this series, whichever comes first!
– A very enjoyable mystery set in a complex magical world.