Review — The Rithmatist

Finally jumping back into consistently listening to audiobooks, second on my list of things to catch up on was Brandon Sanderson’s The Rithmatist. If you know anything about the author, you’ll know that he loves inventing magic systems. This book is no different, but instead of taking place in his universe of the Cosmere, this one is a stand alone, alternate (steampunk) universe of our own. I would hesitate to call it an alternate history novel, because really the world is so different that it didn’t diverge at one point so much as being set on a planet similar in geography to earth. It’s a short book, at least as far as Sanderson novels go. It also doesn’t have a sequel, and to my knowledge the next one barely even has a title. It’s scheduled to release in 2017, but I see very little chance of that happening. I have no idea how many books he plans on putting into this series, but if its like any of his other series, it’ll be at least a decade before he finishes a third book.

In this book, the magic is chalk drawings. It’s easiest to imagine them as “summoning circles”, i.e. pentagrams or what have you, but that’s not their purpose. You draw a circle around you, and, if you’re fighting another rithmatist, you attack the opponent’s circle using chalk monsters called “chalklings”. Very few people in this world are rithmatists, in fact, and that culture seems to be very secretive and exclusive to non-rithmatists. Joel, the main character, is a normal student that loves the study of rithmatics, but isn’t a rithmatist himself. This, as you can probably guess, leads to some interesting conversations as he all but tries to be somebody he knows he can’t.

In regards to Brandon Sanderson’s works specifically, there isn’t really anything special about this book. The strangest thing about it is that it’s set in an alternate universe to our own, but the plot, characters, magic, etc., are all pretty typical of his work. that isn’t to say it’s not a good book, it simply didn’t have any awesome, inspiring, or impactful moments that I look for. (I’ve blogged about moments like this!) It doesn’t really have any huge plot twists, and the ending isn’t surprising. Not predictable, exactly, but not surprising either.

The interesting thing is, while this book didn’t knock my metaphorical socks off, I definitely want to read the next book. Pieces fell into place that I want to see to fruition, and the ending left me with questions I want answers to. Again, no huge plot twist (like the ending to every Mistborn book ever, the scale of which always makes me question my understanding of that entire world), but still. I like these characters, and if their personalities aren’t unique, their position and relationships to each other is something I want to see expanded on. Joel reminds me a lot of Tavi from The Codex Alera, since they have a lot of similarities, and I’d be interested to see if his story ends the same way Codex Alera does.

So while this definitely isn’t the first Brandon Sanderson novel I would recommend to somebody, it’s a strong book in its own right, and provides a good taste for Sanderson’s style without throwing somebody into the full force of the Cosmere.

6 thoughts on “Review — The Rithmatist

  1. Nice review! I read the book some time ago and in the physical copy there were some drawings and some sort of assignment sheet in the back of the book (which I thought was absolutely amazing). I found that in the end I started to fear chalk and dark corridors haha… sad huh? :’)

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      1. Exactly. I think you can look up the illustrations and the assignment online. But it was so amazing because he included his entire audience in what he was doing by adding those small things

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  2. This book felt similar to the Reckoners series. The half-predictable absolutely everything, but I want more anyway because I genuinely start to like the characters and the mystery of the world.

    And, I just realized – both stories are built upon Earth as we know it. COINCIDENCE? Well, yeah, for my purposes.

    Also, this book did manage to play with my emotions. When you learn how (good) books are written, you realize you can decipher so much fairly early on. But then when you have a good author writing good books, they know you know, and can throw in wrenches. So, with this story, I let myself get pulled back and forth on a rollercoaster ride trying to figure out which side I was on for some of the characters.

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    1. Also: at first, I always let coincidences in naming slide past me. Nebrask is introduced so early that I could avoid any similarities to Nebraska. But then you get mention of *EAST* Carolina, the California Archipelagos… then I was finally able to realize what Nebrask was and laugh at myself.

      Also – spaghetti with chopsticks and very non traditional ingredients … for some reason this bit of world building made me very happy.

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      1. It was interesting that mention of Nebrask is prior to anything that can be tied into the Americas, so that was cool. It’s nice that this world is noticeably different from our own, even if it is Earth!

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