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.