The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

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The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: After a slightly slow start, this steampunk-tinged fantasy really takes off. An excellent magic system and some great characters have got me really looking forward to the next book!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: May 2013
Publisher: Orion Children's
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1444009538

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Rithmatists - those with special talents who defend ordinary people against wild chalklings - must study and train hard at school to create the defences, lines, and chalklings they'll use when they get to Nebrask, the frontline. Joel, a pupil at one such school, Armedius, studies harder than anyone else. He has a superb grasp of the strategies involved and knows he would be an asset out at the front. But Joel isn't a Rithmatist at all. They're chosen in a special ceremony, and Joel was passed by. Now, as just an ordinary student at Armedius, he sneaks in to join the Rithmatics students whenever possible. That seems like all he can do - until Rithmatics students start disappearing. Could Joel's lack of ability keep him safe, and therefore allow him to help solve the mystery?

I thought that perhaps the most impressive thing about this steampunk-tinged fantasy was the magic system created by Sanderson, and the way he explained it so well. While I was initially slightly confused by the idea of 2-D chalklings being a threat to people, I quickly came round to believing in them as a serious danger. This is mainly due to Sanderson's drip-feeding of information in the main story, which worked superbly, but the diagrams of the various defences also helped a lot. The art in the book overall - both the diagrams and the wonderfully drawn chalklings - adds a huge amount to it. In fact, if this review isn't enough to convince you to give it a shot, head over to Brandon Sanderson's website where you can see all of Ben McSweeney's stunning illustrations, which may well be enough to put it into a firm 'buy'.

The greatest illustrations in the world, though, couldn't have held my interest if there weren't strong characters at the centre of the story, but thankfully Sanderson scores here as well. Joel is a great lead, Melody is a fabulous supporting character (and, refreshingly, not a love interest!) and Professors Fitch and Nalizar - a kindly old tutor and a brash, arrogant newcomer to the school, who left Nebrask a hero renowned for fighting against the wild chalklings - are well-drawn as well. If there's a criticism to be made, it's that it's slow to get going - I was always enjoying myself reading it, but the first quarter seems weaker than the rest. It's at the point where Melody starts playing more of a major role that it was lifted, for me, from 'decent enough' to 'definite recommendation'.

Having said that, one-quarter of a pretty good book plus three-quarters of a superb one adds up to a pretty great read, in my estimation. Bonus marks for the ending, which manages to wrap up one storyline to give the reader some real satisfaction, but leaves some intriguing questions open for the follow-up.

Highly recommended, and I'm already looking forward to the next book!

Another adult author trying their hand at fantasy - although aimed at the younger end of the audience for this book, perhaps - is Alex Barclay, with the superb Curse of Kings (The Trials of Oland Born, Book 1) by Alex Barclay. Older teens who love this one and want to try an adult epic fantasy can't go wrong with Daniel Abraham and the outstanding The Dagger and Coin: The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham. You might also enjoy Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson

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Buy The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson at


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