The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson


Publication Date: 14 May 2013
Publisher: Tor Teen
Format: Audiobook
Pages: 378
ISBN: 0765320320

Summary: 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 learn 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.

Bestselling author Brandon Sanderson brings his unique brand of epic storytelling to the teen audience with an engrossing tale of danger and suspense—the first of a series. With his trademark skills in worldbuilding, Sanderson has created a magic system that is so inventive and detailed that readers who appreciate games of strategy and tactics just may want to bring Rithmatics to life in our world.



Somehow, in my journey of Sanderson’s novels, my third work ended up being The Rithmatist. I picked this up rather on a whim, given that it was the only book of interest available on Overdrive and I had a week’s worth of cleaning to do. Once again, I found myself blown away by how interesting Sanderson made a seemingly simple magic system feel. Draw pictures on the ground and they’ll come to life. Seems simple enough, right? Who knew lines could be drawn in so many ways, and be made to do so many things. I quickly found myself in the MC’s, Joel’s, shoes, thinking, ‘wow, I want to be a Rithmatist too’.

What appealed to me the most about this book was the sense of discovery and innovation. Each chapter begins with a diagram and description of a Rithmatic defense, a way to draw lines and circles to defend oneself against an imaginary opponent. Often within the following chapter, and sometimes the previous chapter, said defense is to put to use. There are descriptions of its strengths and weaknesses, and where it’s best applications are. We follow Joel, a student attending an academy that teaches Rithamtists, as he tries to learn about Rithmatics despite not being one. I could feel his excitement and burning wish to be a Rithmatist throughout the story. Even though very little action actually happens until the very end, I was still thoroughly engaged just because I was constantly learning something new about Rithmatics.

My one criticism is that I think I’ve finally started to understand why people sometimes complain about Sanderson’s female characters. Melody, Joel’s stubborn female Rithmatist friend, sometimes grated my nerves. There were times she felt like a caricature of teenage girl from the eyes of an awkward teenage boy, instead of her own character. She got slightly better as the book went on, but I hope in the sequel Sanderson’s learned to write teenage girls better.

I’ve never listened to an audiobook before but after this experience, I think I need to start listening to more of them. The narrator did a fantastic job with the individual characters and I was thoroughly engaged the entire time. I listened to part of this book while baking and I had to turn off my stand mixer a couple times to make sure I didn’t miss any important parts. Not being able to properly picture the Rithmatic diagrams (can’t really see anything in an audiobook) was unfortunate, but it didn’t hinder my enjoyment at all.

Overall, I rate this book a 4.5/5. I loved the Rithmatics and the element of discovery that this brought. While I found the female MC annoying at times, I could get over it.

/r/Fantasy 2018 Bingo Squares

  • Novel that was reviewed on /r/Fantasy
  • Novel featuring a protagonist who is a Writer/Artist/Musician (this one might be cheating but since Joel isn’t a Rithmatist, he’s a damn good at drawing perfect circles)

2 thoughts on “The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

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