Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review: The Rithmatist - Brandon Sanderson

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderon
Series: The Rithmatist #1
Genre: YA, alternate reality, steampunk, mystery
Published on May 14, 2013
Published by Tor Teen
Pages: 374
Read From: 9.20.13 - 9.21.13

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 chalkings. Rithmatists are humanity's only defense against the wild chalkings - merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the wild chalkings now threaten all the American Isles. 
As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at the 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


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I love the cover; it's very steampunk and intriguing and just well done. I love it.

Characters: Joel may have an unfortunate name (I am not a fan of the name Joel), but he's a terrific protagonist. I myself don't like math, but I absolutely love characters who are math geniuses, and that's exactly what Joel is. He's brilliant and shares my exact problem with classes: they're too easy and therefore boring. There is no intellectual challenge. I was able to "connect" with Joel very easily because of his brilliance and ability to solve things quickly, as well as his love for true learning. Melody, the girl protagonist, was an immediate hit as well. Dramatic and a bit flirty, one would think that Melody would be the sort of character who gets on one's nerves super easy, but I actually loved these things about her. The Author put just the right amount of flirty and dramatic, while maintaining brilliance, wit, sarcasm, and loyalty. "My life," Melody declared, "is a tragedy." (pg. 96) If you laughed at that bit of dialogue, then you'll love Melody, because that's exactly that she's like all the time. The other characters - Harding, Fitch, Exton, Florence, Nalizer - are all so very memorable and so much fun. Harding, the police inspector who once was on the battlefronts of Nebrask; Professor Fitch, the classic forgetful but lovable and intelligent mentor; Exton and Florence, the principal's secretaries whose banter is so funny; and Nalizer . . . the professor who is fun to hate because of how he humiliates Fitch. The one that the Reader totally doesn't trust - nor does anyone else. The one who could very possibly be a villain, or just might be a red herring and turns out to be a hero in the end. Either way, he's fun to hate. The wealth of characters and their distinctive personalities may be this story's strongest point.

The Romance: There isn't any!

Plot: In an alternate world similar to ours, and yet so very different, there are people called Rithmatists. They have the ability of drawing chalk pictures that come to life, though not all chalk drawings do, for there are rules to Rithmatics, just like with math or science. Rithmatics may seem like magic, but it is in fact a very elaborate scientific law that has been discovered in this world. At the age of eight, every child of the American Isles undergoes an inception ceremony - an experience that either determines if a person has the ability to become a Rithmatist, or is a mundane. Rithmatists are the foremost defense against the wild chalkings on Nebrask - strange chalk creatures that attack anything and anyone. Their origins are unknown, but they are vicious and must be contained, or the American Isles will fall. More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. His father, before he died, was a chalkmaker for the Rithmatists, and Joel's mathematical mind makes him an ideal candidate for the role. But for whatever reason, his inception ceremony did not name him a Rithmatist, and so he spends his days at Armedius Academy studying regular subjects and devouring everything he can get his hands on about the Rithmatists, while banned from any actual Rithmatic classes or even the Rithmatic section of the academy library. Then Rithmatic students start disappearing. Judging from the crime scenes, it is determined that another Rithmatist must be kidnapping them - but to what end? And what are the bizarre drawings he leaves behind - drawings that no Rithmatist has seen before? Because of his great intelligence and extensive knowledge on Rithmatics, Joel is permitted to join Professor Finch in his quest to discover who is the rogue Rithmatist, and with the help of Melody - an actual Rithmatic student - the three set out to solve the case. But there's far more going on that either of them realize, and it will take a non-Rithmatist to see it. I loved the world and the plot. Part steampunk, part mystery, part alternate reality, part fantasy, this is one extremely original idea. At first, the idea of chalk drawings that come to life seemed too weird and even a little boring. How interesting can a duel be between two people that just sit there and draw? I was, thankfully, dead wrong. Rithmatics is weird, there is no denying that, and at times I had just the slightest trouble picturing the chalk duels. But I ended up being absolutely enthralled with the world of Rithmatics and found the duels to be downright exciting. I also really loved the steampunk flairs, and the mystery of the kidnapped students was riveting. The Author has left himself plenty of space to continue his world building, so not every single question is answered in The Rithmatist, but the right number of questions are covered in this first installment, and I trust that the others will be, too, as the series progresses.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. The style itself was nothing special, but the Author brought his world vividly to life regardless. Each chapter begins with a mini illustrated "lesson" on the basics of Rithmatics, and at first I didn't really like this. But after a while, I realized that by doing this, the Author was able to get into the technicalities of Rithmatics without bogging down the actual narration. This was a very wise move on his part, and while some people will find the mini lessons a bit too technical, they are helpful when it comes to picturing chalk duels.

Content: None.

Conclusion: As the pages got fewer and fewer, I suddenly realized that the Author had pulled another fast one on me: I didn't know who was going to be the villain! He had two possibilities, and either of them had the potential of being red herrings. And when it is finally revealed, it was a moment of, "Oh my gosh, I did not see that coming!" Ah, but the Author wasn't finished, and he pulls yet another fast one that left me so ridiculously pleased that I couldn't stop grinning for the rest of the day. The Rithmatist will not be what you're expecting. Yes, it is weird, but it is a totally good kind of weird. I wasn't expecting to fall so far in love with this world or with the characters. People, if you don't like Harry Potter because wizards just aren't your thing, The Rithmatist is the equivalent for steampunk fans!

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, fourteen-and-up, great for fans of steampunk and mysteries and alternate realities.

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