The Rithmatist

I decided recently that I wanted to do a book review section of my blog to go along with some of the other fun snippets that appear in this blog.  These sorts of posts will happen occasionally and not on any set schedule, not that any of my posts have ever been on a set schedule.  I am working on that and, now that the bachelor’s is done, I will have more time to do so.  So, for the inaugural book review post I have chosen one of my all time favorite books, The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson.

First, the plot summary.  While I will do my beat to avoid any major spoilers, I cannot promise that there won’t be some minor ones while explaining the plot.

“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 (”

So, what about The Rithmatist do I find so engaging?  First of all, it is a story about a magical world and ability told from the perspective not of a user of that magic, but one who is “ordinary.”  Yet throughout the story we come to find that through diligent effort and a passion for both the art and practice of Rithmatics, Joel is an expert in the craft, surpassing most of the other Rithmatists at his school.  This hits home on a theme that many find endearing – the simply idea that practice and effort trumps innate talent.  Heart can triumph over skill through diligent effort.

Second, the magic system is fun, if not necessarily unique.  A favorite childhood read of mine was Harold and the Purple Crayon.  In the children’s book, a small child named Harold takes a purple crayon and draws things into life.  Yet Sanderson’s spin on it is unique and very thorough, as are all of Sanderson’s magic systems.  The Rithmatic circles and dueling techniques are a treat to discover and the duels themselves are enthralling and make logical tactical and strategic sense.

So, if you are looking for a story where an ordinary boy takes on a cool magic system and comes off victor, this is the story for you.  You’re just going to have to wait a while for the sequel.  Sanderson is busy working on various other projects that come before Rithmatist 2 in his publishing order, but for updates on the progress of the second book (and Sanderson’s other works) check out his website at


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