Monday, September 2, 2013

Creepy Little Chalk Figures, All In A Row

Published:  May 14th, 2013
The Rithmatist (Rithmatist # 1)
By: Brandon Sanderson
Tor Teen
ISBN-13:  9780765320322
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 study 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.
     Having never read a Brandon Sanderson book before this, all I knew going in is that he is a purveyor of epic fantasy novels.  Definitely an accurate description, alongside the title A King of World-Building and Much Detail!  This was definitely a good thing the majority of the time, as it definitely immersed me into this alternate-history/fantasy novel about people called Rithmatists (who kind of reminded me of Yu-Gi-Oh! only with chalk figures instead of playing cards).  The main character, Joel, is a teenaged boy obsessed with the art of the Rithmatists and the magic behind their craft.  He has always wanted to be one, but missed his chance and is the poor chalkmaker's son on scholarship at a Rithmatist academy instead.  But when Joel becomes assistant to the newly challenged and defeated Rithmatic Strategy Professor, his obsession is put to good use helping to solve the recent, mysterious disappearances of academy students (all gifted Rithmatists).  With the help of Melody, a Rithmatist scholar who is reluctant at best and would much rather draw unicorns, the disgraced Professor and raw talent can Joel solve the mystery, while finding a way to be part of the Rithmatic world in his own right?  Also is the creepy new Professor really an evil mastermind?  And what is the mysterious Rithmatic line that no one knows the meaning of? 
     I love it when a book does the thinking for me and describes everything down to the last molecule of the dirt on the ground.  I alternately love it when I am left to imagine much of the detail and am only given characters, base settings and feelings.  This book DEFINITELY falls into the first category of writing style.  The wild chalklings out west in Nebrask, that attack & kill & are only contained by the Rithmatist's military outpost/tower, are technically the evil 'villains' in this book.  And the descriptions of acts carried out by the wild, 2-dimensional beasts were quite chillingly written.  Joel is obsessed with all things Rithmatic and as such, we the readers are bombarded with seemingly overzealous details about the lifestyle.  It did begin to get annoying after awhile and the drawings didn't do much for me, as someone who is the exact opposite of mathematically brained.  I just couldn't picture any of this in mind, even with the exacting descriptions.  All I could see in my head was the characters drawing lines.  Okay, sure I can go with that.   \
     The friendship between Joel and Melody was awesome, in that it wasn't instantaneous and they more or less despised each other for a good part of the book.  It took each of them quite some time to realize the true heart of the other and think beyond their own problems.  Their interactions are pretty hilarious as well.  The conclusion of the mystery wasn't all that shocking, nor was the good-evil status of the new Professor everyone was on the fence about.  I do like Sanderson's twist of how Joel could be included in Rithmatist battles.  It was well thought out and made the ending that much greater.  All in all, this was a really intriguing book with a lot of world building and set up for further books.  If you don't mind that you will definitely like this book!
VERDICT:  3.75/5  Stars
**No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

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