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Thursday, 20 June 2013

Review: The Rithmatist

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Release date: 23rd May 2013
Genre: Gearpunk Fantasy
Target audience: 10+
UK Publisher: Orion Books
ISBN: 978-1444009538


The Rithmatist is imaginative fantasy novel set in a clockwork-powered world. Think gears, cogs and tick, tick, ticking.

Joel attends the prestigious Armedius school as a scholarship student. His mother is a cleaner at the school and his father was once their chief chalkmaker but he passed away in a terrible accident. Joel wants nothing more than to be a Rithmatist. The exclusive group undertake their special training at the school. But Joel is just an ordinary boy. He doesn’t have the Rithmatic power which the Master grants to a chosen few. Instead he spends his time studying Rithmatics from books and sneaking into the lectures of the Rithmatics Professor Fitch.

When Rithmatic students begin to disappear under suspicious cirmustances, Joel suspects the new teacher Nalizar. He arrived from the frontline in Nebrask where he was regarded as a hero. But Joel doesn’t trust him. Why would he leave the battle ground fighting wild chalking creatures to come and teach at a private school?

This book is startlingly original. I have never read a fantasy book like this. The magic is imbibed in the chalk drawings created by the Rithmatists. These drawings are so hard to describe and one of the main challenges in this book was to put across this complicated idea in a format that readers can understand. It achieves this through two ways. The first is the use of diagrams to convey the different Rithmatic lines and how they can be used in offense and defense. Think trigonometry and geometry – circles, angles and lines. Then there is the drip feeding of back story to explain how Rithmatics works, its history and discovery.

This book will definitely appeal to readers who love mathematical problems. I also see a huge potential for trading card duels using the different Rithmatic strategies. Of course, it would work well on the big screen. So there’s movie potential too. You wouldn’t think chalk drawings could be scary but when they are 2D rabid chalklings who you will eat the skin off your body, then they are terrifying.

It did take me a while to get into this book. Joel really needed a sidekick a bit sooner as there was a lack of humour to lift the story in the first 100 pages. My single other problem is that for the reader it is a bit dissatisfying that the main character can’t partake of the magic. Thus it lacks that wish-fulfilment quality that you expect in this type of novel. I think the author may have something up his sleeve to get around this problem in future books so I’m looking forward to seeing where this series goes next.

It really is an imaginative tour-de-force!

Source: Bought from Foyles

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