The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson 

This book came out in 2013, so I think we owned a signed hardback copy for 8 years before I finally read it. Brandon Sanderson's YA Reckoners series is my favorite of his books, so when 13-year-old Benjamin was rolling his eyes at me for never having read The Rithmatist (also for the YA market), I decided to get my act together. I enjoyed it. It was entertaining, and eventually pretty suspenseful. 

The Rithmatist is the story of our protagonist, Joel, who lives in a steampunk world where the USA is a collection of islands and some people can make chalk pictures come to life.  Joel is spending all his time wishing he had been chosen as one of these special people -- he wants to be a Rithmatist. Pretty soon, however, young Rithmatists start disappearing, apparently attacked by one of their own, a mysterious Rithmatist. Joel inserts himself into the investigation and his summer that looked boring at the outset gets very busy indeed. 

Sanderson did a nice job with this book -- solid characters with various motivations and complex backgrounds, a plot with increasing complexity and pacing that starts slow and speeds up by degrees until you're up late because you can't put it down. I really liked how Joel and Melody's friendship developed, and found it realistic and just a lot of fun to see them go from nothing to having inside jokes. There is some violence in the book: it's a mystery about the disappearance (kidnapping? murder?) of high schoolers. I felt like Sanderson kept it solidly PG-13. Ben McSweeney's illustrations definitely added to the book and made it work. All the chalk pictures and the occasional spot art were anchors for me when otherwise I would have been lost, thinking about this magic system.

Jacob warned me when I was starting it that "Brandon says he regrets setting it up for a sequel" because other books and projects have since filled his time. So I knew going in that it would have some unresolved threads at the end of the book. Knowing that was enough for me, and I'm satisfied with the ending. 

I did sometimes feel the book was a little repetitive. Sanderson really wanted to make sure you knew what was going on. Occasionally I felt the writing condescended a little bit, for the sake of clarity. Like, the bad guy reveals himself and then Joel thinks, in a separate sentence, 'he has to be stopped.' That sort of thing.  That said, I didn't really mind because I was reading it for the entertainment and the enjoyment of the story and the story was, indeed, always clear. 

I'm glad I read this one, and only sorry I waited so long to read it! Recommended.

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