Monday, August 18, 2014

Review: The Rithmatist (Brandon Sanderson)

The Rithmatist (Rithmatist, #1)
Title: The Rithmatist
Series: Rithmatist, Book 1
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Alternate Steampunk Fantasy Mystery
Told: Third Person (Joel, mostly), Past Tense
Content Rating: Teen (scary situations, some disturbing images)
Format Read: ARC (EpicLibrarian)
Find On: Goodreads
Purchase OnAmazon | B&N | Book Depository

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. 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.

*          *          *

Why I Read It: Caught in a reading slump, I decided to give it a try after a friend mentioned loving it.

Series: This is the first in the Rithmatist series (number of books in the series unknown). It has a complete mystery story arc, but also a series story arc with a villain that ends on an "until next time" kind of cliffhanger. The next book is currently untitled with a release date of simply 2015.

Setting: An alternate Earth where the United States are the United Isles, a collection of amalgam islands such as East Carolina, Georgiabama, and Nebrask, and elsewhere different countries advanced and conquered creating such countries as the JoSeun (Asians), Espania, and Britannia. Odd, but interesting. Technology has gone the way of springwork, steampunk but instead of steam it's springs (springpunk?). It sounded shiny but didn't seem very practical or plausible.

Story: This was first and foremost a mystery. On the surface it didn't appear to be one, but it was. I'm not one for reading mysteries, so if I had known this was a mystery going in I probably wouldn't have read it. That said, it was a very well plotted mystery that I was able to follow and saw to its conclusion without even the consideration of giving up, so definite brownie points for Sanderson's pacing and plotting. It had a very engaging climax, where we finally saw some action - the rest of the book focused too much on building the mystery and explaining the complexities of an actually rather simple magic system for me. Up until the last scene I hadn't imagined I would continue the series, but said last scene changed my mind considerably with the promise of much less mystery and much more action in future books.

Magic System: I consider Brandon a master of magic systems, but while this was undoubtedly an awesome system, how it fit into the world just wasn't that plausible for me. The scope of use was too narrow for the ability to be such a way of life-altering deal - and for it to be the only magic in the entire world. I needed at least one other system, or a more narrow world focus. The magic was cool, expertly structured and planned as I would expect from Brandon, but no matter what I just couldn't fully believe it in the setting. And while cool, it felt both overly simplified and overly complicated. There were only four lines (warding, forbiddance, making, and vigor), and they could really only be used one way just in different patterns - simple. Yet somehow we spent over half the book discussing them - complicated. I guess I would've liked more complexity, but without more complication. (Apologies if that doesn't make much sense.)

Characters: Joel was 16 going on 12. He barely noticed girls and was an obsessive fanboy about Rithmatics like some sickly young boy might obsess about sports even more than most because he can't play himself. But there is more study to Rithmatics than action, especially for a non-Rithmatist, so his obsession saw him more often than not with his nose in a book instead of drawing and fighting. This pure focus on academics left the story with very little action until the end, and for a reader like me that made the story drag quite a bit. Joel didn't become involved in the fight until the fight came to him, and it was a very long wait. Melody was odd but fun and very tragic. She brightened scenes considerably, but again didn't try hard enough to involve herself until she just was. The rest of the cast were very individual, and because of it were very enjoyable.

Romantic Relationship: There was none. There was some very minor middle-grade flirting, but otherwise Joel barely saw anyone as much more than occasionally pretty. This was the main reason the characters read so young - no matter how obsessed with magic a boy may be, an older teen would at least notice pretty girls on campus, c'mon.

Writing: Easy, laid back. It read more like Middle Grade than Young Adult, partially due to the simplistic writing style but mainly because of the more juvenile main characters.

Conclusion: While interesting enough at the surface, on a plausibility level the world and magic just weren't quite there for me. And said world and magic took a backseat to the mystery, which degraded both considerably, leaving many confusables and unbalances. Still, for a girl who doesn't enjoy mysteries, it was a relatively fun and imaginative read, and I will be interested in giving the next book a peek.

Read It Again?: Probably not, just because I'm not one for mysteries.

For Fans Of: fantastical mysteries

Scribble Rating
3 of 5 Scribbles

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