The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The more I read by Brandon Sanderson, the more I respect him as an author. In fact, at this moment in time, I think he is probably the best fantasy author in the business. His work is consistently of high quality, his characters are realistic, his world building is outstanding, and his magic systems are unique, imaginative, and very well considered. On top of that, Sanderson is fast writer, meaning that he publishes multiple novels a year.
With all that said, I really enjoyed The Rithmatist. It is technically a young adult novel, but I hardly noticed. The only real differences between it and Sanderson’s adult fiction is that it’s shorter in length, the protagonist is 15 years old, and there’s no romance. None of that bothered me in the slightest.
It’s hard for me to pick my favorite thing about the novel, because I really liked it as a whole. However, the magic system was absolutely fantastic. In The Rithmatist, magical energies can be used for attack or defense by drawing shapes with chalk. I thought that was a really cool idea, but I also really liked how Sanderson took it another step and developed a dueling system complete with rules and strategies.
Beyond that, I thought that Joel was a really good protagonist. Sure, he fits the typical “unlikely hero” motif almost exactly, but it’s a classic trope that never gets old if done well. Joel is full of youthful exuberance and is easy to relate to. I liked how it was his intelligence that was his true asset and not magic.
The world that Sanderson created was really interesting as well. The story is set in a alternate United States somewhere around the beginning of the 20th century. I don’t recall if an exact year was given. It seemed like the story was going to fall into the Steampunk genre, but instead the world relies on magnets and magic for technological innovation. I really liked that, because, to be honest, Steampunk just isn’t my favorite.
Overall, the story was not overly complicated, but had enough mystery and suspense to move the plot along at a brisk pace and keep things interesting. I liked this so much, I would recommend it to anyone even vaguely interested in speculative fiction.