Apparently Brandon Sanderson is a very famous and very established author – he penned The Way of Kings, the Mistborn series and also a fair few of the Wheel of Time books. However, when The Rithmatist dropped onto my doormat last week, I knew none of this. I’ve noticed that a lot of other bloggers are excited/dubious/scathing that this previous writer of adult high fantasy has turned to YA, but I was able to come to this new addition with fresh eyes and no previous conceptions. Het, it worked for me- this book is amazing.
Plot summary: Joel is fascinated by the magical art of Rithmatics, but unfortunately only a chosen few have the necessary gift and Joel is not one of them. Undaunted, Joel persuades Professor Fitch to teach him Rithmatic theory – and soon finds that his knowledge is put to the test when someone starts murdering the top Rithmatic students at his school.
But can Joel work out the identity of the killer and stop them before they realise just what a threat Joel actually is?
I was hooked on The Rithmatist by page 29. I wasn’t sure what to expect as sometimes this kind of book can be too ‘kiddy,’ but it’s actually perfect in almost every way. The amount of detail that has gone into creating Joel’s world is astounding; not only has an entirely new system of magic been created (complete with full explanations and diagrams), but it also includes a full backstory and logical reasoning. Even the political and religious implications are explored, and a lot of time is spent explaining the tenuous relationship between the Rithmatists, the Church and the State. I have never read a YA book this well thought-out.
It’s completely and utterly unique. I’ve obviously come across magic circles in books before, but only as a method of conjuring and containing demons. The Rithmatist is something else; something new and different that takes magic duels and turns them completely on their head. I wrote this three times in my review book, phrased various different ways, so clearly this particular aspect had a huge impact.
I was originally concerned when I saw the words ‘Illustrations by Ben McSweeney’ on the cover, as novels that include pictures are usually aimed at a much younger audience and are therefore too childish for my tastes. Here though, they actually are necessary and helpful. It’s a story about battles with drawings, for God’s sake! There are instructional diagrams that could be straight from a Rithmatist textbook, but also more descriptive pictures of the various battle monsters involved. I actually liked them quite a lot, as they didn’t distract from the story in the slightest.
If I had one complaint, it’s that occasionally it’s a little… preachy. Not wham-in-your-face type stuff, but sometimes there is A Message To Be Learnt. I know a lot of children’s books have a moral undertone, but if a teenager hasn’t learnt not to show off (for example) by the time they’re at an age to read The Rithmatist, there probably isn’t a lot of hope for them.
I quite desperately want the next book now, although it hasn’t even been announced as yet. The ending of The Rithmatist is perfect though – none of that cheap dramatic cliff-hanger crap. It’s a perfect balance between tying off all the loose threads, but clearly indicating where the next book is going to go.
I know you probably get the idea by now, but this book is amazing. It would actually make a really great film – it’s unique and fun, but also clever and kind of creepy. I actually had to stay up late just to finish it. If you like YA or fantasy or magic or…. well, anything else, you absolutely have to read this.