Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Rithmatist

The Rithmatist

Brandon Sanderson
Illustrator:  Ben McSweeney 
Fiction
For ages 13 and up
Macmillan, 2013   ISBN: 978-0765320322

No one really knows how chalklings came to life in the first place. How could chalked drawings suddenly come to life to become ruthless creatures that can wipe out the population of a human settlement? The answer to this question is a mystery. What everyone does know is that wild chalklings once caused widespread misery in lands to the south. Thanks to Rithmatists, wild chalklings can only be found on one of the United Isles, Nebrask, and Rithmatists working and living on Nebrask labor around the clock to contain them and prevent them from escaping. The Rithmatists use chalk lines and circles and other images, which are infused with powers, to control the wild chalklings, and they also attack them with their own chalklings that they draw and control. Some people seem to think that Rithmatists are not really necessary, but without them the United Isles would soon be overrun by wild chalklings.

   When he was eight Joel, like his classmates who attend the Armedius Academy, went through the inception ceremony to determine if he was suited to be a Rithmatist. To his great disappointment, Joel did not develop the ability to be able to create lines of power and bring chalklings to life. Though most people would have given up hoping to become a Rithmatist, Joel has not. He has learned a great deal about the skills Rithmatists need, and has become an expert at drawing the circles and lines of defense that Rithmatists use. He has done these things on his own because the teachers at his school are not allowed to teach their skills to non Rithmatists.

   Though Joel is eager to learn about Rithmatist history and drawings, he is not making much of an effort to do well in his other studies at the Armedius Academy, which is why he ends up having to work for Professor Fitch over the summer. Joel’s mother is a cleaner at the school and he lives there year round. Joel thinks that his summer is going to be very boring and then one of the Rithmatist students disappears under very puzzling circumstances. At first people think that Lily ran away, but then it becomes clear that she was attacked and kidnapped by wild chalklings, which can only mean that a rogue Rithmatist is on the loose.

   Joel starts helping Professor Fitch, who is trying to figure out who could be at the bottom of the kidnapping. When a second student vanishes, students and parents start getting angry and worried, and the police are called in to try to keep the students safe. Joel cannot help feeling that a new teacher at the school, professor Nalizar, is somehow connected to what is going on. Joel and Professor Fitch are joined by another student, Melody, in their quest to find out what is going on. What they discover turns out to have ramifications that could affect the lives of everyone in the United Isles.

   In this unusual story we find ourselves in an alternate version of the world where magical abilities exist alongside clockwork powered devices. The author builds the tension throughout the narrative, bringing his readers to a stunning finale that is shocking and exciting. We realize that Joel’s adventures have not ended. He and Melody have an even bigger challenge ahead of them. 

css.php