Reviews · The Foundry

Book Review: The Rithmatist – A Brandon Sanderson Novel

So over the past week, I have been reading Rithmatist, a Young Adult (YA) novel by Brandon Sanderson. It is my first proper foray into YA, so I decided I would try with one of my favourite authors.

Now Rithmatist is not included in Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere, but a standalone. It is likely to have sequels, but for the time being this is the only book set in this new universe/world. I will be doing a post on his Cosmere works, later on. Cosmere is quite a large beast to tackle so I will need time.
Just a quick note, from this point onwards, if you don’t want to be spoiled then do not read further. While I usually keep spoilers to a minimum, there still may be some.

The Rithmatist is about a young boy called Joel, he is enrolled in a school but not just any school. This school also teaches the art of Rithmatics to its students, the Rithmatist. He is fascinated by them, sometimes to his detriment. He studies them and their art, while he has determination he lacks one thing. He is not a Rithmatist, therefore, can never do their brand of magic.

Again, this one my first attempt at reading a YA book. My first impressions of it were good, I liked it as a whole. I was worried as I am used to epic fantasies or other deep reads, so expected some detail to be lacking. While there were some points that could be expanded upon, as a whole it was a really nice read, a good romp into this world.

So technically the writing was good, however, there were a few things I disliked. The main character, Joel. I felt was really wooden, now there has been a lot of criticism thrown on Brandon Sanderson before for the lack of character depth. However, this was the first time I properly noticed it. Enough for me to actually sit back and think about who the character really was.

It maybe due to being YA, so not as much detail is required. Or it maybe something else, I still need to look over and properly see why. In any case I just didn’t like him, he was a spoiled boy. I knew that was what Brandon Sanderson wanted to get across, and I expected some sort of payoff in the end for the way he acted. However, that did not come and I felt slightly cheated.

By the end of the book, he solved the problem, got the girl (technically) and finally received recognition. Which would all be fine usually, but I just felt that he achieved it to easily and certain scenes have been missed.

We as readers like to see the progression, sometimes missing scenes or interactions is fine if it is touched upon later on. I feel there could have been one or two more scenes added to show his progression, I feel like there was a lot more telling and not enough showing. One paragraph that could have been turned into a scene which would have shown character progression was cut into only a paragraph. It would have been a powerful chapter, but all we got was one paragraph of thoughts before moving on.

Like I said, I felt cheated.

Is this something common in YA, I do not know. But I will be reading more to find out, there is meant to be less detail and less work for the reader to do in figuring out. However, should exposition be sacrificed due to it being a YA? I don’t think so.

In any case, let’s move on because I could be here all day just talking about that one aspect.

I did like the magic in this setting, Brandon Sanderson has a real knack for creating intricate magic systems. I love it and am always looking forward to his new books and seeing what he would create. The Rithmatists main weapon is chalk to create ‘Chalking’ these can then be used to attack other Rithmatist defences or ‘Circles’. The book has a lot of nice pictures showing the different type of Rithmatic abilities, from all the defences that can be used to the types of attacks.

I want to see how he advances the magic system from here, there are a few avenues I can see him go down. A few little interesting nuggets he has given us in the story show a huge number of uses for the Rithmatist and their magic.

The other cool thing about this story is the history, Rithmatics was discovered by a fleeing English king, King Gregory fled the JoSeun Empire. Already you can tell the history of the world is different, so much so that an Asian empire has conquered all of Europe and held control for a few hundred years.

That’s not all, North America. Where this book takes place. Is broken up into 60 different islands, from the very large to the small. Each representing a different state of America or a general region. From Canada to the far north to Mexico in the south, the whole area is made up of islands. This presents the most interesting aspect of the world, how and why did North America break up, and why. There are hints again in the story, which I feel will be expanded upon in later books.

I do feel like this book is a good introduction to the series, a good solid YA book. Which does have a few failings, but I am not fully sure if that is just myself. I need to see if other YA books are set up in this fashion and if so I can then re-attune my internal critic to take that into account.

Overall I liked the book, wouldn’t place it on my most liked list of books but it was okay. I do recommend it to other people, and to those just getting into YA. The book hasn’t made me turn away from YA but has given me a better understanding of the sub-genres then what I had before.


One thought on “Book Review: The Rithmatist – A Brandon Sanderson Novel

  1. North America. Where this book takes place. Is broken up into 60 different islands, from the very large to the small

    Now that really would teach the Americans a lesson! They’d be fighting each other for eternity… and for the rest of the world, there would be peace. Apart from a dusting of nuclear fallout when some idiot leader bombed their neighbour…

    As to fantasy novels as such, for all their being fantasy, if they don’t have an ‘angle’ on reality, it’ll be pure gobble-de-gook. They still have to engage the reader, who is a product of reality and thus it is what they understand. (Here I exclude software engineers, somehow they missed the boat 😉 ).

    Any novel will be in part fantasy; the closer they are to reality the more vivid they will be.


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