The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson is a fantasy book geared toward mainly young adults. Sometimes, we as readers really have to ask ourselves just how the heck does an author come up with such creative ideas? Here with Mr. Sanderson, this guy is nothing short of brilliant. When someone says to let your imagination run wild, he literally takes that to a whole different level. The ideas for his books, especially the different type of magic systems he creates for each, are very creative and never a bore. I really think this author can’t write a bad book even if he tried too. If he did though, I would sadly have to say that The Rithmatist would be as close as possible to it. This is one of the more dull books I’ve read from this author and I’ve read the majority of what he has to offer. While the idea of a Rithmatist’s power is pretty unique and fun to read about, the story here is just below average and has the pace of a snail to boot. Those are never two good combinations. Nonetheless, I’ve still managed to finish it. Like any good author, they can somehow turn a slow and boring story into a page turner. Go figure.
In The Rithmatist, we follow in the footsteps of young Joel in Armedius Academy. In a world where all the spotlight are on young kids that gets chosen to be a Rithmatist, Joel is anything but that. What he does have is the pure passion for learning Rithmatics. While Joel is able to draw lines and circles with a chalk, he doesn’t have the power to make them actually come alive like true Rithmatists. By being in the right place at the right time, events slowly unfold and Joel soon finds himself under the tutelage of a professor Fitch. From there, Joel is tasked with helping to solve the mysterious kidnappings of Rithmatist students. At its heart, The Rithmatist just feels like a lazy mystery novel.
There are many problems I have with this book. For one, the author did a horrible job of describing Joel to its readers. Throughout my reading, I had such a hard time picturing young Joel in my mind because I had no idea how he should look like. I have no idea of what his skin color is, his nationality, hair color, eye color, height or even what he wears. I was waiting for the author to make some references throughout the book to slowly give us more hints on the main protagonist but I got none of that. However, we are constantly reminded that young Melody has red and curly hair along with the mentioning of what color skirt she is wearing.
Secondly, during the beginning of each chapter, the author gives us a picture of sample defenses that can be drawn up in Rithmatics. This gives us the readers a lot more insight and knowledge into how Rithmatics work based on perceived rules of the system. However, throughout a majority of the book, the characters rarely used any actual Rithmatics. This occurs because while Joel is actually very knowledgeable in Rithmatics, he isn’t actually a Rithmatist. Melody on the other hand, while she is a Rithmatist, is hardly one of the brightest students in Armedius Academy. In the beginning, I thought it was great being able to see and read of the advantages and disadvantages of each defense circle but after about halfway, I stopped caring. I just knew nothing was going to happen in the next chapter to warrant me studying that Rithmatic defense circle.
The saving grace of this book is obviously not the characters themselves but the actual magic system the author creates. It has a lot of potential yet we hardly got a chance to see it in action save for tiny bits in the end. Rather than getting into the magic system, the author has the characters running around the school campus on various errands and performing mundane tasks. The actual conclusion to the mystery itself here in The Rithmatist is also very unsatisfying. I’m not sure if my negativity towards this book has to do with the intended audience or not but I’m positive that many veteran fantasy readers will come away disappointed after reading this book.
As a personal note to the author, can you please, please, please just focus all your attention on the Stormlight Archive instead and release the second book?!