The Rithmatist | Brandon Sanderson | Book Review

I am forever and always a fangirl of Brandon Sanderson. There are very, very few of his books that I have not read yet, not including the Wheel of Time books that he wrote when taking over for the deceased Robert Jordan. You guys, this dude, this writer has an AMAZING imagination. He builds these worlds and these magic systems that I would never in a million years think of. Also, he writes A LOT, like releases a book or two every year. You’d think that with all the books he releases there might be some sort of quality sacrificed for quantity. You’d be totally wrong, BTW. So, when I was picking through ARCs after a signing at Oblong Books, I came across The Rithmatist and practically jumped up and down like a total fool, you know how I do.

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson Book Cover

Joel wants to be a rithmatist. It is his one deep, dark desire. Unfortunately, he does not have the aptitude to be a rithmatist, he was not selected to be one. And so, at school he is confined to regular classes, except during his messenger period, where he is able to listen in on rithmatist lessons. Rithmatists are people who fight the wild chalklings, but I will get into that more when I talk to you all about the world building in this book. One by one, rithmatist students start disappearing over the summer. It is up to Joel, a professor, and a not-so-talented Rithmatist girl named Melody to solve the case. Y’all, I think that Sanderson’s The Rithmatist is what they call steampunk because plenty of machines are powered by steam, and it takes place in the past but not quite the world we know.

Joel is the sort of kid who would totally annoy me if he wasn’t so damn earnest. Seriously, this is that know it all kid who gets super passionate about a subject and remembers every story and every detail about that subject ever. For Joel, that subject is rithmatics and so even though he can’t be a rithmatist, he decides maybe he wants to be an academic who studies rithmatics. This comes in handy during the investigation, as a non-rithmatist, Joel is able to provide a unique perspective. ALSO. Another thing that I liked about Joel was that he illustrates classism. I mean, he’s very poor and pretty much lives in a closet with his mom – they share a bed. NOT IN A GROSS WAY, but like she works third shift so, she sleeps when he isn’t there and vice versa. Anyways, Joel is at the Armedius Academy which is super prestigious and super expensive. Yet, he’s there on a scholarship as a personal favor to his deceased father. Anyways, you can totally tell that there’s a huge difference between Joel and the rich kids that go to school at Armedius.

Melody serves as a pretty big contrast to Joel. ALSO for those of you who are holding out hope for lots of kissing scenes, I hate to disappoint you, but The Rithmatist is definitely not a kissing book. ACTUALLY! I think I’d recommend this to precocious kids who aren’t ready to read about romance, but are ready for more complex books sans kissing. Anyways, back to Melody. She’s kind of not very good at basic rithmatics. She has trouble drawing the most basic wardings, so she has the whole summer to study remedial rithmatics under Professor Fitch, as Joel is assisting him. So, anyways Melody is one of those sorts of characters who is dramatic and loud, and just plain fun. I basically LOVED her.

As always, Brandon Sanderson is aces in building worlds. The world of The Rithmatist looks vaguely like ours. Only, the continents have different names. America is basically comprised of islands and actually is split into different nations. There are these creatures called wild chalkings who live on a frontier called the Nebrask. And yeah, it’s basically Nebraska without the A. Anyways, most of us are like evil chalk creatures, big whoop. However, it turns out that they can kind of rise through the earth and like eat you. It’s hard for me to explain, so just read the book to understand. Anyways, humans combat the chalklings by learning rithmatics, which is a certain sort of magic. The students hone their magic through duels. At Armedius Academy the main duel is basically a giant melee. It’s totally awesome. Just like with Mistborn, it took me awhile to get my bearings, but in the end I really was fond of the magic system.

The Rithmatist is written in a  straight forward style. There aren’t exactly flourishes here. The book is comprised of action and to me, was fast paced, but I have some bias because I am used to Sanderson’s writing and already love it. There’s also a heavy focus on research. As Joel cannot do rithmatics, he must be content to contribute by doing a lot of research, and so much of the book we see Joel going to the library and looking things up. My inner academy was freakin’ pumped about that. ALSO ALSO there are drawings in The Rithmatist both in the chapters and in the  bits between each chapter. You see, between each chapter is a page that shows a rithmatic diagram and how a rithmatist would use it in a duel. It really added a cool dimension to the book.

So, I definitely recommend The Rithmatist to people who prefer fantasy with an academic bent and especially to those who are in the Brandon Sanderson fan club and know the secret handshake. Ahhhh, I just LOVE this book to pieces and can’t wait for the next one in the series to come out.

Disclosure: Obtained from the free ARC bin at an Oblong Books signing

Other reviews of The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson:

Can’t find any on the google machine. Drop me your link if you review this.

Books by Brandon Sanderson:
The Well Of Ascension
The Hero Of Ages
The Alloy Of Law

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I’ve only read two of Brandon Sanderson’s novels but both of them absolutely blew me a way and are favorites of mine. I’m really dying to read this one and I’m really happy it lived up to your expectations, which might be bigger than mine since you’ve read more.

    • Sanderson is really quite fabulous. Yeah, I love it when I expect a book to be good and then it lives up to my hopes.

      I hope you get the chance to check out more of Sanderson’s backlist, it is superb.

  2. I’ve never read anything by Brandon Sanderson. Is this book a middle grade? I’m thinking I might know some kids at the library who might like this. Although I love the kissing, not everyone does 🙂

    Thanks for the review!

    • Quinn, technically this book is YA, but it has a very middle grade sort of feel. I think that it’s quite appropriate for advanced middle grade readers, you know kids who are precocious but not quite ready for books with sexual themes.

  3. This book looks super interesting. I have a couple friends who aren’t very interested in romantic plots, but do appreciate complex and intellectual fantasy. I’ll have to mention this one to them! Thanks for the review.

  4. This book sounds like a lot of fun! I do adore the fact that the world seems similar to ours, but isn’t the same. And the idea of rithmatics and chalklings is pretty darn inventive! I don’t think I’ve read anything by this author, but your review has convinced me that I want to.

    • YES! Like, there are some very clear similarities with names and geography, however, a few very big key differences as well, which is nice because then it feels unique. Word. I would never have thought of chalk as having magical properties, but it’s sooo cool that it does in this book.
      Definitely check out Sanderson’s work, I think you’d like it given that you are enjoying A Game Of Thrones.

  5. I have never read any of his books, but this sounds like one I’d like, so I’ll add it (gulp) to the tbr list of madness…..

  6. My review isn’t up yet but I totally agree 😀 I loooooooved The Rithmatist, especially that ending, omg the plot twists!

  7. Oh, this sounds very interesting, I’ll have to add it to my to-read list! I’ve read a couple of Brandon Sanderson’s books before and although I honestly don’t remember everything about them, I remember how I felt reading them — entertained! I’ve no doubt that this book will entertain me, too. 😛

    Thanks for sharing & reviewing it!

    – Esther

  8. Sooo…don’t hate me or anything, but I haven’t read anything by Brandon Sanderson. EEP! I know you’re a huge fan, so OBVIOUSLY, I am going to get on it ASAP. This book sounds great, too–I don’t mind complicated magic systems in my books. I’d rather have one that is complex but hard to grasp at first than one that has lots of holes and doesn’t make sense. Plus, I’m totally intrigued by these wild chalklings!


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