I’ve made no secret I am a sucker for world building. It will drag me in like nothing else and it’s a great disappointment if an author sets up a great premise and doesn’t actually flesh it out. Sanderson does not disappoint.
In the world of this book, there is an art called Rithmatics, where young adults use chalk drawings (based on lots of geometry) to duel and fight off the wild “chalkings” 2-D figures that can kill humans. Those who the talent are chosen at a ceremony at 8 years old. They get 8 years of training, serve the state for 10 years, then are free to do whatever with a stipend. They are seen as kind of an elite class.
Our protagonist wants to be one, but was not chosen. The fact that he wasn’t chosen doesn’t deter his interest in them, and he’s almost obsessed with them, studying the theory and sneaking in on classes even though he himself can’t work the magic. He’s tasked with helping a Rithmatist solve a string of kidnappings of Rithmastists. And he does so purely through his own intelligence and determination. The book at one point looks like they might give him the ability through a loophole…but it never comes back. He remains powerless. In a big fight at the end of the book he perseveres through his wits and by teamwork. I love that. He’s a normal guy who desires to be bigger and becomes big while remaining normal. It’s great. And I applaud Sanderson for that.
I also applaud Sanderson for clearly thinking out his system of magic, with every chapter having an illustration of a defense or giving some kind of lesson of the basics of the system. Too many authors insinuate that there is magic but never explain the hows or why.
This book was a joy and a great discovery. I can’t wait for the sequel and I can’t wait to check out some of his adult fantasy novels.
Verdict: Buy it.