Megan O’Sullivan, the owner of Main Street Books in Cedar City, Utah, has high hopes for The Rithmatist, Brandon Sanderson’s first novel for teens.
Sometimes a novel comes into your life at exactly the right time. You might need the entertainment or the escape or the exposure to new ideas. The Rithmatist came into my life when I needed to be swept away from the stress of being an adult. The story connected me to a childlike whimsy and enticed me to stay up all night reading.
The story forms of The Rithmatist will feel familiar. Joel attends an elite boarding school that trains magical warriors called Rithmatists, who have to protect the world from dangerous creatures called chalkings. Joel, who is trying to find his niche, is not a Rithmatist, but they fascinate him and he has spent years wishing there were a way he could join their ranks.
Driven by interesting characters, the story is filled with adventure and suspense, with a hint of steampunk. While it would be an oversimplification to compare The Rithmatist to the Harry Potter books, the essence of the story will draw a similar reader: there’s a young boy, a school steeped in tradition, and magical professors. The new professor Joel doesn’t trust adds an interesting layer to the novel.
Manga fans and those who have enjoyed the Fullmetal Alchemist television show will appreciate the novel’s magic system. Ben McSweeney’s illustrations add a depth of understanding to the plot’s battle concept. While probably not a good fit for a reluctant reader, this book will appeal to male teen readers not quite ready to delve into the world of adult science fiction and fantasy novels.
The Rithmatist is a great introduction to Sanderson’s work. Though his Alcatraz series is fun and has been well received by middle-grade readers, it isn’t representative of the style of his other fiction. Fans of the author’s adult novels might enjoy this quicker and less involved YA read, and will enjoy sharing the novel with the teens in their lives.
This will be a featured title in our bookstore because it will appeal to so many types of readers, including fans of fantasy and adventure. Since the mystery elements are strong, the book will also appeal to readers of mysteries who are looking for something different, and this certainly is that.
The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson, illus. by Ben McSweeney. Tor Teen, $17.99 May ISBN 978-0-7653-2032-2