Pre-read reaction, October 2011:
I have only a vague idea what it's about. But it's by Sanderson, so *cue droning robot voice* . . . I will read it. I must read it.Now:
If an author came to me and said: "I have a great idea for a magic system. These guys called Rithmatists draw in chalk on the ground, and their chalk drawings have power. They can draw chalklings, which can be given instructions. Some chalklings can actually injure people, especially the wild chalklings. Those guys are dangerous!" I would tell this author: "Have you lost your mind? Chalk bad guys? Ooooh scary. I'm shaking in my boots here. Oh wait, I'm actually not. And I'm also not wearing boots—cause it's summer."
And I would be wrong.
Joel, the main character, has always wished he were a Rithmatist, although he knows he can't be. He's studied Rithmatic lines and knows more about them than many Rithmatists. So when a few Rithmatists are kidnapped, Joel inserts himself into the investigation and proves helpful.
The kidnapping mystery, though interesting, wasn't even the best part of the book. And I don't believe there was enough information given to the reader (at least not for this
reader) to figure out what was going on before everything was revealed toward the end. I would have preferred to have a chance at guessing the ending. But that's fine; I still loved the book. The ending did a good job of tying up all the threads in the story, and introducing a new thread to be explored in a sequel.
Throughout the book, without overwhelming the reader, Sanderson presents Rithmatic principles that help us understand his magic system in better detail. the book includes renderings of some Rithmatic defenses, as well as chalklings drawn by some of the Rithmatist characters. While I imagine some people might flip right past the renderings (which I don't think would make the book any less enjoyable), I examined each one. Sanderson put so much thought and detail into this magic system that I couldn't help being dragged along for the ride.
Even before reading this book, I was a fan of Sanderson's. Now I'm just awed.