The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars
Let me be transparent in advising readers to think twice about experiencing this book as an audiobook. I'm not sure it works that well. It could be me. I am a very visual person when it comes to higher level concepts, especially mechanistic disciplines, such as geometry, architecture, and engineering. The geometrical descriptions were hard to visualize and my mind started to wander at the beginning of each chapter when Sanderson uses the metafiction device of reading from a textbook of rithmatics. Honestly, that was the major reason I didn't rate this book highly. Secondly, I didn't care for the narrator. His voice was too bland, almost monotone or robotic. I feel that if you are going to narrate a book, you need to give it a vitality, and this book lacked that.
On the positive end, I can see why Sanderson is a lauded author, and I can certainly see why he is qualified to teach writing. I think that his craft is evident. The characterization is sound, and instead of settling for thinly veiled archetype, he endows characters with added depth. You know the ones that feel very familiar like the boy who grows up to be the hero, the spunky female sidekick, the mentor, and the dark lord? Thus he gives each one a distinctive life that works very well to make this more than just the typical coming of age fantasy novel. Additionally, the idea of this story is intriguing. A look at wizardry and coming of age school story becomes something different when the concept is built around a magical art of endowing chalk figure-drawing with life.
His view of the United States as an archipelago was interesting. He doesn't describe why it's that way. It just is. The story has a steampunk-light feel. Enough to give the vibe, but it doesn't take over or define the story. Instead, the focus is on the school and the low-level magic at work.
I liked Joel a lot as the main character. He is the kind of hero you end up rooting for. He's normal and the underdog, and you want him to buck the system. Sanderson does something pretty clever here, in that the hero doesn't get his dreams come true. Instead, he's going to have to work for what he wants. That felt more realistic, and also strayed away from the expected archetypes of fantasy where the lead is the one who has the unexpected greatest power of all time. Melody is a fun character. She won me over with her love of unicorns and pegasi. Her feelings of being a failure and feeling forced into a mold she doesn't fit resonated with me. Yeah, she felt like someone I know, maybe myself, and I could feel her youthful angst to a nearly uncomfortable level. It was such a cute touch how her abilities end up being strengths that were taken for granted. I also loved Professor Fitch. His nervousness was rather endearing, and I do have a fondness for nerdy professors.
The chalkings were fairly unnerving and the accompanying villainous element was quite effectively sinister. I wasn't sure if I liked it at first, but as I listened, I was drawn into this world and it became very real. The end has a very good twist, well, I should say two piled on each other. Sanderson surely got me!
I feel bad because I am likely underrating this book. But I have to say that the choice of medium was a big factor in affecting my reading experience, so I have go with what I know for now. I will probably continue this series because it was an interesting read. I think I'll go with the print version of the next book.
Overall rating: 3.75/5.0 stars.
View all my reviews