This page contains a chapter by chapter summary of The Rithmatist. We hope this summary will make it easier to find specific areas of the book, as well as provide a quick plot refresher for anyone who doesn't want to take the time to reread the entire book.
- 1 Prologue
- 2 Part 1
- 3 Part 2
- 4 Part 3
- 5 Notes
Diagram of the Basic Easton defense: 
Diagram of the Four Rithmatic Lines: 
Joel is sent to run errands for the office. He rushes through his other tasks, saving a message for Rithmatics professor Fitch for last, so he can watch a Rithmatics lecture. When Professor Nalizar shows up to challenge Professor Fitch, Joel watches the duel and witnesses the loss by Fitch and his subsequent demotion.
Diagram of Two-Point and Four-Point circles: 
Because the summer holidays are coming, Joel needs to choose a summer elective. Florence prods him to do so and not miss it, for he would end up in a remedial tutelage if he does. He promises to do it in time.
Diagram of Bind Points and Circles Advanced Notes 
Joel attends math class. Joel likes math because geometry is the basis of Rithmatics. When Professor Layton comes to check the previous night's assignment, Joel is caught not having completed it. When Professor Layton dismisses the class he tells Joel to stay. Joel quickly realizes that Layton thinks he cheated to get perfect scores on all his tests. Joel proposes completing the assignment in these last few minutes of the class to prove his abilities and starts doing so. The professor assumes Joel already had the answers and draws a new task on the board. Joel solves it very quickly and points out some inaccuracies in the proportions of the drawing. He demonstrates his ability to draw perfect lines and circles by eye and convinces Layton that he already knew what was taught during this term, along trigonometry and algebra. Layton agrees to pass Joel.
Diagram of the Ballintain defense: 
Outside of the classroom, Joel finds Melody waiting, drawing unicorns in her notebook. She's one of the Rithmatic students in the math class. He is upset that she isn't practicing Rithmatics but she says she wants to spend time doing things that are not related to Rithmatics.
Joel makes his way to a group of students where he hears that a Rithmatic student, Lilly Whiting, is missing. Walking with Davis and Rose they see a federal inspector leave the Principal's office. Federal inspectors have jurisdiction over all sixty islands, and are an unusual sight on campus. Principal Thomas York seems troubled by the visit.
Davis is the only one other student near Joel's age that is a child of a staff member and not a Rithmatist himself. During previous years Joel and Davis spent summer holidays together at the campus. This year, however, Davis has the opportunity to spend holidays with the group that Michael takes to his beach house, which is a great opportunity for Davis's future. When Joel seems disappointed, Davis reminds him that he has never been bullied by the other students. Joel has to admit this is the case, but reflects that he's also frequently excluded.
When Davis and Rose leave to join Michael, Joel looks for a good place to read through Professor Fitch's books. Only when it grows too dark to read does he go to the dining hall for supper. His mother is already there and asks him about his summer elective and whether he's passing this year's classes. He promises that he's working on it.
Diagram of a Six-Point Circle: 
Joel approaches Professor Fitch, who now has to sit at the far end of the professors' table, with the Rithmatic books. Directed to leave by Professor Nalizar, Joel is surprised when Fitch pretends that he asked him to come. Joel returns the books and hands Professor Fitch his application to be his student for summer elective. Professor Fitch tells him that there are always young man trying to join Rithmatist classes but that this is not possible. He suggests Joel study at another university which is more open to teaching Rithmatics to non-Rithmatists. He denies Joel's request to join his summer elective.
That night Joel brainstorms other ways of getting assigned to Professor Fitch's summer elective. He decides to fail his Rithmatic history test, hoping that this will cause him to be assigned remedial tutoring with Professor Fitch. Upon handing in his final test (with answers he knows are wrong), Joel is sent to the office. Principal York is about to expel Joel from Armedius when Joel admits that he failed the test on purpose. Hesitant to allow a non-Rithmatist to study with a Rithmatic professor (which goes against tradition), York comes up with a compromise: Joel can be a research assistant to Fitch, who was just assigned a special project by York, provided he can pass his history test. Joel races back to history class and passes his test.
Next morning Joel makes his way to Professor Fitch who is surprised to get Joel as research assistant but thinks it's a good idea. Joel immediately feels at home in Professor Fitch's office among all the Rithmatic diagrams and books scattered about.
Shortly after Joel's arrival, Professor Fitch's second student arrives: Melody. She has to do a remedial tutelage with Professor Fitch because she failed the basics of Rithmatic lines. She's assigned tracings of Rithmatic diagrams while Joel has to investigate census records identify for all Rithmatists who died in the last twenty years. Though he isn't excited by his assignment, he jumps in anyway. Melody grumbles about her task, musing that she can't even draw perfect circles when tracing. Joel comes to help her and shows her some freehand circles. She asks him whether he would swap tasks with her, despite Professor Fitch sitting next to them.
Diagram for the Sumsion defense
Joel takes some food to Florence and Exton in an attempt to find out what is going on. He discovers that there is a rumor that Lilly Whiting didn't disappear, but that she was murdered by a Rithmatist.
Diagram for Osborn defense
As Joel researches through the books, he finds Exton in the list of graduates from Armedius. Melody gets sick of tracing, and Fitch decides to teach Melody about keening (anticipating) an opponent. He gives her a lecture about the importance of strategy. Joel and Melody then compete as if they were in a duel. Joel comes out on top and offends Melody by making fun of her poor Rithmatic abilities (although he meant it as lighthearted ribbing).
Diagram of the Eskridge defense
Joel finishes up work on the census records and takes them to Fitch at Warding Hall. Fitch is distracted when he arrives, showing little interest in the records. Fitch then tells Joel that another Rithmatist student has disappeared, Herman Libel. Joel talks Fitch into letting him help with the actual investigation. They go over the diagrams from Lilly's scene. Inspector Harding arrives and fills them in on Herman, while also providing more sketches.
Diagrams from the scene of Lilly Whiting
Joel attempts to research Rithmatic lines in the library, but is not allowed into the Rithmatist section. He makes up with Melody and enlists her to escort him into the restricted section. They spy on Nalizar in the library and Joel is suspicious when he checks out a book on unknown Rithmatic symbols. Afterward, Joel teaches Melody about the Jordan defense, which will highlight her strength (making chalklings) while hiding her weakness (drawing lines).
Diagram of Herman Libel's disappearance
Parents of Rithmatist students begin pulling their children out of Armedius Academy. Inspector Harding stations police on school grounds and initiates a lockdown of the campus. When Joel mentions his suspicions of Professor Nalizar, Harding reveals that he fought alongside Nalizar at Nebrask and considers him a hero.
Joel invites Melody (who usually eats alone) to eat with him and his mother in the dining hall. Mrs. Saxon talks about Trent, Joel's late father, who was the school's chalkmaker. Joel asks Melody about inception, but Melody refuses to answer, explaining that Rithmatists aren't allowed to talk to non-Rithmatists about the process.
Diagram of the Jordan defense
Melody invites Joel out for ice cream, hoping that he'll tell her more about the investigation with Professor Fitch in return for information about the inception ceremony. They get to know one another. Melody describes how being a Rithmatist makes her feel trapped. Joel reveals that the death of his father caused him to miss the standard July 4th inception ceremony. Melody explains some of the theory behind making chalklings after he mentions that he doesn't know much about them. Joel discovers just how poor his family is after learning how much Melody's allowance is. Melody generously gives him money to pay for their date (so he doesn't feel emasculated) and gives him an extra dollar to keep.
Diagram of Lines of Vigor Part 1: Basic Usage
Joel and Melody read a newspaper detailing confidential information about the investigation that Joel is working with Professor Fitch on, the exact information that Joel agreed to tell Melody.
Later that night, Joel can't sleep so he wanders to the Rithmatic part of campus. He briefly considers breaking into Professor Nalizar's room to steal a Rithmatics book, but decides against it. Joel seeks out his mother and finds her cleaning the dueling arena. He helps her clean and asks about their money situation. She explains that his father ran up a lot of debt before he died, and that's why they're so poor. She refuses his help paying down the debts, and doesn't want him to worry about them. The next day, it's revealed that another Rithmatic student, Charles Calloway, the son of a knight-senator, has been kidnapped. This time, however, some non-Rithmatists were also killed.
Instructions for instructing chalklings
Joel, Professor Fitch and Inspector Harding travel to East Carolina to investigate the crime scene while it's still fresh. Harding reveals that he was at the Calloway estate the previous night, trying to convince Charles's father, Didrich Calloway, that his son would be safer at Armedius than at home. Joel and Fitch discover that the mysterious symbols found at the crime scene are a new type of Rithmatic line.
Diagram of the Shoaff defense
Inside Charles's room, they find the remains of a large battle. Charles had managed a strong defense against the attack, but was eventually overwhelmed. He left a description of his assailant, the Scribbler, and the strange wild chalklings that had no shape and reformed when destroyed. Joel spots a chalkling spying on them and gives chase. Its creator turns out to be Melody, who followed them to learn more about the investigation. Inspector Harding begins to suspect that she might be behind the attacks, but Joel vouches for her.
Diagram of Nine Point Circles
Joel reads a book about the Tower of Nebrask. He comes across Professor Fitch reading his report on the census data; Fitch lies about finding something interesting. Melody delivers a summons for Joel to visit the office; on his way, he sees people protesting Rithmatists. Back at the principal's office, Joel asks Exton about him attending Armedius (a fact which surprises Florence). Exton refuses to talk about it. Joel confides his suspicions of Nalizar to Principal York. York agrees that Nalizar is suspicious and reveals that he regrets hiring him. Joel shows York the strange Rithmatic symbol, and York thinks it looks familiar.
Diagram of strengths in lines
Joel finally remembers where he had seen the strange symbol before -- his father's old workshop. On his way to investigate, he runs into Melody, who claims she knows how to make him into a Rithmatist. She convinces him to try to redo his inception ceremony and is confident that it will work this time. They find the symbol among Joel's father's notes and show Professor Fitch. After examining the notes, Fitch explains that Joel's father was convinced that there were more than four types of Rithmatic lines and that he had contracts with multiple Rithmatic academies that would pay him a lot of money if he discovered one. While he did discover one (the mysterious symbol), he was never able to discover the intent of the line, so it never worked. He traveled all over the world in pursuit of his mission, which is how the Saxon family's large debts were incurred. Mrs. Saxon finds them in the workshop and decides that enough time has past that they can move back in.
Article of types of chalklings
Joel attends a church service presided over by Father Stewart. He studies the stained glass windows showing pictures of the Rithmatic lines and the important historical figures who discovered them. Melody convinces Father Stewart to allow Joel to undergo a second inception ceremony by causing a scene.
Diagram of Binding chalklings
Melody tells Joel about an incident where a mob tried to attack a pair of Rithmatist students, who scared off them off using chalklings, an action which would increase tensions. As Professor Fitch's only student, she is being forced to participate in the upcoming Melee, where she is sure she will be humiliated, which will be made worse because her parents will be in attendance. She mentions that her brother, William Muns, died in Nebrask, and defends Professor Nalizar, revealing that he attempted to save her brother. Joel decides that his suspicions of Nalizar must be misplaced.
Diagram about Anchoring Defensive Circles with Lines of Forbiddance.
The night before his inception, Joel is again stricken with insomnia. He can't stop thinking about his potential future as a Rithmatist. He reads a first hand account of a settler whose family was attacked by wild chalklings. He hears a sound outside his window and, upon investigation, discovers the mysterious symbol. He is under attack by the Scribbler!
He tries to call for help, but can't, as the mysterious symbol (a Line of Silencing) is stealing the sound. Unable to defend himself, he tries to run, but finds himself boxed in by Lines of Forbiddance. He determines that the wild chalklings are deterred by the clockwork inside the coin that Melody gave him. He is able to escape to Exton's quarters, who uses his (poor) Rithmatic abilities to ward off the chalklings. Trapped again, Joel manages to escape and run for help from the police and Investigator Harding. The police are able to defeat the remaining wild chalklings and save Exton. Harding tells Joel he is confident he knows who the kidnapper is.
Diagram of bouncing Lines of Vigor off of Lines of Forbiddance
The next morning, Inspector Harding arrests Exton. He claims to have proof that Exton was behind the kidnappings and attack on Joel. Joel believes Exton is innocent and Melody agrees.
Later, Joel goes to the inception ceremony. In the chamber of inception, he asks the Master to make him a Rithmatist. A strange chalkling appears behind him, not attached to any surface. Upon being touched by Joel, the creature falls down and flees. Joel does not become a Rithmatist.
Diagram of the Taylor defense
After the ceremony, Joel wants to be alone, and heads to his father's workshop. He reads some articles on the desk and discovers a drawing of the same strange being he encountered in the chamber of inception.
Melody sneaks out of her dorm to be with Joel. They go to Professor Fitch to relay their concerns about Professor Nalizar but are rebuffed. Upon their return, they find the guards unconscious. Melody goes to get help while Joel enters the building to fight the Scribbler. He accidentally throws a bucket of acid on Nalizar, who traps him in a box of Lines of Forbiddance in retaliation. The Scribbler, revealed to be Inspector Harding, attacks! Nalizar declares that he followed the creature all the way from Nebrask and begins to fight; however, he is knocked unconscious by a Line of Revocation (the second mysterious symbol) from the Scribbler. Melody frees Joel from the box and they try to escape, but are cornered by the Scribbler. Fitch arrives to save them.
Joel's Sketch of the Rithmatic dorms' second floor that night
Professor Fitch uses an elaborate Taylor defense defend himself from Harding. Joel and Melody assist by trapping a third of the attacking chalklings in a maze. Fitch gains the upper hand and subdues Harding using a Line of Revocation. Per Joel's suggestion, Fitch uses a clock to freeze the wild chalklings. Joel throws a bucket of acid to defeat the Forgotten that was possessing Harding. The wild chalklings then turn into the missing victims of the Scribbler (both at Nebrask and Armedius). Melody is reunited with William.
Diagram of the Advanced Easton defense
Exton is freed and Joel, Melody, Professor Fitch and Professor Nalizar are lauded as heroes.
Prior to the start of the Melee, Joel confronts Nalizar. Nalizar reveals that he too is a Forgotten, but convinces Joel that nobody would believe him if he told anyone. Joel realizes that Nalizar likely is counting on his handpicked team winning the Melee and gaining important positions at Nebrask, and then disrupt the defenses in some way. Trying to disrupt this plan, he convinces Exton to allow him to enter the Melee alongside Melody. They work together as a team, inside the same Line of Warding: Joel uses his proficiency with line-drawing to draw their defenses, which Melody traces and activates. Joel's precise line-drawing and strategy, combined with Melody's skill with chalklings, allow them to defeat their competitors, including Nalizar's twelve person team, and win the Melee.