by Christopher Gibbs
|Setting||United Isles of America, Alternate Earth|
|Released||14 May 2013|
The Rithmatist is a Young Adult novel by Brandon Sanderson published in May 2013 by Tor after the publication of A Memory of Light. There are plans for an eventual sequel, but note that it is not part of the Cosmere.
The Rithmatist takes place on an alternate Earth in which North America is composed entirely of islands. The islands were empty of human life when Europeans arrived, but they encountered dangerous "wild chalklings," two-dimensional creatures made of chalk. King Gregory III discovered the magic of Rithmatics, performed by drawing specific shapes with chalk, and with this magic the colonists learned to defend themselves. Several hundred years later, the continued prosperity of the United Isles of America is bought with the efforts of Rithmatists who fight an ongoing battle to contain the chalklings (and other, more mysterious creatures) on the island of Nebrask.
Joel Saxon is a student at the prestigious Armedius Academy in Jamestown, New Britannia. Though not a Rithmatist himself, he is obsessed with Rithmatics and studies the magic as much as he can. The poor son of the campus cleaning lady, Joel doesn’t fit in with the other students who are all either Rithmatists or children of privilege. Joel’s father Trent was the chalk maker for the academy, and shared Joel’s obsession with Rithmatics. Joel believes his father died in a rail accident, but it is implied that there is more to the story than he has been told.
Joel obtains permission to tutor under Professor Fitch during the summer holidays. Professor Fitch is also tutoring Melody Muns, a Rithmatic student struggling in her magical studies. When one of the school’s Rithmatics students disappears and evidence points to foul play by a Rithmatist, Fitch is assigned to help with the investigation. As more students disappear, first Joel then Melody are admitted into Fitch’s confidence to help track down the suspected kidnapper.
Leading the investigation is Inspector Harding, a non-Rithmatist formerly of the military police in Nebrask. He pushes for all Rithmatic students to be kept on campus for protection, and eventually all of the parents agree. Several odd symbols are found drawn in chalk at the crime scenes. Over the course of the investigation, Joel is able to confirm that these symbols are in fact new Rithmatic lines. Previously, only four types of lines were known in the magic of Rithmatics (See article on Rithmatics).
Joel’s own suspicions center on Professor Nalizar, a self-important and condescending man recently arrived from Nebrask. Joel has a particular dislike of the professor, and discovers that he is researching new Rithmatic lines. When Joel shares his suspicions, however, the others each argue against him. They say that while Nalizar is not a likable person, he is an acclaimed war hero from Nebrask who has saved many lives.
Eventually, Joel himself becomes a target. Chalklings chase him towards a trap of Rithmatic lines, but he manages to evade them and alert the police guarding the campus. With evidence from that attack, Inspector Harding arrests an academy clerk for the kidnappings, though Joel remains unconvinced.
Soon Joel uncovers the true perpetrator: Inspector Harding. Harding has been possessed by a mysterious entity called a Forgotten, which is somehow able to control wild chalklings. It is revealed that while regular people are killed by chalklings, Rithmatists can themselves be turned into chalklings. Harding sends his chalklings to attack and transform all of the Armedius Rithmatist students, who he has successfully contained on campus "for protection." Together Joel, Melody, and Fitch defeat the Forgotten (with token help from Nalizar), and the wild chalklings revert to human form.
Joel later confronts Nalizar, who he suspects was the mastermind behind the Forgotten’s actions. Nalizar confirms that he was behind the plot and that he is not entirely human. But Joel knows that nobody will believe him if he tries to expose Nalizar--having publicly helped to save the students, Nalizar's hero status is publicly confirmed.
Tor has published an excerpt from The Rithmatist (Prologue and Chapters One to Five).
Rithmatics uses chalk circles, lines, and drawings known as chalklings, otherwise known as lines of making, to do a variety of actions, including, but not limited to, attacking other duelists, creating defenses & structures, as well as creatures.
Gollancz cover by Jamie Tanner