More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings — merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.
As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students study the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing — kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery — one that will change Rithmatics — and their world — forever.
This book was recommended to me and, at first, I was a little wary of reading it having heard through the bookish grapevine some very uncomplimentary things about the Author. However, trusting the judgement of a young man who said I would enjoy it I took the plunge, and I am so glad I did; this Authors first foray into the YA arena is very good. It is also the first, in what promises to be a very good series.
From the main protagonist to the lowliest mention, the reader is given enough of their flaws and strengths to be able to build a relationship with each of them, and have them caring about the outcome of the plot. The main protagonist is very well written, and comes through as a caring and sensitive soul, as much as he may try to hide it behind bluff and bravado; he is also highly intelligent using his weaknesses as motivation and, like most highly intelligent people I know, brushes off his strengths as being no big deal. Character development in this novel is very well handled in that insights into all the players are gradually inserted into the book as the reader progresses. This works very well in this situation as the reader knows there will be a follow on novel, and these are only the foundations the Author is laying for both himself and the reader, in the development of the characters.
There is magic everywhere in this book, but not the usual mundane stuff of witches, wizards and mages; this magic is something entirely new and totally engrossing. As the roots of the magical elements are based in mathematics, the Author takes time to give in-depth explanations, and also provide diagrams at the beginning of each chapter to tie everything together in a good high fantasy ride full of mystery and adventure. To compare it to any other novel revolving around magic in this genre would be to do it a great disservice and harm, this is a book that stands on its own merits and needs no comparisons to other works to make it a truly good read. The ending to the novel is neatly tied off, but leaves enough room to give the reader a glance into what is coming next.
I would highly recommend this book to those looking for a high fantasy/adventure novel that is sprinkled with mystery and intrigue. Given the Steampunk aspects of this novel, those that enjoy this genre would most likely find this to be a good read; the novel is also simple enough for middle-grade readers to enjoy even though it is primarily aimed at the YA audience.