is being marketed as the latest Young Adult novel from fantasy author Brandon Sanderson. Labels aside this book is a classy, mature novel that easily bridges the reading divide, being accessible for 10 year old readers up to senior pensioners. As a novel, this fictional work takes some of the elements that make Neil Gaiman so appealing to multiple audiences and merge them with Brandon Sanderson's consistently improving style. In many regards this is Brandon Sanderson's best work to date, though frustratingly readers will have to wait for the sequel to find out the answer to many questions. It must also be noticed that the dialogue at times did flow into a format more suited to juvenile audiences which was frustrating with its almost patronising tone. That said, on the whole this is no work of fantasy that consoles the reader, but rather stands as a fine work of world-building.
The versatility of Brandon Sanderson is twofold. Firstly, it exists in how his style has consistently improved as he has written. Sanderson has always been an ideas writer firstly (which appeals to some particular readers above the incongruities of style) and therefore his style has had to shift and become neater and smoother as he has written. His initial novel, Elantris
one can see, lacks the subtlety and condensed nature of his later work. Indeed, The Rithmatist
is beautiful in how condensed it is, something many other Young Adult or fantasy novels lack. The second aspect of Sanderson's versatility is not in the many weird and wonderful magic systems he can create and make feel natural in the story setting (after all it's unnatural to think of metal eating as something that would give superhuman powers - re. [b:Mistborn: The Final Empire|68428|Mistborn The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)|Brandon Sanderson|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1312038619s/68428.jpg|66322]) but in how he creates so many different likeable characters and twists to his stories. The brilliance of his twists are often connected to these characters and all rely on the solid principle of Chekhov's gun. A character introduced in Sanderson's world will have significance later and his villains don't simply appear on the last page as someone the reader has never met previously.
The particular plot of The Rithmatist
makes it very different from Brandon Sanderson's epic fantasy. Where, in his large [b:The Way of Kings|7235533|The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive, #1)|Brandon Sanderson|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1316131688s/7235533.jpg|8134945] and other fantasy volumes there is a tendency for the main protagonist to possess some level of supernatural ability, in The Rithmatist
no such protagonist exists. Instead of cool, sexy, Mistborn heroines and awkward men who develop magic powers (an appeal to the wishful fantasies of many men, particularly the socially awkward) the reader is presented with a hero who doesn't get the girl, who is not overpowered and who doesn't really save the world from the Dark Overlord Supreme. This hero, who goes by the name of Joel, attends a prestigious private school where Rithmatists across the world come to learn how to use their abilities. Joel has no Rithmatic abilities himself, however Joel has a grasp of Rithmatics that rivals any proper Rithmatist (in many ways it feels an unintentional commentary on the act of literary criticism and being able to observe how fiction works without the power of replicating it). As the story unfolds one is shown how the mystery of Rithmatics is really an unknown quantity despite being such a scientifically thought out process. The world and the story is beautifully developed and fleshed out in wonderful fashion with characters that will appeal to many readers.
The process of how Rithmatic skills are used reminds one of the card duelling games that Brandon Sanderson is so fond of in how there are particular categories and types of lines and circles which must be used for Rithmatism. Rithmatism, as described in the book, stands as one of the most interesting magic systems devised by Sanderson (complete with diagrams and illustrations to make it a kind of scientific superpower rather than wild magic, though such wild magic exists). This magic system is made stronger by how it serves to guide the plot where in some of his early Mistborn novels one feels that the magic (and thematic ideas) are the strongest aspect of the plot. The magic of The Rithmatist
also combines nicely with the 'gearpunk' (as Sanderson calls it) world where springwork mechanical creations and magic exist in a world almost like our own but with distinct differences. This, therefore, stands as one of the finer Alternate Earth stories available - a stronger version of [b:Blaze of Glory|1831563|Blaze of Glory (The Laws of Magic, #1)|Michael Pryor|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1203657418s/1831563.jpg|1831435].The Rithmatist
would be a fine place to begin reading Sanderson's work. While it may seem too juvenile to some readers or lacking in the frenetic action scenes of his other epic fantasy books there is a neat simplicity to this novel. A simplicity which allows for true engagement with the characters and magic of the story. It is not dissimilar to what Neil Gaiman did in his [b:The Graveyard Book|2213661|The Graveyard Book|Neil Gaiman|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1303859949s/2213661.jpg|2219449] with his characters and plot. Yet, for all its simplicity, this is a tightly wound story set in a believable, if fantastical, world. A world that any fairytale or fantasy fan should try and lose themselves in for a few hours.