I never had to worry about nightmares involving flesh-eating chalk monsters…until now. Brandon Sanderson’s “The Rithmatist” is a fresh story completely different than many cookie-cutter fantasy books out there (although I enjoy the formulaic variety as well).
This alternate reality world is set in the American Isles (the United States made up of islands). In this world, Rithmatists are select individuals who are able to bring life to simple chalk drawings and use them to fight against wild chalkings–monstrous chalk creatures that can eat flesh right off the bone.
The main protagonist, Joel, would give anything to be a Rithmatist. While his home is at the best academy for these chalk conjurers, Joel has a lowly status and failed the ceremony of becoming a Rithmatist. He can only watch as those around him learn how to create chalk creatures and use them in duels.
However, Joel’s unique status of being knowledgeable of Rithmatists without being one helps him as he attempts to solve a mystery involving an increasing number of Rithmatist kidnappings. Joel is helped along by a struggling Rithmatist named Melody and the timid professor charged with investigating these crimes. Readers follow the odd trio along from one discovery to the next.
In some ways, this book reminded me of a twisted version of Pokemon–people having duels involving creatures they unleash. However, I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen Pokemon savagely devour victims. The duels are a significant part of this book. You’ll even find diagrams of chalk duels with explanations of strategy, complexity, and when to use each defense. Add Sanderson’s memorable characters and a fast-paced plot, and this fantasy adventure becomes a highly recommended book. Be warned, this book is the first in a series (shocker, I know).