The following is a review of the audio-book edition of Brandon Sanderson’s The Rithmatist, first released in May 2013 and narrated by Michael Kramer.
Brandon Sanderson was an author I had long wanted to read but for a variety of reasons had been unable to. So when the opportunity arose to listen to – and to review – the audio-book version of his latest work I did not hesitate for even a second. Sanderson is one of the most respected names in the fantasy genre, he is a winner of many awards and arguably best know for both his Mistborn novels and for having been chosen to complete the Wheel of Time series after the death of its author, Robert Jordan. The person chosen to read was Michael Kramer, an American narrator who has won both the AudioFile Earphones and Torgi awards for his work. Kramer has an already established connection with both Sanderson and Jordan, having narrated Sanderson’s The Way of Kings and The Alloy of Law as well as all of Jordan’s Wheel of Time novels.
So what is a Rithmatist and what is the book all about? A Rithmatist has the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. And the Rithmatists are humanity’s only defence 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. Joel wants more than anything to be a Rithmatist but being the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy he 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.
I enjoyed the reading of The Rithmatist. The story itself was classic fantasy with the seemingly inconsequential Joel becoming embroiled in matters that affect the high and mighty. Events also lead him closer to realising his dream – that of becoming a Rithmatist. The story showcases something I believe Sanderson is very well know for – a unique, clever and interesting system of magic, but be warned, you will have be concentrating fully to take it all in, and to understand it all, first time around. The setting of a book at a type of boarding school, or in this case and Academy, is always a winner for me and I’m surprised (and somewhat relieved) that more authors have not tapped into this rich vein – it is one of the many things that made Harry Potter such a success, as it adheres to a kind of wish-fulfilment in the reader, and there are definitely similarities to be found in Sanderson’s new book and Rowling’s work, most notably the friction evident between the populace and the Rithmatists (which reminded me of the pure-blood/mud-blood resentments felt at Hogwarts) and the character of Nalazar (a teacher who is so obviously evil he couldn’t possible be, could he?) has more than a touch of the Professor Snape about him. But these are elements that have been used successfully in young adult fiction for time immemorial and I really like them, but more importantly, so do thousands of young adults. The narration itself is skilled with Kramer making each and every character clearly distinguishable, his portrayal of the male Joel and female Melody being the stand-outs from what is a very accomplished reading.
The Rithmatist is a murder mystery and coming of age story rolled into one. It has a distinctly scholarly feel and will appeal to young adults who don’t mind having an educational feel to their fantasy reading. A good book, very well read.
The Rithmatist (unabridged) by Brandon Sanderson Narrated by Michael Kramer Length: 10 hours, 26 minutes Publisher: Audible Ltd