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Rithmatist #1

The Rithmatist

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More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. 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 learn 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.

353 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 13, 2013

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About the author

Brandon Sanderson

401 books203k followers
Brandon’s major books for the second half of 2016 are The Dark Talent, the final volume in Alcatraz Smedry’s autobiographical account of his battle against the Evil Librarians who secretly rule our world, and Arcanum Unbounded, the collection of short fiction in the Cosmere universe that includes the Mistborn series and the Stormlight
Archive, among others. This collection features The Emperor’s Soul, Mistborn: Secret History, and a brand-new Stormlight Archive novella, Edgedancer.

Earlier this year he released Calamity, the finale of the #1 New York Times bestselling Reckoners trilogy that began with Steelheart .

Brandon Sanderson was born in 1975 in Lincoln, Nebraska. As a child Brandon enjoyed reading, but he lost interest in the types of titles often suggested to him, and by junior high he never cracked a book if he could help it. This changed when an eighth grade teacher gave him Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly.

Brandon was working on his thirteenth novel when Moshe Feder at Tor Books bought the sixth he had written. Tor has published Elantris, the Mistborn trilogy and its followup The Alloy of Law, Warbreaker, and The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance, the first two in the planned ten-volume series The Stormlight Archive. He was chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series; 2009’s The Gathering Storm and 2010’s Towers of Midnight were followed by the final book in the series, A Memory of Light, in January 2013. Four books in his middle-grade Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series have been released in new editions by Starscape, and his novella Infinity Blade Awakening was an ebook bestseller for Epic Games accompanying their acclaimed Infinity Blade iOS video game series. Two more novellas, Legion and The Emperor’s Soul, were released by Subterranean Press and Tachyon Publications in 2012, and 2013 brought two young adult novels, The Rithmatist from Tor and Steelheart from Delacorte.

The only author to make the short list for the David Gemmell Legend Award six times in four years, Brandon won that award in 2011 for The Way of Kings. The Emperor’s Soul won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novella. He has appeared on the New York Times Best-Seller List multiple times, with five novels hitting the #1 spot.

Currently living in Utah with his wife and children, Brandon teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,482 reviews
Profile Image for Patrick.
Author 90 books232k followers
December 11, 2014
Listened to this one on audio, vainly hoping beyond hope that I might finally read a Brandon Sanderson book I don't like so I can feel better about myself as an author.

But no. I enjoyed this book as much as any of his. Good worldbuilding, just as you'd expect from Sanderson. And a clever, detailed magic system. Good mystery surrounding the world.

And I really like that things aren't easy for the protagonist. Everything doesn't just fall into his lap. He wants things at the beginning of the book, and at the end of the book, he still wants them. He has some hope now, because he's learned more about the world, but some of his greatest desires are still not just unattainable, but seemingly impossible.

Looking forward to the next one in the series.
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
531 reviews58.6k followers
July 7, 2021
(3.5) As always with Brandy Sandy, the world building and magic system were very interesting.

I might be an old shrew but I think this book would have been much better in a university setting.
The character, while being 16, read as if he were 12. It made it pretty hard to believe that the adults would think he was doing great at solving the mystery.

Overall enjoyable, will possibly read the next one when it comes out but since there's no release date... maybe not.
Profile Image for Dana Ilie.
404 reviews348 followers
March 7, 2019
A another mind blowing book.
The Rithmatist, is a Young Adult fantasy. Sanderson hits all the right notes when it comes to all the usual YA themes; coming of age, the meaning of true friendship, loyalty, perseverance, and even a didactic against bullying.
As expected in a Sanderson novel, the magic system is completely unique.
The characters are a fun bunch to read about – every one of them is unique with their distinct personalities and idiosyncrasies. Sanderson does a good job here and the characters keep you fully entertained. I especially liked the contrast between Melody, a Rithmatist student who doesn’t take her studies seriously, and Joel, who lacks Rithmatist powers.

The story, setting, and magic system also reminded me a bit of The Name of The Wind – especially the part where Kvothe attends magic school and studies a rigidly structured magic with specific rules.

The world is pretty similar to our world near the turn of the century with magical elements added to it. It almost feels a bit like 20th century England with parts of Lord of the Rings added into the geography.

Overall, The Rithmatist is a fantastic book that will guarantee to keep both adults and kids entertained. My only complaint is we will have to wait another year to continue the story.
Profile Image for Nicole.
444 reviews13.4k followers
January 13, 2022
Bardzo mi smutno, że nie ma drugiego tomu, bo gdyby był to już bym po niego wjechała.
Profile Image for Mitch.
355 reviews605 followers
August 6, 2016
Brandon Sanderson just made chalk figures scary. Chalk figures. As in these guys:

Ok, admittedly they don’t look like much, certainly not like man eating monsters, but after reading this, they are totally creepy. Sanderson’s certainly built up a (well deserved) reputation for writing interesting, intelligent, wildly imaginative magic systems - to the point it’s pretty much common knowledge in the fantasy community these days, but as The Rithmatist proves, those talents still go a long way, especially for his first foray into the young adult genre. I mean, before reading this, I’d have never thought it possible to be devoured by two dimensional pictographs, but now? I’m not so sure.
“Can I please just pass geometry? I have plans for summer elective. If I can’t make them work… well, I’ll do calculus or something with you.”

In other words, the obvious highlight of reading a Sanderson book is figuring out yet another of his magic systems - in the case of The Rithmatist, Rithmatics (duh). I’ve seen Sanderson’s newest offering compared to playing a real time strategy game (MineCraft?) with chalk drawings, and it’s absolutely spot on. Rithmatics is the magic of bringing to life little chalk figures called chalklings (ostensibly to fight their murderous wild brethren), but as par for the course for a Sanderson book, watching chalkings destroy each other is only a tiny piece of the magic. Sanderson’s created a character in Joel whose enthusiasm for explaining the strategy behind Rithmatic duels is just infectious (sure, he can also be described as an annoying know-it-all at first, but it's a redeeming flaw because I liked how he grows as and becomes a more rounded character, particularly once he begins interacting with Melody and Fitch), though it’s really because of what Sanderson does above and beyond every other fantasy writer approaching a magic system that makes the real difference. Rithmatics is, really is, a fascinating mix of logic, math, and art (see the wonderful drawings by Ben McSweeney at the beginning of each chapter, basically), and exploring the theory behind Rithmatic combat as Rithmatists use various geometric shapes to direct and protect themselves from the chalklings is an eye opening experience for anyone who appreciates the beauty of simple geometry. That, or unicorns.
“Oh hush, you,” she said. “You’ll deal with unicorns - maybe some flower people and a pegasus or two - and you’ll like it.”

Magic systems, of course, can’t be relied on to carry an entire book. In a way, beyond the magic system, The Rithmatist feels more like a middle grade book than a young adult one. The characters, well, mostly behave like Joel’s Rithmatist friend Melody; she’s like any other typical cool girl character in that she has some great lines, but she also has that really... interesting affection for unicorns. Other than Joel and Melody, despite the fact this is set at a school, the other characters of note are all adults, Professors Fitch and Nalizar, Inspector Harding - Joel of course interacts with the students but they’re all name dropped and don’t have roles to speak of, and I guess I did want to see more students who weren’t just names and actually interacted significantly with Joel and Melody. The upside of that, though, is I am beyond tired of the relationship drama that seems to be the focus of young adult these days, so a book, heck a great book with an awesome Sanderson magic system, that concentrates on the plot and things that actually interest me rather than who likes whom is absolutely a breath of fresh air. A significant part of my rating, in fact, is simply that I loved unraveling the mystery of the chalkings without having to pause and roll my eyes at yet another male author trying to tackle the young adult romance bandwagon - Sanderson doesn’t do that, but instead concentrates his creativity on a plot that’s pure suspense and magic.
“So, is there any particular reason why we’re spying on Nalizar?” she asked. “Other than the fact that he’s cute.”

Joel grimaced. “Cute?”

If there is a part I wasn’t too sure about The Rithmatist though, it’s that the book gives off some serious too much like Harry Potter vibes. Once again, we have a school that teaches magic (Armedius Academy), a kindly old professor who takes the protagonist under his wing (Fitch), another professor who’s confrontational but possibly misunderstood (Nalizar), a spunky girl who joins the group because she’s sort of an outsider among the Rithmatists (Melody), and a plot involving mysterious attacks by wild chalklings on Rithmatist students. In fact, at one point I said to myself, ‘If Nalizar turns out to be like Snape, I am seriously hurling this book out a window.’ Then again, the flip side is I also said to myself 'If this doesn't end like Harry Potter, I have no problems eating crow and giving five big shiny stars,' and here we are. Lucky for those pedestrians on the sidewalk below, yeah I did eat crow, not only because Sanderson kept me seriously occupied with Rithmatic theory, but also because while there are enough similarities to be distracting, there are also enough differences for The Rithmatist to stand on its own. Among those, Sanderson’s best decision is probably to write Joel as whatever the equivalent of a Muggle is - because he can’t do magic himself, he’s the best perspective for actually explaining the theory, and his desires to actually be a Rithmatist goes through so many twists and turns, but more than that there are many, many noticeable opportunities where Sanderson could’ve taken the plot in a direction reminiscent of Harry Potter, and every time he surprised me by doing something different, zigged where I thought he’d zag, zagged where I thought he’d zig.

All in all, I’m totally convinced Brandon Sanderson has written something special here. He’s made reading about chalk drawings more fun than I can ever imagine, and that’s all I’d ever ask for from a great book.

Fun Fact: A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson is a real life memoir of a New England woman taken captive by Native Americans in the seventeenth century. Those who’ve read The Rithmatist will know what I’m talking about. Those who’ve read both will notice some intriguing similarities - just as Harry Potter is distinctively British, The Rithmatist is distinctively American.
Profile Image for Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~.
347 reviews932 followers
August 11, 2017
*deep sigh*

So, I've read 14 full-length novels and 2 novellas by Brandon Sanderson, and this is the one that didn't do it for me.

My one glowing positive is that, once again, Sanderson presents his readers with a fascinating magic system. Think Chalk Zone with more violence!

Rithmatists are a chosen elite, trained from a young age & charged with protecting civilization by way of breathing life into mathematically intricate chalk sketches. These sketches rely on the precision & intent of the artist, and I really enjoyed the illustrations in the book that made this system feel that much more real.

Unfortunately, I can't say much for the rest of the book.

Despite the allure of the magic system, I still never found myself putting down roots in this world. It may be because the complexity of the chalk magic didn't mesh well with the simplicity of the other elements in the story.

Joel is a 16-year-old student at a prestigious academy with a student body that has integrated Rithmatists and regular kids. He is passionate about Rithmatic study, though he has no abilities of his own. Melody is 16-year-old Rithmatist with a quirky personality & seems to be a bit of a redheaded stepchild in the Rithmatist community at the school.

I guess I don't mind either of these characters, but something about both of them seems incredibly derivative. I just felt as though I'd met them countless times before in other works. The most noteworthy aspect of their friendship is that it's just that: a friendship. It's nice to see a Young Adult story where two main characters of opposite gender can just exist without a shoehorned kissing scene, but otherwise, I don't see myself thinking about either of them much past the time it takes me to write this review.

Speaking of the genre, something about this book felt very Middle Grade. That's probably not a negative for the general reader, but me? I'm not really a fan of Middle Grade.

Joel & Melody could've just as easily fulfilled their roles if they were 12 or 13. In fact, I think I would've enjoyed the story a bit more if the protagonists had been younger because the plot felt so much like something out of Percy Jackson and the Olympians or The Children of the Red King.

I suppose it was the atmosphere more than anything else. It was like one of the early Harry Potter installments in that the plot wove itself around a mysterious occurrence at a "magical school," which is then solved by children in tandem with a handful of adults who are clearly segregated into "good adults" and "bad adults."

I found myself yawning through most of the book. The story was written with all the skill we can expect from Sanderson, but I did not feel as compelled as I normally do to stay engaged with the developments. Long conversations & mostly annoying banter between the MC's had me feeling utterly bored.

The last 10% of the story finally shows off the excellent magic system in some great action sequences that held my attention pretty well, but as far as the mystery goes I wasn't surprised by the time I reached the conclusion. I'm not saying I guessed what would happen in specific details, but my reaction was a very weak "Oh, yea ok. No more fight scenes?"

What can I say, sometimes you connect with a book & sometimes you don't. I've had excellent luck with Sanderson's other works, but this one just couldn't sweep me off my feet!
Profile Image for Alicia.
Author 12 books250 followers
May 25, 2013
Pre-read reaction, October 2011:

I have only a vague idea what it's about. But it's by Sanderson, so *cue droning robot voice* . . . I will read it. I must read it.


If an author came to me and said: "I have a great idea for a magic system. These guys called Rithmatists draw in chalk on the ground, and their chalk drawings have power. They can draw chalklings, which can be given instructions. Some chalklings can actually injure people, especially the wild chalklings. Those guys are dangerous!" I would tell this author: "Have you lost your mind? Chalk bad guys? Ooooh scary. I'm shaking in my boots here. Oh wait, I'm actually not. And I'm also not wearing boots—cause it's summer."

And I would be wrong.

Joel, the main character, has always wished he were a Rithmatist, although he knows he can't be. He's studied Rithmatic lines and knows more about them than many Rithmatists. So when a few Rithmatists are kidnapped, Joel inserts himself into the investigation and proves helpful.

The kidnapping mystery, though interesting, wasn't even the best part of the book. And I don't believe there was enough information given to the reader (at least not for this reader) to figure out what was going on before everything was revealed toward the end. I would have preferred to have a chance at guessing the ending. But that's fine; I still loved the book. The ending did a good job of tying up all the threads in the story, and introducing a new thread to be explored in a sequel.

Throughout the book, without overwhelming the reader, Sanderson presents Rithmatic principles that help us understand his magic system in better detail. the book includes renderings of some Rithmatic defenses, as well as chalklings drawn by some of the Rithmatist characters. While I imagine some people might flip right past the renderings (which I don't think would make the book any less enjoyable), I examined each one. Sanderson put so much thought and detail into this magic system that I couldn't help being dragged along for the ride.

Even before reading this book, I was a fan of Sanderson's. Now I'm just awed.
Profile Image for TS Chan.
699 reviews868 followers
March 7, 2019
4.5 stars.

One of the reasons why fans of Brandon Sanderson (including yours truly) love him so much - when he gets into a writing funk he sidetracks himself by writing something completely different from his main project and it can result in a gem like this book.

MG and YA are not my go-to genre and hence, I'm very selective when it comes to these books. However, I have immense faith in Sanderson as he consistently churns out good, if not amazing, books. I also failed to understand why he had been so regularly critiqued for his characters. Ever since I've read The Way of Kings - one of the most character-driven books in epic fantasy - I've come to appreciate how my engagement with such fictional beings drive my enjoyment of the book. I believe that he had invariably delivered in this aspect simply because everytime I pick up a Sanderson book, I am not able to read anything else.

Firstly, this is non-Cosmere book. The world is set in a gearpunk 'alternative' Earth where North America is made up of islands. Secondly, no review of this author is complete without mention about the magic system and I am beginning to risk sounding like a broken record - how does Sanderson even create such fascinating ones? In the Rithmatist, the foundation of the magic was built on geometry, trigonometry and chalk. Yes, chalk! "How??" you might ask. Well there are illustrations at the start of each chapter to explain the mechanics of different chalk drawings and how precise geometrical/trigonometrical properties influence its relative strength/power. The power of this author's imagination realised in artform.

The storytelling is solid comprising both a pretty dark mystery component and a school/learning setting. In spite of the young age of the main characters, the narrative was not annoyingly juvenile but was instead engaging and mature enough to appeal to older audiences. I really appreciated how Joel, the main protagonist, did not get an easy way out. You'll need to read the book to understand what I mean by this; no standard YA tropes here. To cap it all off, the ending sequence and the revelations were quite magnificent. There was a "Ooooh, I see what you did there" moment, which I can't allude to further as it might be construed as a potential spoiler.

Ever the planner, Sanderson has just completed the research phase of the 2nd book as he intends to expand the worldbuilding from North America to Meso- and South America.
Profile Image for Xabi1990.
1,971 reviews850 followers
April 17, 2023

Me explico.

Cuando era chaval y leía a los clásicos de la CF me maravillaba porque eran CREADORES. De mundos (Clarke, Herbert,…), de razas alienígenas (Vance), de nuevas maravillas técnicas con reglas precisas(Asimov, Heinlein) o de civilizaciones futuras (toda la Edad de Oro y Plata).

Esa gente CREABA, no seguía a nadie. (Y muchos otros, ¿eh?, ahí solo he puesto ejemplos)

En Fantasía tuvimos al gran Tolkien … y se acabó lo que se daba.

Pues bien, Sanderson me maravilla porque CREA en Fantasía. Construye sistemas de magia con sus reglas específicas que se deben cumplir (me recuerda a las inflexibles –o casi- tres leyes de la robótica), no se saca conejos de la manga –casi- ni aparecen Deus ex machina que hacen lo que les da la gana.

Y eso es El ritmatista. Creación de magia, asombro al lector aunque ya haya leído mucha Fantasía antes. Comentaré más al acabar el libro, pero no me hace falta acabarle para decir eso de ¡Gracias, Maestro!


Nota : 9,5/10. No le doy el 10 porque la idea de un chaval estudiando en una universidad en la que parte de los estudiantes estudian magia/ritmática (magia hecha con lineas de tiza, que adquieren propiedades físicas sobre las personas) no es muy original. Ahí pierde ese 0,5.

Lo demás no tiene desperdicio. Me he zampado las 350 páginas en dos días escasos, gozando como loco. NO os cuento nada más por no desvelar nada de nada. La idea es que si os gusta mínimamente la Fantasía, leedle.

P.D : R.R.Martin no crea nada nuevo (no sea que algún forofo diga algo) : no es sino un sistema medieval con familias en lucha y la magia es de peseta (suponiendo que los cambiapieles sean considerados magia)
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,009 reviews1,329 followers
October 14, 2019
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“… everyone knows that ice cream is worth the trouble of being cold. Like all things virtuous, you have to suffer to gain the reward.”

★ It has been a while since I read a Sanderson book and I was really in the mood to read one. This is currently the only book in this series so I decided to jump in since it was not huge.

★ This is one of Sanderson’s YA books and although the characters and writing were indeed YA, I felt it could be enjoyed by readers from all different age groups from MG to adult readers.


★ what is the book about? The book takes place in a school of rithmatical magic where students learn how to use chalk drawings to make geometrical shapes and creatures to attack and defend, the goal to defend an island full of creatures but actually, that is not the focus of this book, maybe future ones. In this book, top students start to disappear from the school and Joel, the MC is obsessed with Rithmatists but is not one of them. He decides to investigate this to prove himself as he thinks he is the right candidate to do so being safe without magic.

★ The writing was easy to follow and that’s why I said it can be enjoyed by everyone. There are technical magic terms but the book explains everything from scratch (pun intended) and as a reader, I found myself so engrossed as usual in Sanderson’s magical system. I do not know where does he gets his ideas from!!!

“Joel, lad, school is about learning to learn. If you don’t practice studying things you don’t like, then you’ll have a very hard time in life.”

★ The magical system involves lines and circles and drawings and there are illustrations explaining everything. My nerd heart rejoiced because the MC is so good at math and they talk about the importance of it -trust me it is not boring- and then the system keeps expanding and when the students were given theoretical questions and situations, I found myself thinking with them and was so impressed by the possibilities. I even started imagining new scenarios in my mind because the system was so well explained.


★ The characters did act their age and I like it when they do that. Children are simply children and I hate when they are precocious and woke more than they are supposed to be. I am not underestimating them but also I am saying that the fate of the world does not have to fall on their shoulders. There was a cast of really well-written characters and I think I will remember them until I read the next book whenever it comes out! I like how the book tackled some important issues like the importance of learning and bullying which are logical things to be found in a school setting.

★ The pacing was fast which is my favorite thing, I think this helps me read faster and I finished this in less than 2 days. I am getting used to adult fantasy’s slower pacing but it is great to read a fast-paced story from time to time.

“The most dangerous kind of man is not the one who spent his youth shoving others around. That kind of man gets lazy, and is often too content with his life to be truly dangerous. The man who spent his youth being shoved around, however … When that man gets a little power and authority, he often uses it to become a tyrant on par with the worst warlords in history.”

★ Bottom Line (Pun intended): A fast-paced story with great magical system, well-fleshed character and easy writing for readers of all ages. I think that anyone who loves unique magical systems will love this book!

You can get more books from Book Depository
Profile Image for Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller.
725 reviews1,200 followers
April 27, 2017
[4.5 stars] I hope no one gets tired of hearing me say “I read another Sanderson, and it was amazing!” because I say it a lot.

The Rithmatist, while not as sophisticated as some of Sanderson’s high fantasy (for obvious reasons), is still one of my new favorite works from him. The magic system was particularly fun to read about – Rithmatists who duel one another using chalk drawings (ground wards for defense, animated chalk drawings for offense),and set in a school setting where they learn everything from geometry (for proper ward creation) to complex dueling strategies, to boot! I love when books introduce some sort of competition, especially magic-related. The Rithmatist definitely reminded me of Hermione’s role in Harry Potter – very academically inclined and whenever she was around I felt like I learned a lot about magic. Joel fit that roll for me here – he knew so much about the Rithmatists’ craft that, by the end of the book, I felt like an expert too. The friendships formed in this book were also reminiscent of HP, and I especially love that Joel and Melody’s relationship was organic and atypical – very different from most YA.

The book also had a fun “whodunit” style mystery that did a great job keeping me guessing all the way until the end. If I can’t figure out who the culprit is by the halfway point (or better yet, if I’m certain I know who it is and I’m wrong), the author has done a great job weaving together a good mystery – as was the case here. I felt invested in the story because I was constantly trying out different theories of whodunit. With so many things keeping me glued to the pages, it’s no surprise I devoured it so quickly.

Overall, The Rithmatist had a great mix of good characters, compelling mystery, and magic infusion. It hit an A+ for me on all accounts and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy. This is one of those titles I find easy to recommend because it has appeal for a wide range of readers. Before diving in, I was under the impression The Rithmatist could essentially function as a stand-alone novel – not the case. I need the next one like, yesterday! According to the author’s State of the Sanderson 2016, we should be seeing a sequel "Status: Soooooon."

Other books you might like:

The Waking Fire - Anthony Ryan
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling
A Darker Shade of Magic - V.E. Schwab
The Inventor's Secret - Chad Morris
The Testing - Joelle Charbonneau

Via The Obsessive Bookseller at www.nikihawkes.com
Profile Image for Anna [Bran. San. Stan].
261 reviews81 followers
February 26, 2023
Picture “Muggles” attending a magic boarding school - Joel, our 16-year-old protagonist, being one of those. There, the privileged - both “Muggles” and “Wizards” alike - learn about the magic of Rithmatics. Joel, the son of a cleaning lady, however, stands out especially: for being poor, for being a "Muggle" and for his passion to learn the principles of a magic he is not able to perform.

For the magic of Rithmatics is bestowed on some “lucky” few during a ceremony when 8 years old. Then you’ll have to learn the magic - basically employing complex geometry and art to defeat the two-dimensional chalklings that threaten the United Isles of America (an alternate reality). Rithmatists are revered by society (much like the pilots in Skyward), as they must serve for 10 years at the battlefront in Nebrask - which doesn’t sound like such a good deal to me.

Maybe you noticed me not referring to the magic boarding school as another Hogwarts? No? Well, I deliberately did not refer to Armedius Academy as another Hogwarts because there is hardly a comparison: Hogwarts has become a character itself, somewhat sapient, whereas Armedius Academy - and I say that without jugdmemt - is not.

The strength of this book is that it is not Harry Potter, despite some similar tropes. It is darker, not whimsical in tone as the early Harry Potter books are; it is more creative in its magic system as it actually has a logic to it that we as readers can understand. It also feels good that Sanderson didn’t rely on the Chosen One archetype: Joel didn’t wake up one morning learning he was special. Oh, he will play a significant part in the unfolding events - why make him the protagonist otherwise - but Joel feels like a true underdog.

To think that Sanderson considered writing this novel “a breather in-between, something completely unexpected, […] something whacky, weird gearpunk alternate history bizarre thing” (Intentionally Blank) and to have it be so familiarly great and successful? Well, in context of the recent Kickstarter campaign this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

As for the genesis of this book, Sanderson also states on his podcast that The Wheel of Time derailed this project and that the sequel is the no. 1 book request he gets from readers. He says he feels bad making people wait so long, especially considering the cliffhanger ending that promises a sequel for one thing; and for another that “there is a deeper, darker mystery, […] everything we’ve been doing is now re-contextualized to be darker and more worrisome“.

As much as I, too, want to read a sequel, I have different priorities (Stormlight, Mistborn, Warbreaker to name a few). I guess my true passion is the Cosmere (I am simply more INVESTED in those books) and not quite as much with his YA writing such as Skyward, The Reckoners, The Rithmatist - though I do enjoy them immensely: they are immersive and instrumental to feeding my Sanderson obsession after all. And I just know I will read and enjoy anything that man writes.
Profile Image for Regan.
366 reviews109k followers
January 6, 2014
I loved this book.

The story was solid and the world was AMAZING. So much fun to read, the characters were lovely. This book is technically young adult, but it is so unique and so focused on a beautiful and well thought out world, and not romance that I forgot sometimes while reading.
Profile Image for Iryna *Book and Sword*.
437 reviews634 followers
December 12, 2017
4.5/5 stars

I wasn't going to round up. I mean not every Sanderson's book can be 5 stars, right? Wrong. Because when it came down to the last pages I was tearing up...So I just had to.

​I thought that maybe because this was intended for younger readers (middle to young adult) it will be duller and not as interesting as his other series that I've read so far. I thought that I will read it and just think of it as a nice stand-alone book. I thought that there couldn't have possibly been another new and cool "magic" system.
Wrong. Wrong. wrong.

​Sure, it wasn't nearly as complex and interwoven as say Mistborn has been, but it was pretty darn amazing (also I wouldn't recommend comparing one Sanderson book to another - they all are great in their own ways). I will never stop being impressed with his ability to create compelling and dimensional characters, and I will never stop being surprised by twists and turns of his books. Even when I think I know what's coming the book comes out and surprises me anyway. And I love it!

I'm pretty sure that the concept of "chalk drawing infused magic" is far from new. But I haven't read many books that used that type of magic, so for me it was pretty fascinating. Plus it wasn't just chalk drawing - it was chalk drawing duels! And that's always fun.

​If this was any other book I'd found the character of ​Melody to be over the top and maybe even annoying. But when Melody was put next to Joel it somehow made perfect sense! She wasn't just funny, she was extremely smart and all of her "odd" remarks held a lot of important truths and I really loved her for that. And most importantly - she was always herself. I think that she actually turned out to be a great role model (in her own unique way).
If I had to compare Melody to any other character in any other book, I'd say she is very much like Luna Lovegood (from Harry Potter series) - as they were both truly and unapologetically themselves.

“It's going to be painful."
"It's a fun tradition."
"So was witch-burning," Melody said. "Unless you were the witch.”

If you are not new to Brandon Sanderson's books you know that there is always that one character who loves books more than...well anything really. Joel is that character. Joel might be grumpy and stoic at times, but Joel is a true bookworm and you gotta love him for that. I really enjoyed his storyline and how everything turned out for him in he end.

“So much about life was disappointment. He often wondered how humankind endured so long, and if the few moments when things went right really made up for all the rest.”

A YA book by Brandon Sanderson?
I'm intrigued, but also ... scared??
I mean, in my mind Sanderson and YA don't go together ....Right? Wrong?

Profile Image for Chantal .
337 reviews825 followers
November 20, 2015
I think I should start every Sanderson review with: Brandon Sanderson does it again!

There is a reason this guy is one of my favorite authors, he cannot disappoint.

This book is all about expectations. It’s Sanderson’s first try at YA and he did a great job making fantasy more accessible to a younger audience. For those who are used to Sanderson’s other adult works however, this may be a disappointment. The Rithmatist is a lot shorter than his other novels, with only 370 pages, large font and numerous illustrations (as opposed to his 600+ pages works). There is less worldbuilding, less description and the novel is not as deep and philosophical as his adult fantasies. Having said that though, I still loved this book. It's fast-paced, very engaging and just so much fun.

The worldbuilding, though it takes up less space, is cleverly done and the magic system is as awesome and creative as always. I honestly don’t know how Sanderson manages to come up with all those imaginative ideas again and again.

The story follows Joel who is studying at Armedius Academy, an elite school that teaches both rich and influential “ordinary” students as well as Rithmatists. Rithmatists are people who are able to perform the art of Rithmatics, the ability to infuse life into chalk drawings. They are chosen each year by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony and only one in a thousand receive the gift. Joel’s biggest dream is to be a Rithmatist but he wasn’t chosen so there is no way he can become one. Instead, Joel spends his time trying to sneak into Rithmatic lectures and practices chalk drawing as much as he possibly can, simply because he is fascinated by it.
Then students start disappearing from their rooms at night and as he is assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crime, Joel suddenly finds himself entangled in the mess.

Besides the cool magic system, my favorite thing about this novel was Joel. Not Joel as a character but rather what he represents. One of my least favorite tropes is that of the “chosen one” and Joel isn’t chosen. Things are difficult for him; he has to fight for what he wants. I found myself empathizing with him so much because of this, seeing him struggle, worshipping Rithmatists, being obsessed with a power he does not possess. I’ve been waiting for a fantasy to do this.

I also really liked Joel as a character though. He is certainly flawed, as all of Sanderson’s characters are, but I still found him to be very likable. He starts off as a bit of a know-it-all and is quite smug about his own intelligence but goes through considerable character development and I was totally rooting for him all the way.

To my surprise I also really liked Melody, even though I wasn’t sure I would at the beginning. She is funny, witty and a loyal friend. I really enjoyed the dynamics that developed between her and Joel and liked the fact that Sanderson didn’t make their relationship into a romance (at least not yet).

The mystery surrounding the world was interesting and well executed. This first installment gave me enough answers to be satisfied while still leaving open many questions for further books.

There were also numerous illustrations in the novel that really helped me visualize and understand the magic system better.

This book does feel more like Middle Grade than YA. But as long as you know that going into it, it should not be a problem. Some of the things that happened didn’t fully convince me (a 16-year-old discovering things the police and professors do not?) but it didn’t really bother me while reading.

Overall I really enjoyed The Rithmatist and recommend it to those to whom the premise sounds interesting.

Profile Image for seak.
429 reviews473 followers
December 4, 2013
After reading a bit of the initial commentary on this book, some people mentioned that maybe there was a little too much focus on the magic system. Being a huge Sanderson fan, my thoughts were along the line of: there's no way, his magic is THE reason I love his novels, there's literally NO way.

As it turns out, there does seem to be a way, although only just a bit.

The magic of The Rithmatist is as creative as ever. I've mentioned this before and I'll say it again, Sanderson's magic really takes on a life of its own in any of his books. I love the characters in any given book, but it's the magic that makes me want to live in the world forever. I want to see the magic used in every possible way and situation. And yet he tends to hold it back a bit. The "lashings" in The Way of Kings is only mentioned on a couple pages and I wanted to see the armor more and more. The whispers and colors in It's always so interesting and creative, I never thought I could ever tire of a Sanderson magic system.

Until The Rithmatist. It's not that it isn't as good as any other magic system Sanderson has created, it's more that it's actually overused for once. As I said above, I normally can't get enough, but here the main protagonist, Joel, is obsessed with Rithmatists. So it's all he can talk about. And it's third person limited on Joel, so it's all we hear about. And he lives at a school, half of which is devoted to Rithmatists. So it's all we hear about.

So besides the fact that I started to cringe every time the word "Rithmatist" was used, the plot is pretty standard and it has the standard YA characters. The mean professor (Snape), the students breaking the rules to save the day (Harry/Hermione/Ron), the uppity magicals versus the non-magicals (muggles), etc.

That is, until all these great mysteries are revealed and hinted at at the very end of the book. I have a feeling the next book will really get things going, but this installment was really just a prelude to set up the magic and the lay of the land with the United Isles archipelago.

Just to reiterate, the magic is excellent. The Rithmatists defend against wild chalklings who are two-dimentional creatures that attack and kill and must be contained at The Tower in Nebrask. Rithmatists use shapes drawn in chalk to both defend and attack by using geometric points of circles that must be drawn with exactitude or they will become weak. It's so well-thought out, it boggles the mind to see all that has gone into this and no wonder it gets mentioned over and over, it takes that long just to understand the different defenses that are used.

Sanderson has a reputation for great magic for a reason and demonstrates yet again why he has earned it. He's also created a vivid world full of technology powered by gears ("gearpunk" as Sanderson mentions in the afterword) and mysteries that abound. The magic is a bit over-explained and the plot is a bit stock in this first installment, but I'm really looking forward for what's to come because what's been hinted at here demands more reading.

3.5 out of 5 Stars (recommended)
Profile Image for Lamaleluna.
287 reviews1,137 followers
August 3, 2020
Sinceramente no esperaba demasiado de este libro y me terminó encantando!!
Si bien el autor es muy conocido este no es el libro que más veo en redes sociales o que más escucho nombrar. Y siempre lo veo en la zona de ofertas en las librerías
Conclusión de hoy
Se pueden encontrar muy buenos libros en la zona de ofertas
No subestimes las ofertas.
El Rithmatista supuestamente iba a tener segunda parte pero al parecer nunca salió, de todas formas el libro no tiene un final muy abierto y se puede leer como autoconclusivo.
Tenemos un colegio de magia en dónde la mitad de los alumnos practican la Rithmatica y la otra mitad no, son estudiantes como nosotros que estudian matemática, historia, lengua, etc.
El protagonista de la historia, Joel, no es Rithmatista pero está obsesionado con estos. Sabe TODO y no deja de estudiar en qué consiste el funcionamiento de la magia, simplemente que no puede practicarla.
A la vez tenemos a otra protagonista, Melody, que es Rithmatista pero no le gusta ni le sale bien, se frustra y no entiende por qué fue elegida para ser Rithmatista.
La Rithmatica es una forma de crear defensas y ataques a partir de figuras geométricas en el suelo o en las paredes realizadas por tiza.
El libro comienza cuando empiezan a haber desapareciones de alumnos en el Colegio, Joel y Melody intentarán resolver qué está pasando con los alumnos y quién es el responsable.
El libro me gustó mucho mucho, el universo creado es MUY bueno, esta magia funciona a la perfección. Los personajes me encantaron y me encariñé mucho con ellos.
El final también me gustó y me sorprendió mucho.
El tipo de magia me hizo acordar mucho el nombre del viento y el tipo de misterio me hizo acordar a Harry Potter. Además todos estos libros que menciono tienen colegios de magia.
Lean el Rithmatista, está muy bueno y seguir que les gusta, lo disfruté un montón.
Yo leyendo el Rithmatista: ☺️😍🤩😅🙃
Profile Image for Read with Sandee ・❥・.
645 reviews1,298 followers
March 18, 2016


This book was fantastic. Everything about this book oozes with awesomeness! I mean, who would have thought chalk figures could be so menacing and scary?


Has it ever crossed your mind that chalk drawings could eat you, or worse, kill you?

It hasn't for me. The concept just sounded so farfetched. Too weird.

But this is Sanderson. I shouldn't have doubted his ability to make something as simple as chalk, to something far more interesting and complex. And he did not disappoint. I finished this book immediately wanting the second book in my hands.


The story followed a boy named Joel who attended Armedius, a prestigious school who not only caters the rich, but also a special set of students chosen to study Rithmatics.

What is Rithmatics anyways, you might ask? Well, these Rithmatist were people who could make chalk drawings come to life. They can also make chalk wards and attacks. How were they chosen? You'll find that out soon when you read the book.

Moving on.

Joel wasn't a Rithmatist. His drawings were just ordinary chalk. Everyone knew that, Joel most of all, but the moment somehow broke the spell of his story.

Despite Joel's love for the craft, he wasn't chosen, by this god-like person named the Master, to be a Rithmatist. Fate had a different plan for him.

Shortly before Joel started helping Professor Fitch with his work, something weird was happening on campus. There was someone or something taking the Rithmatist students of Armadeus. Because of these series of events, it was up to Joel, a friend, an inspector, and Professor Fitch to find out what was happening.

That's all I can say about the plot without spoiling the entirety of the book.



The thing I liked most about Joel was that he wasn't a special snowflake, like most of the protagonists in YA books nowadays. He was passionate about Rithmatics which is why he got involved in the things that he shouldn't have been involved with.

He was smart, but he wasn't special. He knew a lot about Rithmatics, but he wasn't one of them. He was a flawed character which is one of the things I found endearing about him. He wasn't a very nice person when this book started, he was actually a bit arrogant, to be honest. But I liked that. I liked that Sanderson gave him a little bit of that characteristic in him, so that when the story progress, you see him develop.

You not only get to know him as a person, but his background: who his parents were, why was he studying in that school, what caused him to love Rithmatics. You get all of them. It was all explained so well.


She was the type of character you warm up to as the story goes along. At first, she was annoying, and you just don't know why she was in the story. But as the story goes, you understood why she was the way she is, and what her part is in the entirety of things.

Another good thing about Melody was that she isn't a love interest, at least, not yet. The second book isn't published yet, so who knows?

Professor Fitch

I wasn't sure what to think of him at first. Professor Fitch is the guy that teaches the Rithmatic class Joel sneaks into to listen. At first you'll think he was just going to be another Dumbledore-like figure in the story, but he wasn't.

He was a brilliant scholar, but he wasn't the best Rithmatist duelist. He compensates his lack of fighting abilities with his knowledge about the techniques and history of Rithmatic system.

Secondary Characters

Aside from the plot and magic system, which I would get to in a second, the characters is where this book shines. I loved how none of them were flat and useless. Each of the characters introduced in this novel had their purpose and role in the story.

One of the more notable characters was Professor Nalizar. I would not say why, but his character was so much more complex than what I initially thought.

Inspector Harding is also an interesting character. He is the lead investigator assigned to find out who was taking these student. You'd think he's one of those disposable characters that was placed there just for the sake of it, but he isn't, there is so much more to him that I did not expect.


I was a bit confused with the setting at first, but after reading further into the book, I realized it was set in the present day, alternative version of the United States. The book has this illustrated map of the new world Sanderson created which I think is called the United Isles? Yes. It's called the United Isles. It's so cool having the names of some of the states of the US being there, only altered a tiny bit.

Brandon Sanderson is a master in creating new and believable worlds. This world, and the world he created in his Mistborn series, is not like anything I have ever read about. It's unique and one of a kind. There are a lot of books right now that almost have the same stuff in it, you'd find Sanderson's books very different from most, which you'll find really refreshing.

The magic system he developed for this series was completely different from the ones he made for his other books. Rithmatics had its own rules and history that was just so intriguing. Like I said earlier, I was just so mindblown with the entire concept of chalk being brought back to life, and they are hurting people.

All I can say is that, everything about this world is amazing! I love it.


The plot of this book was so easy to follow. I liked how it kept me at the edge of my seat the entire time. The thing about this book that's different from other books is that, everything is not always as easy at it seems. There is more to it that meets the eye.

This book is both plot and character driven. The more you read the book, the more you learn about the world and its characters.

I think the book was well-paced. Plus, there were no dull moments, even when there weren't any full-blown action happening, you still find the scenes enjoyable and entertaining. You would never get bored!


I was actually wishing for some sort romance in this book, because apparently, Brandon Sanderson has a talent for writing romance, believe it or not. He did a fantastic job in writing the romance aspect in The Final Empire, that I want to read more about how he would spin romance in all of his books, if it would have.

But this book, doesn't have romance. In a way, I was happy about that, because there was no unnecessary side plot that would deflect out attention from the main plot of the story.


- The world-building is amazing, as usual. I do not expect anything less from Sanderson.

- The characters were fleshed-out and well realized. There was a purpose to each and every one of them.

- All of the events that occured in this book were there for a reason. There wasn't any scene that was out of place.


- Brandon Sanderson's writing is nothing short of wonderful, brilliant, and amazing.

- The main villain, of this book at least, was not the one I was expecting. It was such a big WTF moment for me when I realized I got everything wrong.

- The books has illustrations to show you what the chalk defense and attacks look like. I felt it adds do much more to visualize the stuff they are doing with the chalk.


- It was pretty short for a Sanderson book. His books usually range between 500-800 pages, I think. I believe its because this book is geared more towards the younger audience.


Uhhhh... isn't it obvious that I loved everything about this book?

Okay there was one, but it's not even that annoying really.

This book suffered from one of those missing-parent-scenario, where the kid just gets to run around on his/her own because its either the parent is super busy, or they just don't care at all for their kid. But it wasn't terrible in this book; I kind of really liked his mother, to be honest.


If you guys haven't read anything from Brandon Sanderson, read one of his books. If you aren't ready for full-blown High Fantasy books, start with this one. The Rithmatist is an amazing read; I could mot recommend this book enough, to everyone!

Profile Image for André Oliveira.
169 reviews56 followers
November 18, 2018
This was good and ... different :D

I loved the magic system! Even though it wasn't as good as the others magic systems created by him (in my opinion), it was entertaining and I WANT TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT! JUST FOR FUN! We get the opportunity to know a lot about this magic system but there's still a lot we don't know and the book ends with "TO BE CONTINUED". NOOOOOOOOOO

Seems like we still need to wait a few years for a sequel :(

"So someday I will get to this, but it’s going to require some alignment of several factors."
(from State of the Sanderson 2017)

Brandon Sanderson, write something about a sequel on this year's State of the Sanderson, please.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,223 reviews2,053 followers
September 19, 2017
Of course Brandon Sanderson can do no wrong and even his Young Adult books, like this one, are really worth a read. He has this tremendous ability to keep creating new and fascinating worlds with equally fascinating science and magic.
The Rithmatists of the title are people who can use chalk to create magic wards and creatures which can in turn be used for duelling and fighting. Our main characters are Joel who is not a Rithmatist but wants to be and Melody who is one and does not care. Both characters are really likeable and they eventually make a great team.
The story reads like a mystery and, as is the case with the best mysteries, the author convinces us totally that one individual is the guilty party and then right at the end says "Haha, fooled you!"
All in all a very enjoyable book and the only reason that it is a four star instead of five star book for me is that it is very much aimed at a young reader. Dead people do not stay dead and even at its scariest moments there is no real fear that anything totally bad will happen. Still a good read:)
Profile Image for Maureen.
507 reviews4,200 followers
September 12, 2015
3.5/5 stars
This was a really enjoyable read! The whole concept is so interesting - a really cool take on steampunk without actually being steam punk!
I loved the reimagined US as islands and the whole world in general.
The plot was interesting but (mostly) pretty predictable, Joel was an alright main character - not great though, and the story, while overall interesting, just didn't have enough meat to it. It was a really great concept but the actually story played out had too many pacing issues for me.
Was it an incredible book? Not for me. But was it really fun to read and enjoyable? Absolutely.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,436 reviews828 followers
October 26, 2016
I don't know how Sanderson does it! To come up with a whole system of Rithmatics was brilliant. I didn't guess who the rogue Rithmatist was and I loved the main character Joel and his friend Melody working together. Looking forward to the sequel when it finally gets released.
Profile Image for Arah-Lynda.
337 reviews524 followers
August 19, 2013
"Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s."

Brandon Sanderson has hit a home run here in this awesome world of chalk, just sick with possibility. He drops you into this world of chalk drawings that come to life, possess power and threaten the main protagonists, who also duel and defend in chalk.

These protagonists, the people of whom I speak, are interesting; possess a depth that contradicts Sanderson’s sparse prose. I found it easy to connect with and care about them.

But they are at risk, under attack from the wild chalkings.

The concept is so simple. The future is wide open and invites complexity.

Ben McSweeney’s illustrations are spot on, deftly portraying the rules of battle, bursting with Sanderson’s positively plump pace of potential.

The Rithmatist is sure to spark discussion, invite lively, animated debate, especially among those strategic thinkers, those denizens of debauchery.

I love that there are so many excellent options available to our young readers today. They own tomorrow.

You can too, just gather your knowledge; draw your lines of vigour and forbiddance. Get in your circle, imagine well, your chalkings, then plan and maintain your offense.

New rithams are possible.

Profile Image for Rodrigo.
1,053 reviews409 followers
April 16, 2023
No ha estado mal pero no es lo mejor que he leído de este señor Mr Sanderson. Puede que haya sido que el tono es bastante juvenil y por eso la nota sea menor.
La historia es muy original pero le ha faltado empaque, me ha resultado bastante simple en su mayor parte si es cierto que el final mejora mucho pero no lo suficiente para ganarse otra estrella.
Es un serie que esta inacabada, habrá que esperar a que salga la 2ª parte que a la velocidad con la que escribe este hombre no tardará...
Los personajes protagonistas me han gustado, tanto Joel como su compi Melody.
sinopsis: Más que nada en la vida, Joel quiere ser uno de los Rithmatistas. Elegidos en una misteriosa ceremonia, estos tienen el poder de infundir vida a figuras bidimensionales y, además, son la única defensa de la humanidad contra unas despiadadas criaturas que amenazan todas las islas americanas dejando un reguero de cadáveres a su paso.

Pero cuando varios estudiantes Rithmatistas empiezan a desaparecer, con visibles muestras de violencia física, Joel es designado como ayudante del profesor que investiga dichos casos. De pronto, el chico se encuentra tras la pista de un descubrimiento inesperado, que cambiará su mundo para siempre.
Valoración: 6.5/10
Profile Image for Helen 2.0.
284 reviews780 followers
June 1, 2017
3.5 rounded up.

Imagine a steampunk Hogwarts where Muggles and wizards study side by side. Magicians' power is derived from chalk lines and drawings that obey the maker and affect the real world.
The Rithmatist tells the story of Joel, a normal guy whose greatest wish was to become a Rithmatist, a chalk wizard.

Since Joel was not selected to learn Rithmatism, he dedicates his time to studying as much as he can about the world that's forbidden to him. Then Rithmatist students start disappearing and Joel steps up to find them.

The best part of the Rithmatist is the attention and characterization given to adult characters, something unfortunately rare among YA series. Professor Fitch especially blew me away with his character depth and wisdom. I thought he was more heroic than Joel. Sanderson also devoted much thought to Joel's mother, who struggles with grief, debt, and worry for her son. I like that most if not all adults have meaning in the story.

I had some issues with Joel. The supporting characters, Melody and Fitch, were more likable than Joel if you ask me. At the beginning of the book, Joel is insensitive, obsessive, self-centered at times. He's not even all that smart, he just studies instead of sleeping. I really disliked him for a while, but he does undergo some character development and becomes more social-minded through his contact with Melody. I can handle annoying characters so long as they grow out of it.

The ending + moral of the story was lovely. It stressed the importance of teamwork and the personal effort. Whether or not anyone was a Rithmatist wasn't the point. Props to Sanderson for tying it all together rather well.

By the way - every mention of drawing perfect circles for defense made me think of that internet sensation with the double-jointed teacher who draws perfect circles:

Anyone remember that?
Profile Image for Franco  Santos.
484 reviews1,343 followers
July 8, 2015
Otra gran obra del escritor de Nacidos de la bruma. En esta me cautivó nuevamente con un sistema de magia inteligente e innovador excelsamente desarrollado.

La historia comienza con un ritmo rápido pero profundo. De entrada ya sabía que, una vez más, Sanderson me iba quitar horas de sueño. Y no me equivoqué: El rithmatista no me dio descanso. Es un relato lleno de misterio y, aunque resulte extraño, un poco de terror.

Siento que Sanderson pudo haber explotado mucho más lo que creó. Podría haber hecho un libro bastante más largo. Espero que en el siguiente aborde temas que quedaron un poco a la deriva en este, porque tiene asuntos muy interesantes por extender.

El final es lo único que no me gustó del libro. Bueno, quizás estoy siendo demasiado radical: más bien me dejó sabor a poco. Esperaba algo más brillante. Sanderson engendró una obra con mucho contenido, entonces confiaba en que iba a concluir con algo más complejo. Sin embargo me sorprendió.

En suma, un muy buen libro. Se lo recomiendo a todo el mundo. Solo les advierto: si llegan a ver un movimiento extraño en las paredes o en el piso, corran.
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