The Rithmatist

The Rithmatist


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The Rithmatist, Brandon Sanderson's New York Times bestselling epic teen adventure is now available in paperback.

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.

A New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of 2013

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765338440
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 05/13/2014
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 57,606
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Brandon Sanderson grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska. He lives in Utah with his wife and children and teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University. He is the author of such bestsellers as the Mistborn® trilogy and its sequels, The Alloy of Law, Shadows of Self, and The Bands of Mourning; the Stormlight Archive novels The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance; and other novels, including The Rithmatist and Steelheart. In 2013, he won a Hugo Award for Best Novella for The Emperor's Soul, set in the world of his acclaimed first novel, Elantris. Additionally, he was chosen to complete Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time® sequence.

Read an Excerpt


"Boring?" Joel demanded, stopping in place. "You think the1888 Crew-Choi duel was boring?"

Michael shrugged, stopping and looking back at Joel."I don’t know. I stopped reading after a page or so."

"You’re just not imagining it right," Joel said, walking up and resting one hand on his friend’s shoulder. He held his other hand in front of him, panning it as if to wipe away their surroundings— the green lawns of Armedius Academy— and replace them with the dueling arena.

"Imagine," Joel said, "it’s the end of the Melee, the biggest Rithmatic event in the country. Paul Crew and Adelle Choi are the only two duelists left. Adelle survived, against all odds, after her entire team was picked off in the first few minutes."

A few other students stopped on the sidewalk to listen nearby as they passed between classes.

"So?" Michael said, yawning.

"So? Michael, it was the finals! Imagine everyone watching, in silence, as the last two Rithmatists begin their duel. Imagine how nervous Adelle would have been! Her team had never won a Melee before, and now she faced down one of the most skilled Rithmatists of her generation. Paul’s team had shielded him at their center so that the lesser players fell first. They knew that would get him to the end practically fresh, his defensive circle almost completely untouched. It was the champion against the underdog."

"Boring," Michael said. "They just sit there and draw."

"You’re hopeless," Joel replied. "You are going to the very school where Rithmatists are trained. Aren’t you even a little interested in them?"

"They have enough people interested in them," Michael said with a scowl. "They keep to themselves, Joel. I’m fine with that. I’d rather they weren’t even here." A breeze ruffled his blond hair.

Around them spread the green hills and stately brick buildings of Armedius Academy. Nearby, a clockwork crab continued its quiet duty, chopping at the grass to keep it level.

"You wouldn’t think that way if you understood," Joel said, getting out some chalk. "Here, take this. And stand here." He positioned his friend, then knelt and drew a circle on the sidewalk around him. "You’re Paul. See, defensive circle. If that gets breached, you lose the match."

Joel paced back a ways on the concrete quad, then knelt and drew his own circle. "Now, Adelle’s circle was nearly breached in four places. She quickly began to shift from the Matson Defense to . . . Okay, you know what, that’s too technical. Just know that her circle was weak, and Paul had a strong, dominant position."

"If you say so," Michael said. He smiled at Eva Winters as she walked past, holding books in front of her.

"Now," Joel said. "Paul started pounding her circle with Lines of Vigor, and she knew she wouldn’t be able to shift defenses quickly enough to recover."

"Pounding . . . Lines of what?" Michael asked.

"Lines of Vigor," Joel said. "Duelists shoot them at each other. That’s the point; it’s how you breach the circle."

"I thought they made little chalk . . . things. Creatures."

"That too," Joel said. "They’re called chalklings. But that’s not why everyone remembers the 1888 Melee, even some twenty years later. It was the lines she shot. Conventional wisdom would have been for her to last as long as she could, draw out the match, make a good showing of it."

He set his chalk out in front of his circle. "She didn’t do that," he whispered. "She saw something. Paul had a small weakened section on the back of his circle. Of course, the only way to attack it would be to bounce a shot off three different lines left by other duelists. It was an impossible shot. She took it anyway. She drew one Line of Vigor as Paul’s chalklings ate at her defenses. She fired it and . . ."

Caught up in the moment, Joel finished drawing the Line of Vigor in front of him, raising his hand with a flourish. With surprise, he realized that some thirty students had gathered to listen to him, and he could feel them holding breaths, expecting his drawing to come to life.

It didn’t. 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. The gathered students continued on their way, leaving him kneeling on the ground in the middle of his circle.

"And let me guess," Michael said, yawning again. "Her shot got through?"

"Yeah," Joel said, suddenly feeling foolish. He stood up, putting away his chalk. "The shot worked. She won the Melee, though her team had been lowest favored in the odds. That shot. It was beautiful. At least, so the accounts say."

"And I’m sure you’d love to have been there," Michael said, stepping out of the circle Joel had drawn. "By the Master, Joel. I’ll bet if you could travel through time, you’d waste it going to

Rithmatic duels!"

"Sure, I guess. What else would I do?"

"Oh," Michael said, "maybe prevent some assassinations, get rich, find out what’s really happening in Nebrask. . . ."

"Yeah, I suppose," Joel said, pocketing his chalk, then jumping out of the way as a soccer ball shot past, followed by Jephs Daring. Jephs gave Michael and Joel a wave before chasing down

his ball.

Joel joined Michael, continuing across campus. The beautiful, low green hills were topped by flowering trees, and green vines wound their way up the sides of buildings. Students darted this way and that between classes, in a variety of dresses and trousers. Many of the boys wore their sleeves rolled up in the late spring warmth.

Only the Rithmatists were required to wear uniforms. That made them stick out; a group of three of them walked between buildings, and the other students casually made way, most not looking at them.

"Look, Joel," Michael said. "Have you ever wondered if maybe . . . you know, you think about this stuff too much? Rithmatics and all that?"

"It’s interesting to me," Joel said.

"Yes, but . . . I mean, it’s a little odd, considering . . ."

Michael didn’t say it, but Joel understood. He wasn’t a Rithmatist, and could never be one. He’d missed his chance. But why couldn’t he be interested in what they did?

Michael narrowed his eyes as that group of three Rithmatists passed in their grey- and- white uniforms. "It’s kind of like," he said softly, "it’s kind of like it’s us and them, you know? Leave them alone to do . . . what ever it is they do, Joel."

"You just don’t like that they can do things you can’t," Joel said.

That earned Joel a glare. Perhaps those words hit too close to home. Michael was the son of a knight-senator, a son of privilege. He wasn’t accustomed to being excluded.

"Anyway," Michael said, looking away and continuing to hike down the busy sidewalk, "you can’t be one of them, so why keep spending all of your time talking about them? It’s useless, Joel. Stop thinking about them."

I can’t ever be one of you either, Michael, Joel thought. Technically, he wasn’t supposed to be at this school. Armedius was horribly expensive, and you either had to be important, rich, or a Rithmatist to attend. Joel was about as far from any of those three things as a boy could get.

They stopped at the next intersection of sidewalks. "Look, I’ve got to get to history class," Michael said.

"Yeah," Joel said. "I’ve got open period."

"Running messages again?" Michael asked. "In the hope that you’ll get to peek into a Rithmatic classroom?"

Joel blushed, but it was true. "Summer’s coming up," he said. "You going home again?"

Michael brightened. "Yeah. Father said I could bring some friends. Fishing, swimming, girls in sundresses on the beach. Mmmm . . ."

"Sounds great," Joel said, trying to keep the hopeful tone out of his voice. "I’d love to see something like that." Michael took a group each year. Joel had never been invited.

This year, though . . . well, he’d been hanging out with Michael after school. Michael needed help with math, and Joel could explain things to him. They had been getting along really well.

Michael shuffled his feet. "Look, Joel," he said. "I mean . . . it’s fun to hang out with you here, you know? At school? But back home, it’s a different world. I’ll be busy with the family. Father has such expectations. . . ."

"Oh, yeah, of course," Joel said.

Michael smiled, banishing all discomfort from his expression in an instant. Son of a politician for sure. "That’s the spirit," he said, patting Joel on the arm. "See ya."

Joel watched him jog off. Michael ran into Mary Isenhorn along the way, and he immediately started flirting. Mary’s father owned a massive springworks. As Joel stood on that sidewalk intersection, he could pick out dozens of members of the country’s elite. Adam Li was directly related to the emperor of JoSeun. Geoff Hamilton had three presidents in his family line. Wenda Smith’s parents owned half of the cattle ranches in Georgiabama.

And Joel . . . he was the son of a chalkmaker and a cleaning lady. Well, he thought, it looks like it will be just me and Davis here all summer again. He sighed, then made his way to the campus office.

Twenty minutes later, Joel hurried back down the sidewalk, delivering messages around campus during his free period. Those sidewalks were now mostly empty of students, with everyone else in class.

Joel’s moment of depression had vanished the instant he’d looked through the stack. There had been only three messages to deliver today, and he’d done those quickly. That meant . . .

He clutched a fourth message in his pocket, one that he himself had added without telling anyone. Now, with some time to spare because of his speed earlier, he jogged up to Warding Hall, one of the Rithmatic lecture halls.

Professor Fitch was teaching in there this period. Joel fingered the letter he carried in his pocket, penned— after some nervousness— to the Rithmatic professor.

This might be my only chance, Joel thought, shoving down any nervousness. Fitch was a relaxed, pleasant man. There was no reason to be worried.

Joel scurried up the long flight of steps outside the vine-covered, grey brick building, then slipped in the oak door. That brought him into the lecture hall at the very top. It was shaped like a small amphitheater, with tiered seats. Schematics depicting Rithmatic defenses hung on the whitewashed walls, and the plush seats were bolted in rows along the tiers, facing toward the lecture floor below.

A few of the students glanced at Joel as he entered, but Professor Fitch did not. The professor rarely noticed when he got deliveries from the office, and would ramble on for the entire lecture before realizing that a member of his audience wasn’t actually a member of the class. Joel didn’t mind that one bit. He sat down on the steps eagerly. Today’s lecture, it appeared, was on the Easton Defense.

". . . is why this defense is one of the very best to use against an aggressive assault from multiple sides," Fitch was saying down below. He pointed with a long red baton toward the floor where he’d drawn a large circle. The hall was arranged so that the students could look down at his Rithmatic drawings on the ground.

With his pointer, Fitch gestured toward the Lines of Forbiddance he’d affixed to the bind points on the circle. "Now, the Easton Defense is most famous for the large number of smaller circles drawn at the bind points. Drawing nine other circles like this can be time- consuming, but they will prove well worth the time in defensive capabilities.

"You can see that the inner lines form an irregular nonagon, and the number of arms you leave off will determine how much room you have to draw, but also how stable your figure is. Of course, if you want a more aggressive defense, you can also use the bind points for chalklings."

What about Lines of Vigor? Joel thought. How do you defend against those?

Joel didn’t ask; he dared not draw attention to himself. That might make Fitch ask for his message, and that would leave Joel with no reason to keep listening. So, Joel just listened. The office wouldn’t expect him back for some time.

He leaned forward, willing one of the other students to ask about the Lines of Vigor. They didn’t. The young Rithmatists lounged in their seats, boys in white slacks, girls in white skirts, both in grey sweaters— colors to disguise the ever- present chalk dust.

Professor Fitch himself wore a deep red coat. Thick, with straight, starched cuffs, the coat reached all the way down to Fitch’s feet. The coat buttoned up to a tall collar, mostly obscuring the white suit Fitch wore beneath. It had a militaristic feel to it, with all of those stiff lines and straps at the shoulders almost like rank insignia. The red coat was the symbol of a full Rithmatic professor.

"And that is why a Keblin Defense is inferior to the Easton in most situations." Professor Fitch smiled, turning to regard the class. He was an older man, greying at the temples, with a spindly figure. The coat gave him an air of dignity.

Do you understand what you have? Joel thought, looking over the unengaged students. This was a class of fifteen- and sixteen- year- old students, making them Joel’s age. Despite their noble calling, they acted like . . . well, teenagers.

Fitch was known to run a loose classroom, and many of the students took advantage, ignoring the lecture, whispering with friends or lounging and staring at the ceiling. Several near Joel actually appeared to be sleeping. He didn’t know their names—he didn’t know the names of most of the Rithmatic students. They generally rebuffed his attempts to chat with them.

When nobody spoke, Fitch knelt and pressed his chalk against the drawing he’d done. He closed his eyes. Seconds later, the drawing puffed away, willed by its creator to vanish.

"Well, then," he said, raising his chalk. "If there are no questions, perhaps we can discuss how to beat an Easton Defense. The more astute of you will have noticed that I made no mention of Lines of Vigor. That is because those are better talked about from an offensive viewpoint. If we were to—"

The door to the lecture hall banged open. Fitch rose, chalk held between two fingers, eyebrows raised as he turned.

A tall figure strode into the room, causing some of the lounging students to perk up. The newcomer wore a grey coat after the style of a Rithmatic professor of low rank. The man was young, with stark blond hair and a firm step. His coat fit him well, buttoned up to the chin, loose through the legs. Joel didn’t know him.

"Yes?" Professor Fitch asked.

The newcomer walked all the way to the floor of the lecture hall, passing Professor Fitch and pulling out a piece of red chalk. The newcomer turned, knelt, and placed his chalk against the ground. Some of the students began to whisper.

"What is this?" Fitch asked. "I say, did I pass my lecture time again? I heard no sound for the clock. I’m terribly sorry if I’ve intruded into your time!"

The newcomer looked up. His face seemed smug to Joel. "No, Professor," the man said, "this is a challenge."

Fitch looked stunned. "I . . . Oh my. It . . ." Fitch licked his lips nervously, then wrung his hands. "I’m not sure how to, I mean, what I need to do. I . . ."

"Ready yourself to draw, Professor," the newcomer said.

Fitch blinked. Then, hands obviously shaking, he got down on his knees to place his chalk against the ground.

"That’s Professor Andrew Nalizar," whispered a girl seated a short distance from Joel. "He gained his coat just three years ago from Maineford Academy. They say he spent the last two years fighting in Nebrask!"

"He’s handsome," the girl’s companion said, twirling a bit of chalk between her fingers.

Down below, the two men began to draw. Joel leaned forward, excited. He’d never seen a real duel between two full professors before. This might be as good as being at the Melee!

Both began by drawing circles around themselves to block attacks from the opponent. Once either circle was breached, the duel would end. Perhaps because he’d been talking about it, Professor Fitch went to draw the Easton Defense, surrounding himself with nine smaller circles touching the larger one at the bind points.

It wasn’t a very good stance for a duel. Even Joel could see that; he felt a moment of disappointment. Maybe this wouldn’t be that good a fight after all. Fitch’s defense was beautifully drawn, but was too strong; the Easton was best against multiple opponents who surrounded you.

Nalizar drew a modified Ballintain Defense— a quick defense with only basic reinforcement. While Professor Fitch was still placing his internal lines, Nalizar went straight into an aggressive attack, drawing chalklings.

Chalklings. Drawn from Lines of Making, they were the core offense of many Rithmatic fights. Nalizar drew quickly and efficiently, creating chalklings that looked like small dragons, with wings and sinuous necks. As soon as he finished the first, it shook to life, then began to fly across the ground toward Fitch.

It didn’t rise into the air. Chalklings were two-dimensional, like all Rithmatic lines. The battle played out on the floor, lines attacking other lines. Fitch’s hands were still shaking, and he kept looking up and down, as if nervous and unfocused. Joel cringed as the middle-aged professor drew one of his outer circles lopsided—a major mistake.

The instructional diagram he’d drawn earlier had been far, far more precise. Lopsided curves were easy to breach. Fitch paused, looking at the poorly drawn curve, and seemed to doubt himself.

Come on! Joel clenched his fists. You’re better than this, Professor!

As a second dragon began to move across the ground, Fitch recovered his wits and snapped his chalk back against the floor. The gathered students were silent, and those who had been dozing sat up.

Fitch threw up a long wiggly line. A Line of Vigor. It was shaped like a waveform, and when it was finished, it shot across the board to hit one of the dragons. The blast threw up a puff of dust and destroyed half of the creature. The dragon began to wriggle about, moving in the wrong direction.

The only sounds in the room were those of chalk against floor accompanied by Fitch’s quick, almost panicked breathing. Joel bit his lip as the duel became heated. Fitch had a better defense, but he’d rushed it, leaving sections that were weak. Nalizar’s sparse defense allowed him to go aggressive, and Fitch had to struggle to keep up. Fitch continued throwing up Lines of Vigor, destroying the chalk creatures that flew across the board at him, but there were always more to replace them.

Nalizar was good, among the best Joel had ever seen. Despite the tension, Nalizar remained fluid, drawing chalkling after chalkling, unfazed by those that Fitch destroyed. Joel couldn’t help but be impressed.

He’s been fighting the wild chalklings at Nebrask recently, Joel thought, remembering what the girl had said. He’s used to drawing under pressure.

Nalizar calmly sent some spider chalklings to crawl along the perimeter of the floor, forcing Fitch to watch his flanks. Next, Nalizar began sending across Lines of Vigor. The snaky lines shot across the board in a vibrating waveform, vanishing once they hit something.

Fitch finally managed to get out a chalkling of his own—a knight, beautifully detailed— which he bound to one of his smaller circles. How does he draw them so well, yet so fast? Joel wondered. Fitch’s knight was a work of beauty, with detailed armor and a large greatsword. It easily defeated

Nalizar’s more plentiful, yet far more simply drawn dragons.

With the knight set up, Fitch could try some more offensive shots. Nalizar was forced to draw a few defensive chalklings— blob creatures that threw themselves in front of Lines of Vigor.

Armies of creatures, lines, and waveforms flew across the board— a tempest of white against red, chalklings puffing away, lines hitting the circles and blasting out chunks of the protective line. Both men scribbled furiously.

Joel stood, then took an almost involuntary step down toward the front of the room, transfixed. Doing so, however, let him catch a glimpse of Professor Fitch’s face. Fitch looked frantic. Terrified.

Joel froze.

The professors kept drawing, but that worry in Fitch’s expression pulled Joel away from the conflict. Such desperate motions, such concern, his face streaked with sweat.

The weight of what was happening crashed down on Joel. This wasn’t a duel for fun or practice. This was a challenge to Fitch’s authority— a dispute over his right to hold his tenure. If he lost . . .

One of Nalizar’s red Lines of Vigor hit Fitch’s circle straight on, almost breaching it. Immediately, all of Nalizar’s chalklings moved that direction, a frenzied, chaotic mess of red motion toward the weakened line.

For just a moment, Fitch froze, looking overwhelmed. He shook himself back into motion, but it was too late. He couldn’t stop them all. One of the dragons got past his knight. It began to claw furiously at the weakened part of Fitch’s circle, distorting it further.

Fitch hurriedly began to draw another knight. But the dragon ripped through his border.

"No!" Joel cried, taking another step down.

Nalizar smiled, removing his chalk from the floor and standing. He dusted off his hands. Fitch was still drawing.

"Professor," Nalizar said. "Professor!"

Fitch stopped, and only then did he notice the dragon, which continued to work on the hole, trying to dig it out enough that it could get into the center of the circle. In a real battle, it would have moved in to attack the Rithmatist himself. This, however, was just a duel— and a breach in the ring meant victory for Nalizar.

"Oh," Fitch said, lowering his hand. "Oh, yes, well, I see. . . ." He turned, seeming dazed, regarding the room full of students. "Ah, yes. I . . . will just go, then."

He began to gather up his books and notes. Joel sank down onto the stone steps. In his hand, he held the letter he had written to give to Fitch.

"Professor," Nalizar said. "Your coat?"

Fitch looked down. "Ah, yes. Of course." He undid the buttons on the long red coat, then pulled it off, leaving him in his white vest, shirt, and trousers. He looked diminished. Fitch held the coat for a moment, then laid it on the lecture desk. He gathered up his books and fled the chamber. The door to the ground-floor entrance clicked shut softly behind him.

Joel sat, stunned. A few of the members of the classroom clapped timidly, though most just watched, wide-eyed, obviously uncertain how to react.

"Now then," Nalizar said, voice curt. "I will take over instruction of this class for the last few days of the term, and I will be teaching the summer elective course that Fitch had planned. I have heard reports of rather disgraceful performance among students at Armedius, your cohort in particular. I will allow no sloppiness in my class. You there, boy sitting on the steps."

Joel looked up.

"What are you doing there?" Nalizar demanded. "Why aren’t you wearing your uniform?"

"I’m not a Rithmatist, sir," Joel said, standing. "I’m from the general school."

"What? Why in the name of the heavens are you sitting in my classroom?"

Your classroom? This was Fitch’s classroom. Or . . . it should be.

"Well?" Nalizar asked.

"I came with a note, sir," Joel said. "For Professor Fitch."

"Hand it over, then," Nalizar said.

"It is for Professor Fitch personally," Joel said, stuffing the letter into his pocket. "It wasn’t about the class."

"Well, be off with you then," Nalizar said, dismissing Joel with a wave of his hand. The red chalk dust scattered on the floor looked like blood. He began dispelling his creations one at a time.

Joel backed away, then rushed up the steps and opened the door. People crossed the lawn outside, many dressed in the white and grey of Rithmatists. One figure stood out. Joel dashed down the stairs across the springy lawn, catching up to Professor Fitch. The man trudged with slumped shoulders, the large bundle of books and notes collected in his arms.

"Professor?" Joel said. Joel was tall for his age, a few inches taller, even, than Fitch.

The older man turned with a start. "Uh? What?"

"Are you all right?"

"Oh, um, why it’s the chalkmaker’s son! How are you, lad? Shouldn’t you be in class?"

"It’s my free period," Joel said, reaching and sliding two of the books off the stack to help carry them. "Professor, are you all right? About what just happened?"

"You saw that, did you?" Professor Fitch’s face fell.

"Isn’t there anything you can do?" Joel asked. "You can’t let him take your classes away! Perhaps if you spoke to Principal York?"

"No, no," Fitch said. "That would be unseemly. The right of challenge is a very honorable tradition— an important part of Rithmatic culture, I must say."

Joel sighed. He glanced down, remembering the note in his pocket. A request from him to Fitch. He wanted to study with the man over the summer, to learn as much about Rithmatics as he could.

But Fitch wasn’t a full professor any longer. Would that matter? Joel wasn’t even certain the man would take a non-Rithmatic student. If Fitch wasn’t a full professor, might he have more time for tutoring students? Thinking that immediately made Joel feel guilty.

He almost pulled the letter out and gave it to the man. The defeat in Fitch’s face stopped him. Perhaps this wasn’t the best time.

"I should have seen this coming," Fitch said. "That Nalizar. Too ambitious for his own good, I thought when we hired him last week. There hasn’t been a challenge at Armedius for decades. . . ."

"What will you do?" Joel asked.

"Well," Fitch said as they walked along the path, passing under the shade of a wide-limbed red oak. "Yes, well, tradition states that I take Nalizar’s place. He was hired on as a tutoring professor to help remedial students who failed classes this year. I guess that is my job now. I should think I’ll be happy to be away from the classroom to have some peace of mind!"

He hesitated, turning to look back toward the Rithmatic lecture hall. The structure was block- shaped, yet somehow still artistic, with its diamond patterns of grey bricks forming the vine-covered wall.

"Yes," Fitch said. "I will probably never have to teach in that classroom again." He choked off that last part. "Excuse me." He ducked his head and rushed away.

Joel raised a hand, but let him go, still holding two of the professor’s books. Finally, Joel sighed, turning his own course across the lawn toward the campus office building.

"Well," he said softly, thinking again of the crumpled paper in his trouser pocket, "that was a disaster."




Copyright © 2013 by Dragonsteel Entertainment, LLC

Reading and Activity Guide copyright © 2013 by Tor Books

Reading Group Guide


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.

Bestselling author Brandon Sanderson brings his unique brand of epic storytelling to the teen audience with an engrossing tale of danger and suspense—the first of a series. With his trademark skills in worldbuilding, Sanderson has created a magic system that is so inventive and detailed that readers who appreciate games of strategy and tactics just may want to bring Rithmatics to life in our world.


The information, activities, and discussion questions which follow are intended to enhance your reading of The Rithmatist. Please feel free to adapt these materials to suit your needs and interests.


1. Author Brandon Sanderson is known for writing epic fantasy stories. Go to the library or online to find the literary definition of the term "epic." Write a short essay explaining how The Rithmatist fits into the category of epic novels—or how it doesn't. If you have read other epic novels, such as The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan, Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey, or Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling, you may include comparisons to these in your essay.

2. In addition to its epic qualities, The Rithmatist has features of a steampunk or gearpunk novel. Go to the library or online to learn more about the elements of steampunk and gearpunk literature. Then, using descriptions from the novel, create an illustrated poster depicting steampunk and gearpunk images, concepts, or scenes from the novel.

3. Imagine that you are a non-Rithmatist scholar of things Rithmatic, such as Joel aspires to be. Using information from the novel, create a PowerPoint or other type of illustrated presentation explaining Rithmatic lines, shapes, and defenses, or the relationship between Rithmatists and ordinary people. Share your presentation with friends or classmates.

4. In the character of Melody, write a journal entry describing your first morning spent with Professor Fitch and Joel. How do you feel about the prospect of a summer of remedial tracing?

5. Near the end of the novel, Joel returns to his former home and his father's workshop. In the character of Joel, write a journal entry describing your emotions as you step back through the doorway. Or, write a journal entry comparing your experience reentering your father's space to your experience reentering the inception room as a teen instead of a grade school child.

6. The novel makes reference to a real book from literary history. Mary Rowlandson's seventeenth-century narrative of being held captive by Native Americans has been called America's first bestseller. Go to the library or online to learn more about Rowlandson, her experience, and her publication. Then, write a short essay explaining why you think Brandon Sanderson chose to feature this particular historical work in The Rithmatist.

7. Melody invites Joel into town for ice cream and, when he can't afford the cost, she covers it. In the character of Joel or Melody, write an internal monologue exploring your thoughts about seeing the town through the other's eyes, your comfort level and other considerations about giving/receiving money, and whether you feel this trip has changed your relationship in any way.

8. The Rithmatist is set in an alternate America with different technology, boundaries, and an ongoing threat posed by the wild chalklings at Nebrask. Do any of these differences call to mind societal or governmental concerns happening in your real world? Bring in two or three current newspaper clippings that reference subject matter that makes you think of the novel. For each clipping, write a two- to three-sentence description of the connection you see between the novel and the news report.

9. Examining a clockwork-infused coin given to him by Melody, Joel starts to consider the element of time in his understanding of humanity and Rithmatics. With friends or classmates, role-play a conversation between Joel, Professor Fitch, and Father Stewart in which Joel presents his thoughts on time and the two other characters accept, reject, or elaborate upon his thoughts.

10. Melody is stunned when Joel fails to qualify as a Rithmatist for a second time. Were you? Imagine you are a student at Armedius Academy in whom Joel has confided about his second inception room experience. Write a detailed petition statement demanding a third inception ceremony for Joel. If desired, read your statement aloud to friends or classmates and invite them to vote on whether they would be in favor of a third inception ceremony.

11. Use oil pastels or other visual arts media to create a colorful, illustrated postcard invitation— or design a mock Facebook event page—to encourage people to attend the end-of-year student Melee at Armedius Academy.

12. Assume the character of a Rithmatic student in your final year at Armedius before being sent to complete your education at Nebrask. Create your own chalkling, drawn with chalk on a sheet of black construction paper. On a large index card, write a brief description of your chalkling, how you came to draw this particular form, the name of the Rithmatic defense with which it is most effective, and your proudest accomplishment as a fledgling Rithmatist. If desired, create a display of "Rithmatic Artworks" by combining your drawing and description with pictures created by friends or classmates.


1. The prologue of The Rithmatist describes something frightening happening to a girl named Lilly. However, it is not until later in the novel that the reader fully realizes what these opening pages have described. How might you interpret the events of the prologue before reading further in The Rithmatist? What images and emotions from the prologue resonate through the rest of the novel? After reading the whole novel, how would you reinterpret the prologue? Why, in terms of plot and themes, do you think the author chose to begin his novel with this scene featuring the first Rithmatic student disappearance?

2.From the start of the novel, it is clear that Joel is frustrated by his lack of Rithmatic talent. How does this affect his actions throughout the story? Describe at least two ways in which Joel is an outsider at Armedius Academy. Then, name at least two ways in which Joel is more of a Rithmatist than many of the chosen Rithmatic students.

3. What is Joel's relationship with Professor Fitch? Why is he so upset when Fitch loses the duel to Nalizar? To what important new responsibility does this lead for Joel? Why has Melody found herself under the tutelage of Fitch?

4. Describe Joel's relationships with Exton, Florence, and his mother, all non-Rithmatist characters. What secrets do these characters keep about their connection to Rithmatics? What conclusions might you draw about the relationships between Rithmatists and others in the greater world?

5. Between chapters of the novel, diagrams illustrate the art of Rithmatics. As a reader, how do you connect with these instructional elements? How do they help you to build a clearer sense of the world of Rithmatic fighting? Does this complex scheme, thoroughly taught to only a select few, remind you of any realms of scholarship or leadership in your own world? Explain your answer.

6.List all of the characters Joel considers as suspects before the capture of the real kidnapper. What important discovery does Joel make about the mysterious new chalk symbol found at each crime scene that helps him solve the mystery? What might the discovery of this new symbol foretell about the future of Rithmatics?

7. How are the kidnapped children rescued? What is a Forgotten? Do you think the Forgotten has any relationship to the creature Joel sees in the inception room? Why or why not?

8. Why did the kidnapper embark on his spree? Do you think any one individual—even Joel—could have stopped him?

9. At the end of the novel, the "Professor Fitch" Melee team of Joel and Melody impress their audience because "…they were two students who didn't just duel. They fought. They understood." (p. 369) What is the difference between fighting and dueling? How might Joel and Melody's perceived weaknesses in Rithmatics have led to this impressive victory? Have you ever struggled with a weakness, such as a learning difficulty or family problem, that has ultimately made you stronger?

10. What are your feelings about Nalizar at the end of the novel? Do you think he was trying to harm or save Joel and Melody during their heroic encounter with the kidnapper?

11. Where is Joel at the end of the novel? How would you describe the danger facing the world now that the kidnapping mystery has been solved? What role do you feel Joel ought to play in this ongoing battle?

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The Rithmatist 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
MereChristian More than 1 year ago
Brandon Sanderson is known for his inventive and intricate systems of magic that he develops for his novels. His are sort of the opposite of Terry Brooks and other authors' fantasy settings wherein the magic is inherently unpredictable and unsystematic. Which type of story-telling is preferable is up for debate. I kind of like both types of stories, those <i>with</i> , and those <i>without</i> , orderly and logical systems of magic. In his new YA novel, <i>The Rithmatist</i> , Sanderson has the incredibly detailed and consistent magic system called &ldquo;Rithmatics&rdquo;, but with a twist. You see, the main protagonist, who knows the most there is to know about this system is <i>not</i> a Rithmatist. The teenage boy, Joel, is the son of a chalkmaker, who has always shared his late father's fascination for Rithmatics. The essential gist of Rithmatics is that, by the use of intricate drawings with chalk, based in mathematics in part (thus the name of the system), the talented Rithmatist can create defenses and little animals (called &ldquo;chalklings&rdquo;) that do their bidding. Of course, there is so much more to this story than what I've said so far, but to say too much more would be to massively spoil the story. Anyone who has read Sanderson's novels knows that he is apt to have one huge revelation after another in the second half to last third of his books. So, in order to not give away huge plot points, I can't say too much, except that Joel is, despite not being a Rithmatist, much more special to whatever otherworldly forces are at work on the side of the good guys. There really wasn't much to critique here. I think that the set-up is interesting, in that one could argue it is a non-wizard against a group of the most powerful evil magic-users. I suppose that the book's ending could be seen as a let-down. It concludes with a major revelation of defeat and a victory by Joel and his friend/sort-of girlfriend, Melody (who is, unlike Joel, a Rithmatist), and.... that's it. We see some of the results of Joel's victory, but not all. What will happen with the amazing feat Melody and Joel accomplished at the end? We shall see. The ending was one massive sequel hook that felt a little flat. But that is about the only criticism I can think of about this book. I think that Sanderson handled the burgeoning friendship and potential romance between Joel and Melody quite well. Joel and Melody don't have some passionate love affair, but they are obviously leaning towards developing feelings for each other. It is a teenage crush type of situation that is written in a really sweet way. Then there is Mr. Fitch, who does a fine job of being a really great character, even while being mild and fearful. His awesomeness at the end (minor spoiler there!) will not be foreseeable given his nervousness and fearfulness for part of the book. I just have to say that the type of informal family made up of Joel, his mom, Fitch, and Melody was really nice and fun to root for and read about. One quick note for those who read the book is to pay attention to the descriptions of Rithmatic concepts before each chapter, they seem to be applicable to a certain event near the end of the book. At least, that was my interpretation from the use of a certain feminine personal pronoun. Once again, Sanderson delivers a master-stroke, this time for the YA market. Highly Recommended.
dibbylodd More than 1 year ago
I had read an excerpt of this book before it came out and was very intrigued. It seemed like a new and interesting idea. Now I've read the book and I am delighted. It is really fun with well developed characters and a fascinating plot. The combination of the firm geometry of the Rithmatists' work with the creativity of the chalklings they draw is a wonderful mix of right brain and left brain. And the real power is shown to be the balanced combination of the two. Well done, Brandon Sanderson! I eagerly look forward to more.
Kayaditi More than 1 year ago
Have I read anything this cool since Harry Potter for the age 10 and up crowd? Wait, let me think... um... I got nothing. Sanderson is brilliant. So brilliant that I'd like to propose that he get someone to design a computer game where we draw with our own stylus-chalk and have our own duels. It could be similar to Scribblenauts. On steroids. Do a fan a solid and get on that, would ya Brandon? I have chalklings to conjure! Chalk. Yes, you heard me. Scary chalk. That is the brilliance Sanderson has conjured. If it weren't for Smartboards and dry-erase markers, kids would be cringing in their classrooms every time a 'fed-up' teacher headed for the chalkboard after reading this novel.  Was it a dare or something, Brandon? A creative drink at the Taco Mac and a friend says, &quot;A great author could make anything fascinating. Like... chalk.&quot; (One side of Brandon's mouth kicks up. Dare accepted.) And won. Chalk of all things. Well played, Mr. Sanderson. Well played.
thewebwoman More than 1 year ago
Brandon really knows how to bring his characters to life in such a way that you become completely absorbed into the world he has woven with his words.   I found myself totally believing the world he created and his mastery of creating new forms of magic and the society that is affected by it is impressive. I have read other books by him and I never cease to be impressed with the uniqueness of the worlds he creates.  Awesome read.  Only drawback is that now I have to wait for the next one to come out.
ptalarczyk More than 1 year ago
Another great book from Brandon Sanderson! This has a great story and is a very quick read. It's definitely more young adult than other works from Brandon.  The story is great as well as the characters. I was sad when I finished it because the next book in the series isn't out yet. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sanderson really has a way with words. This book, even with no sequel or even major victory/conclusion, is a fun, satisfying read. To be honest, it even got kinda scary (at least, I was creeped out). Evil chalk? Brilliantly exciting. I whole-heartedly recommend this book to anybody and everybody. I thouroughly enjoyed it and cannot wait for a second!
mandylyn More than 1 year ago
Sanderson presents an alternate earth with an alternate history involving the mysterious chalklings. An intriguing mysterious, great characters and a dying need for the sequel to come very soon!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book had me from the start. It is creative, interesting and spell binding.
Tina_Chan More than 1 year ago
¿Author: Brandon Sanderson Genre: steampunk/mystery/fantasy Review:  I picked up this book soley based on the cover (I know, I know--&quot;don't judge a book by its cover&quot;.) It seemed like a steampunk themed novel based on the cover. In reality, while there were some steampunk genre traits found in The Rithmatist, it was far less than I expected. Nevertheless, I still really enjoyed--no, loved--the book. This novel reads much like a fantasy book. It was not later until I  found out Brandon Sanderson is a well known fantasy author. At first, I was a bit confused about how the world worked in The Rithmatist. Some of the countries mentioned were familiar and others I have never heard of. Some of the concepts found in the book were also hard to grasp at first, but later on I got to understand. Filled with beautiful illustrations to help explain the workings of chalking in The Rithmatist, I felt as if I knew how the world Sanderson created  inside and out. Like I haven't made it obvious already, the world building in The Rithmatist ¿is phenomenal. The details are specific but not overwhelming. The concepts of chalklings (I'll get to that in a sec) are unique and well planned. I felt as if the author carefully crafted the world so that he knows it inside out. For example, a mechanical crab is described to trim the school's lawn. It is described much like a mechanical robot with feelers that prevent it from cutting things that is not grass. It's this type of details that really submerge me into this  world. Alright, next up is the chalking and chalklings. In this fantastical world, Rithmatists--people with the ability to bring chalk drawing to life- -protect citizens from wild chalklings. Chalklings are basically two dimensional creatures that are &quot;alive&quot;. Wild chalklings are dangerous  and can harm people. Rithmatists can draw their own chalklings to keep the wild ones under control. Student Rithmatists can create their own chalklings, but their chalklings can't cause actual harm; only graduated Rithmatists learn the secret to make their chalklings potentially dangerous. In this world, only 1 in 1000 people are chosen by the Master to become a Rithmatist at a ceremony called the inception.  Joel attends a prestigious private school that offers some of the best Rithmatist schooling in the world. In addition to teaching Rithmatists, the school also serves the sons and daughters of wealthy, important and influential people. Joel isn't a Rithmatist (though he wants to be one more than anything) and his parents aren't rich or powerful. The only reason why he could attend the school was because his father--a  chalkmaker--worked for the school but died. His mother remained on the campus as a cleaning lady. As a result, Joel received free tuition.  Life isn't easy for Joel. Although he is extremely skilled at drawing and understanding Rithmatist concepts, he doesn't have the ability to  actually bring his chalk drawings to life. Also, all of the students more or less ignore Joel. When Rithmatist students start to disappear  mysteriously (evidence suggests that these students are dead), Joel jumps onto the chance to help Professor Fitch solve this mystery. ¿Alright, enough said about the plot. All I can say is that the mystery aspect of the novel had me guessing with every clue popping up.  Nevertheless, I could have foreseen the murderer.  ****Spoiler alert*** Okay, remember how I said Joel didn't get chosen to become a  Rithmatist? About 3/4 into the book, he is given a second chance to complete   the inception because his first one wasn't done correctly . I was so positive that Joel would become a Rithmatist a second time because he had so much talent and he wanted to be one sooooo badly. I was CRUSHED that Joel still wasn't chosen. I literally reread that chapter to make sure I had read it right....Poor Joel... Final thoughts: excellent book if you like steampunk and fantasy books. Even better if you love exploring books with creative worlds. Likes:     *good mystery     *incredible world building     *lovable characters Dislikes:     *some of the Rithmatist concepts were hard to grasp at first
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brandon sanderson doesn't disappoint!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As is everything Brandon Sanderson.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was surprised how much I liked this - the author is very hit or miss with me... The world is both new and yet very familiar and the characters understandable. With a few plot twists mixed in, Im excited for the next one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great book that comes out with a bang and gets better from there. Well developed characters and a great plot. A must read!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read, great twist at the end I didn't see coming which I love given I figure out most plots by the second chapter. Supremely annoyed I have to wait on the next book and nervous his other big hits will influence this new series and make it predictable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this because my daughter likes this genre. It was a fun read.
GadZooks More than 1 year ago
An amazing work of pure art. This book ought to earn a place on everyone's bookshelf. The plot was superb; the characters imperfect and beautifully crafted; the villain(s) wonderfully ominous. Brandon Sanderson has created something truly brilliant: a book that I am sure will be cherished for generations. I, for one, will be passing this book on to my own children one day. This book has earned a spot on my Favorites shelf, as well as on my "Re-Read" list. And it is very hard for a book to make on the latter. This book has a unique take on the world, and on magic. It is not the cliched magic of other fantasy worlds, where magic is drawn from some internal well of power but is instead a gift given by the Creator. Being a Christain, I appreciate this, and I wish with all my heart that such an art really did exist in our world. I am looking forward to the second installment of this series, hopefully in the near future. Read on, and may God bless you with Rithmatism. :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the book.. can't wait for the next one to come out. The story telling of Sanderson is always right on!
GNadig More than 1 year ago
Wow. Oh, wow. This book was sooo good. I loved every part of it--except for the "to-be-continued" ending. Can we get a release date for The Aztlanian please? I devoured this book. It has been a long while since I've read a book that fast, and it felt good. I loved the entire plot, the amazing world-building, the fantastic characters....I could go on and on. This book is definitely worthy of its five star rating. The plot was thrilling. As an artist, the idea of chalk drawings coming to life was very intriguing, and it was exciting to see how Sanderson spun out the mystery. He did an excellent job of weaving in unexpected twists and turns to keep the mystery going until the very end. My only complaint would be that the mystery was wrapped up very quickly in the end, leaving me wondering if that really was the solution, or if there was something more in store. And it ended with "To be continued," and some unresolved loose ends. Not cool--how am I supposed to survive until the sequel comes out? The world-building was phenomenal. It was completely unlike any other setting I've ever read. It was based on the premise of "what if America was actually an archipelago of islands?" It also had some other twists in history, but I'll let you discover them for yourself. Part alternate history, part fantasy, it had a familiar feel to it while still being original. It even had touches of steampunk--er, springpunk? And the magic of the Rithmatists? It was awesome. I loved how it was based on logical principles and geometric properties. I can't wait to read more about it in the next book. One note: the Monarchical Church in the book seems Christian in nature at first, and is classified with other Christian denominations. However, from the little tidbits that were in the book, it seems more of a religion glorifying science, along with some ritualistic aspects that could become dark very quickly. I would be wary letting younger children read this book on their own--if they do, at least discuss with them the religious views the characters hold to, and how that differs from Christianity to avoid confusion and misunderstanding. The characters were great. Quite well-developed and life-like. My personal favorite was Melody--I loved her spunky, melodramatic personality, and all the hilarious comments she added. When I first started the book, it was a little hard to figure out whose POV it was from, but it became clearer within the first few pages. By the way, I kept wanting to call Joel "Joe" instead. Not sure why--I just thought it fit him better. Wrap-up: This was a really fun, exciting read. It's a blend of magical realism, alternate reality, and steampunk. I highly recommend it. Just a warning though: the explanation behind the origin of Rithmatist powers was hinted at, and it points to a rather dark theory. Some of the religious aspects, a fight scene toward the end, and the actual villain were very creepy and disturbing. Not for the weak of stomach. Rating: 5 stars Recommended: 14 and up. Content guide (may contain minor spoilers): Language: 1/10 ("dusts,"and "dusting," were common ejaculations.) Sexual Content: 1/10 (mentions of dress showing quite a bit of leg, a girl being pretty, etc) Violence: 7/10 (most of the attacks are off page, though the end fight scene is very creepy. the wild chalklings eat off the skin and eyes of victims. one "historical" account of a chalkling attack is pretty disturbing.) Blog:
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Where is book two!?!?! This was better than Steelheart!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book for just about any age!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Probably my favorite sanderson novel behind the stormlight archive. Definitely would recommend it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Easy and interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read nearly all of Sanderson's work. I have come to the conclusion that having him do the wheel of time series is the greatest disservice to his writing to date. This book is yet another example of his skill in making even a whimsical and somewhat childish premise suck a reader of any age into a fantastically well constructed story. My only lament is the lack of a second installment as I write this. Sanderson knows no living equal in literary skill.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rowanhood More than 1 year ago