Profile: Young Adult, Fantasy, Steampunk
So Brandon Sanderson took a break from his endless list of epic fantasy projects in order to dabble in the ‘Young Adult’ fantasy market. The result is, in many ways, a well-written subversion of the Harry Potter books. Of course there’s more to The Rithmatist than that, but it does seem that Sanderson was aiming to distance himself as much as possible from the story of a kid chosen by fate to save the world from evil. Unfortunately, it’s still the story (and the characters) he ended up writing.
The Rithmatist’s protagonist is Joel Saxon, a super-nerd with an obsession with Rithmatics. Joel attends the prestigious Armedius Academy, one of only eight schools allowed to teach Rithmatists, not because he is good at Rithmatics, but because his parents worked there as a chalk-maker and a janitor. Joel has no magical abilities whatsoever, but his obsessive study of the art has given him incredible knowledge its theory and practice. When Rithmatist students begin disappearing, Joel is drawn to the case but quickly finds himself in over his head.