“The Rithmatist” by Brandon Sanderson

The RithmatistThe Rithmatist
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Read Date: 10 June 2013
Goodreads Reading Status Updates: None. I was too busy reading and bookmarking on Kindle for PC!
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Review Preview: Adults will appreciate the layers and complexities in the world and in the plot that Sanderson so carefully constructed, while younger readers will definitely enjoy the brisk plot and the familiar YA and fantasy elements, as well as Sanderson’s trademark humor. And everyone will be creeped out by the twists and turns and the story’s villain.

✎ ✎ ✎ ✎ ✎ ✎ ✎

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.


 
To be honest, this must be Sanderson’s most WTF-inducing magic system yet. I mean, hello, moving chalk figures?! The thing is, it’s also one of his most inventive and exciting creations so far.

WARNING: Here There Be (mild) Spoilers. I won’t spoil major plot points, but I will discuss the magic system, and I have to mention a few significant events.

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“Infinity Blade: Awakening” by Brandon Sanderson

Title: Infinity Blade: Awakening
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Read Date: 11 April 2012
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Review Preview: Short and sweet!
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Trained from birth in swordplay and combat, a young knight named Siris has journeyed to the Dark Citadel with a single purpose: fight through the army of Titans to face the tyrannical God King in one-on-one combat. This was his father’s sacred mission, and his father’s before him, going back countless generations in an effort to free their people from enslavement. But when Siris somehow succeeds where all those from his bloodline previously have failed, he finds himself cast into a much larger world, filled with warriors and thieves, ancient feuds and shifting alliances, Deathless immortals and would-be kings. His quest for freedom will take him on an epic journey in search of the mythical figure known as the Worker of Secrets—the one being in the world who can unravel the secrets of the Infinity Blade.

Based on the bestselling video game from ChAIR Entertainment and Epic Games, this all-new adventure from acclaimed fantasy author Brandon Sanderson digs deeper into the fantastical world of Infinity Blade, a world of mystery and intrigue where magic and technology are indistinguishable, and even life and death are not what they seem.

Like he did in Mistborn, Branderson explores the concept of deities, their (im)mortality, and their place in a society whose traditions revolve around these entities in Infinity Blade: Awakening; it’s something that he does well.

I like the little plot twists that he managed to include even if this is just a novella, and of course, I love the dry humor. I also like that there are familiar fantasy creatures (trolls, golems–probably a holdover from the game) and that they are used in an interesting way.

Siris is not as compelling a character as Brandon’s other heroes, but he makes enough of an impression to at least carry the story. Same goes for Isa and even the God King. I’m not going to complain about this too much because there was little room to explore the characters in such a short story anyway.

I’m not sure how much of the magic system in play here is Brandon’s and how much is from the Infinity Blade game, but it works. I love how the basic concepts of our modern technology were integrated with fantasy tropes to create a rather entertaining system from a reader’s point of view, but one that also feels organic to the world of the novella. Looks like someone took Niven’s Law (“Any sufficiently rigorously defined magic is indistinguishable from technology.”) to heart. 😉

He glanced at his ring; its runes weren’t glowing. It hadn’t recharged yet. His hand brushed the throne as he moved, and there was a beep from the magical mirror on the armrest.

“Ring of Transportation,” the helpful voice said, “fifteenth generation, running service pack six. Please enter the password for activation.”

“Damn you!” Siris sputtered.

“Incorrect password.”

 
I can imagine all of it working nicely in the context of the video game, too.

It’s a pity this is just a companion piece to the game because I really want to see more of this world.

“The Alloy of Law” by Brandon Sanderson

 

Title: The Alloy of Law
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Read Date: 1 December 2011
Goodreads Reading Progress Status Updates: Click here. May contain spoilers.
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars (I really liked it!)

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Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is now on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.

Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history—or religion. Yet even as science and technology are reaching new heights, the old magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for the brave men and women attempting to establish order and justice.

One such is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn, who can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax has been forced by family tragedy to return to the metropolis of Elendel. Now he must reluctantly put away his guns and assume the duties and dignity incumbent upon the head of a noble house. Or so he thinks, until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs.

 
If Brandon Sanderson’s imagined worlds were real, I would find myself establishing residency on Scadrial, the world of the Mistborn series. It’s a rough world, but Allomancy and Feruchemy fascinate me so much, I couldn’t care less.

Scadrial as it is now, circa The Alloy of Law, is very different from the world that readers saw at the end of The Hero of Ages. The magic system, mythology, and society have evolved, and someone has discovered electricity. Horse-drawn carriages roll down the streets as railroad tracks extend out of the capital city of Elendel and far into the Roughs.

Remember Back to the Future III, when Marty and Doc were in the year 1885? This incarnation of Scadrial has that kind of Western vibe. It’s as if Alloy is Sanderson’s very own flux-capacitor-powered locomotive and he invited readers on board for a temporal joyride. The world also feels a lot like Firefly if you replace the advanced technology with magic so “sufficiently analyzed” and applied that it’s almost science.

I love how Scadrial has evolved. I’ve never seen a fantasy world change through time before, not even in a long-running series like Dragonlance. Granted, I haven’t read every fantasy series out there, but it’s only logical that things should change after 300 years! This makes for a fascinating study of how authors can still expand the genre and keep a book series fresh.

Alloy is an easy read. The core story is less taxing to the emotions (The Hero of Ages made me cry) and there are no spectacular plot surprises or big world-changing events, but it’s still an enjoyable and action-packed adventure.

What happens when thirty gun-toting bandits infiltrate a wedding feast packed with several hundred noblemen and there are only 2 Allomancers around to uphold the law? You get an action scene worthy of a Hollywood movie! I still maintain that should Sanderson want to quit writing, he can get a job as a stunt consultant for a movie. 😛

Alloy also features two other things that I love about Sanderson’s writing: witty dialogue and in-depth reflections on the themes of the book. Yes, I admit to liking the long philosophical discussions on the nature of crime and the law! They really make me think.

 
My biggest problem with Alloy is–and this isn’t personal but more a concern for other readers–while it’s a good stand-alone in terms of the plot and the characters, it seems to still require some prior knowledge of the first Mistborn trilogy. Sanderson did take the time to explain the magic system and some history in the beginning, but there are references that may go over the heads of the uninitiated or those who haven’t finished reading the trilogy. On hindsight, people who don’t know Mistborn at all might not pick this book up anyway, but in case someone does, they might not get the full benefit of the Alloy reading experience.

Reading Alloy after The Way of Kings is both bane and boon for me. I miss the deliberate plotting and the detailed treatment in Kings, but it’s obvious that this wasn’t meant to be as big as that or Sanderson’s other books in terms of scope. At the same time, it’s a relief to read something fun and light in an epic fantasy setting, and to know that he can pull something like this off. And I mean “light” literally as well–Alloy won’t seriously injure you if you accidentally drop it on your foot. 😛

If this book isn’t part of the second Mistborn trilogy, it’s certainly a big step forward from the first one. We’ve had our sneak peek, and when that next trilogy finally comes along, it looks like Mistborn fans will be in for an epic treat.

Speaking of treats…

The Alloy of Law is available as an audiobook narrated by Michael Kramer, who also narrated The Wheel of Time series and Sanderson’s other books. Here is an excerpt from the audiobook:

Thanks to MacMillan Audio for providing me with the audio excerpt to include here! 🙂

There are also text excerpts and other goodies over at Tor.com.

If you’re reading this post even if you haven’t read Sanderson and would like recommendations for a good First Read, try Elantris or Mistborn: The Final Empire.