I love magic, in all their varieties. From the Latin-language base of Harry Potter to the 4 bending disciplines of Avatar to the linking ages of Myst (Okay, I haven’t played the game, but the magic still interests me) Light and Dark imagination from the Looking Glass Wars, Oculary powers from Alcatraz, and even the Contractors from Darker than Black.
The only brand of magic I really didn’t care for was Eragon.
And then Brandon Sanderson comes out with The Rithmatist and creates the most logical magic I have ever read. This is magic that doesn’t play like magic, but a magic that plays like a science.
Which I honestly think is how humans would react to a new power or technology. “Let’s find every way to quantify what this thing can do.” JK Rowling covered this vaguely and barely in The Goblet of Fire, but simply saying tech and magic don’t mix isn’t enough. We as humans are pernicious enough that given a single spell we’d find every parameter of a single spell. We’d skirt right up to the line between magic and technology and even straddle that line when we get the chance.
Furthermore, simply stating that emotional expression marks the power of the spell really doesn’t do much. What about the sociopathic wizard who doesn’t have much in the way of emotions at all? Or the psychotic angry person, who can be both angry and happy at the same time? or the calm angry person? Both are different emotional responses.
But, back to the Rithmatist. The magic here is done by chalk drawings, and there’s a quantifiable way to see the effectiveness of one’s spell-creating. If a circle is off, there’s a way to tell how to fix it or what went wrong. Not that it matters to Joel, the main character. He’s fantastic at chalk drawing and rithmatic casting, but he’s not a Rithmatist, so his drawings don’t do a darned thing, no matter how accurate. But he dreams of knowing everything about Rithmancy.
His wealth of knowledge comes in handy when rithmatic students start disappearing from Armedius Academy. No one is sure whether it’s a person kidnapping the students, or if it’s the wild chalkings, two dimensional creatures made from chalk.
I’ve really got to hand it to Brandon Sanderson on this on. His world is both believable and extraordinary. America has been reduced to the United Isles, a collaboration of 60 islands each with their own senators. Joel’s got to figure out what’s going on and right beside him is Melody, a Rithmatic student who can perform magic, but can’t draw to save her life. It’s a pretty good match up. You can tell it’s coming right from the beginning, but their interactions are humorous the whole way through.
This is Brandon Sanderson’s second round in middle school literature. His first series is entitled Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, which has been a real inspiration for me in my writing.
So, a little predictability gets lost in a really big world that we can easily imagine and is still new. It’s getting eight out of ten. I’d have said out of five, but I’m finding a lot more books that get a percentage between four and five, and I don’t like math.