The Rithmatist is an alternate history - another masterful and fun piece by Sanderson with a great satisfying closer set around 1900. In it, a sixteen year old boy named Joel grapples with not being a Rithmatist - having the power to draw chalk that comes alive. People duel each other with chalk, building defenses, launching attacks and creatures called "chalklings", all to prepare to fight at Nebrask. Nebrask houses a tower full of wild chalklings that must be constantly surrounded, trapped and fought by Rithmatists. Otherwise, they swarm out, crawl up people's skin and eat the flesh from their bones. Though not a Rithmatist, Joel finds himself in the center of an investigation to catch a killer. Someone is capturing or killing teenagers - young Rithmatists - by swarming them with chalkings. Why would anyone do such a thing? Read the book to find out! It's going to be a series and I highly recommend it.
Why I liked this book, more about Rithmatics
Sanderson likes to base his magic systems on rules and principles and Rithmatics is no different. This "chalk magic" fascinated me. It has rules - lines of forbiddence draw up force field barriers that people cannot cross. Circles of chalk, "circles of warding," are a defensive barrier against attack. Chalklings, 2D chalk creatures, work better the better they are drawn, but must be guided by instructions to do anything smart. Wild chalklings can somehow think on their own. Mathematics is integral to everything. If one cannot draw a properly round circle, it is a much weaker defense. And one can only add defenses to the circle by placing other circles and lines at geometric points around it - four points, six, nine.
The sense of mystery is great and as usual, Sanderson also creates great characters. Though I feel a veteran when it comes to books, the ending of this one still managed to surprise me. It's also got a very enjoyable and easy-to-read style. I highly recommend it! Seriously, go pick it up and enjoy a weekend of fun.