If a friend walked up to me and said, Joel you really need to read this book The Rithmatist. It's about a boy who goes to school at a university where half the students are Rithmatists and the other half are normal. Rithmatists draw circles and figures on the ground with chalk and fight each other. I'd probably laugh and say something snide and completely dismiss the book. And in all honesty that would have been a shame.
Behind this bizarre idea is a pretty good book. The story revolves around Joel (great name) who's attending the university for the best and the brightest after his father passed away in an accident many years before. When some students start to go missing Joel is there to help Professor Fitch solve the mystery. There is nothing about The Rithmatist that's entirely new or original but its a good story. There are some good twists albeit not shocking.
The Rithmatist is classified as a young adult novel and with that come the novels greatest hindrances. There are so many fantasy novels with kids attending school that some tropes feel a bit overused. There's young romance, a lesser privileged student who has the drive to succeed. There were times where I hoped Brandon Sanderson who break out of the norm and push the series. I've enjoyed past Sanderson Books (Steelheart & Mistborn Final Empire) because they tried to be different. In a lot of ways the risk of the books magic system (they use chalk after all) is overdone by what ends up being a pretty safe and predictable novel.
And yet I still enjoyed the short read and might even continue the series if/when the next book is released.