Boxers and Saints
by Gene Luen Yang

January 18, 2014 Book Reviews, Books 0

Yang_Boxers Yang_Saints
★ ★ ★ ★

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang | September 2013 | First Second (an imprint of Macmillan) | Boxed set $34.99

In two volumes, Boxers and Saints tells two parallel stories. The first is of Little Bao, a Chinese peasant boy whose village is abused and plundered by Westerners claiming the role of missionaries. Little Bao, inspired by visions of the Chinese gods, joins a violent uprising against the Western interlopers. Against all odds, their grass-roots rebellion is successful.

But in the second volume, Yang lays out the opposite side of the conflict. A girl whose village has no place for her is taken in by Christian missionaries and finds, for the first time, a home with them. As the Boxer Rebellion gains momentum, Vibiana must decide whether to abandon her Christian friends or to commit herself fully to Christianity.

I recommend that you read Boxers and Saints together. Though the stories are fictional, and do include some fantasy elements, I still think I learned more about China during this time period than I ever did in history class at school — probably because I kept feeling compelled to look things up as I read!

Despite the really difficult subject matter, I think the author did a great job of keeping the story perfectly “age appropriate” … that is, not for little kids but not at grad dissertation level either. The atrocities of war and what it can do to otherwise normal, relatable people — particularly in a “civil” war — are not glossed over, but are presented clearly in lovingly illustrated but unflinchingly realistic fashion (despite the bits of fantasy and the usual narrative license you get from historical fiction, I guess). Maybe I’m getting a little overenthusiastic with my adjectives, but I’m not sure how else to describe what I mean.

Definitely recommended for folks interested in war histories and/or the history of China, those who want to try graphic novels but who aren’t tempted by the popular superhero stories, and readers who are willing to face the philosophical difficulties of human nature.


Publication information: Yang, Gene Luen. Boxers. New York: First Second Books, 2013. Print.; Yang, Gene Luen. Saints. New York: First Second Books, 2013. Print.
Source: Public library
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns
by Rae Carson

January 6, 2014 Book Reviews, Books 0

Carson_GOFAT Carson_CrownofEmbers Carson_BitterKingdom
★ ★ ★ ★

The Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Crown of Embers, and The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson | Greenwillow (an imprint of HarperCollins) | 2011 – 2013 | Hardcover $17.99

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. Elisa is the chosen one. But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king — a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess. And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.

I really liked the first book in this series, The Girl of Fire and Thorns. There’s quite a lot of action from start to finish, which I think makes up for the slower character development… or in some cases complete lack of development, but if you’re looking for a quick-paced YA high-ish fantasy, this is it. My main beef was with the religious/magic system, which seems to be based on some combo of Catholicism and some kind of pink-toy-aisle idea of sparkly things = power… shiny gemstones implanted in your belly button make you special? Really? But I know I’m being a grumpy cynic here, and a little eye-rolling over this doesn’t really affect my enjoyment of the book all THAT much, so whatevs.

The Crown of Embers is pretty strong second installment… and I’m always a little wary of YA trilogies, because it is so so so easy for the second book to be nothing more than exposition/set-up for the 3rd book, but thankfully that was not the case for this one! It had enough action and character growth to stand up for itself, I think.

The Bitter Kingdom is a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, with plenty of little twists and turns to keep the reader guessing but ultimately gratifying. Still plenty of space for a continuation of the series, too, should the author decide to try it (or space for the reader to let her imagination run free, should she feel so inclined).

Let’s get real for a minute: the series as a whole is just a little hokey, honestly. I mean, the entire thing revolves around a princess with a magical gemstone in her belly button for heaven’s sake. But it’s all super fun anyway if the reader can just get over it. Reminded me of Tamora Pierce’s Alanna stories.

That said — and I’m not the only one who’s noticed this, based on Goodreads reviews — Carson could have used a way more thorough editor for this series! I try to be forgiving because, hey, mistakes happen, and the story is strong enough to draw me in anyway, but all the little mistakes really started to add up!

Actually, I found myself wishing that the books were done as a full-fledged series rather than “just” a trilogy. Glowing belly jewels aside, I think the story and the world it’s built in could easily have been expanded (and in some ways refined) into multiple huge volumes… but maybe that’s just me.


Publication information: Carson, Rae. The Girl of Fire and Thorns. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2011. Print. ; Carson, Rae. The Crown of Embers. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2012. Print. ; Carson, Rae. The Bitter Kingdom. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2013. Print.
Source: Public library
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.

by Rachel Hartman

December 1, 2013 Book Reviews, Books 0


★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman | Random House Books for Young Readers | July 2012 | Hardcover $17.99

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

One of my new favs! I checked it out from the library, but I think I’ll be buying a copy of my own as soon as I can.

Seraphina is the first book in a new young adult fantasy series by Rachel Hartman. The story is set forty years after the end of the war between humans and dragons in a kingdom where both species must attempt to share both space and knowledge. The peace is tenuous, though, and the particularly gruesome murder of a member of the royal family seems to indicate rising dragon aggression. Tensions between the species are mounting despite the best efforts of the leaders on both sides. Titular character Seraphina suddenly finds herself in the middle of it all when she is thrust into the spotlight as the court’s most talented young musician and confidant of the heirs to the throne, despite her attempts to avoid attention in order to guard the terrible secret of her true heritage.

This is a book that can easily be enjoyed by both teen and adult fans of fantasy fiction. It might also be a great story for parents to share with their younger kids, though the reading level is definitely most appropriate for middle to high schoolers. It has all of the expected elements of a classic fantasy tale: looming war, royal drama, a bit of magic, and, of course, dragons. However, the story itself is anything but expected. The reader will be delighted by little surprises throughout and will finish each chapter wondering what will happen next and trying to guess who did what.

The plot wraps up nicely at the end, though the reader is left wanting more – not in the way that one is left unsatisfied after eating a bag of chips, but in the way one hopes to return to a restaurant after enjoying an exquisitely perfect meal. Hartman’s fans will be happy to know that her next novel, tentatively titled Shadowscale, is expected in early 2014. Readers can also enjoy her short story, The Audition (a prequel to Seraphina), in ebook form for free at Scribd, an online library/publishing platform.

Winner of both the William C. Morris YA Debut Award and the Cybil for Fantasy & Science Fiction, Hartman’s first novel is highly recommended by professional critics and recreational readers alike. Seraphina is also included in this year’s Teens’ Top Ten list, which is put together by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) each year. The list is released on Celebrate Teen Literature Day in April and teens have all summer to read as many of the 28 nominated titles as they can. Teens can then vote for their favorites when nominations open in August. Winners will be announced during Teen Read Week in October. The list can be found online on YALSA’s website.


A version of this review originally appeared in the Galveston Daily News in May 2013. My opinions do not reflect the views of my employer.

Publication information: Hartman, Rachel. Seraphina. New York: Random House, 2012. Print.
Source: Public library
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.

Going Bovine
by Libba Bray

November 1, 2013 Book Reviews, Books 0

★ ★ ★ 

Going Bovine by Libba Bray | Delacorte Books | September 2009 | Paperback $10.99

All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school — and life in general — with a minimum of effort. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: he’s sick and he’s going to die. Which totally sucks. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure — if he’s willing to go in search of it. With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most.

Read this one on a long, cramped airplane trip. I bring that up because the odd reading circumstances may have colored my opinions.

Libba Bray (an awesome Texas author with a real connection with her fans) give us unique story over all, even if the road-trip-as-coming-of-age-story thing gets to be a little cliché sometimes… but there’s just enough weirdness to make it different and keep up the head scratching.

The ending drags out a little, and it is not a surprise BUT it still manages to tug lightly at the reader’s heartstrings. Think of this book as a cross between Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Catcher in the Rye. Definitely recommended for readers who like ’em a little weird!

You see that big shiny medal with the “P” on the front cover? That means this book won the prestigious Printz Award in 2010. Fans of Libba Bray, author of  the popular Gemma Doyle series and contributor to some awesome story collections like Zombies vs. Unicorns and 21 Proms, will be pleased to know that she is currently working on Lair of Dreams (a sequel to The Diviners, which was nominated for both the Bram Stoker and Andre Norton awards last year).


Publication information: Bray, Libba. Going Bovine. New York: Delacorte, 2009. Print.
Source: Public library
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.

A Good Day

October 1, 2013 Adventures 0


Went to the beach down in Galveston with a couple of friends. It was nice.

There’s a lot of housework to be done. And books to read and videos to watch and music to listen to and blogs to comment on.

Today, the world doesn’t feel like such a bad place.

Hawaii – Part 2

September 22, 2013 Adventures 0


A continuation of Hawaii – Part 1 . . .

Third day

The 3rd (and last full) day of our trip was possibly the best.

We went to Hanauma Bay! Like, for real this time. We got there pretty early. They were preparing to close the parking lot but there was still plenty of space and the line to get in wasn’t super awful.


Visitors have to watch a quick video about beach safety and the ecology of the bay before entering the park. It was a pretty decent video, I guess, but what really got to me were the people who just kept talking or blowing up their floaties or whatever while it was going, like they clearly didn’t care one bit about either safety or ecology, and sure enough there were way too many damn people STANDING ON THE REEF out in the bay, and this filled me with a MURDEROUS RAGE but I managed not to commit homicide and ruin the rest of our vacation.


Gary packed his own flippers and snorkel set. I get weirdly claustrophobic with full face masks and snorkels so I just brought some regular old eye goggles.

We picked a shady spot in some grass well back from the beach for our towels and accoutrements, which turned out to be a wise choice because (a) we got to see a mongoose close up and (b) that beach sand was SUPER HOT by mid-afternoon.


Actually we got to see several mongooses (mongeese?) and also a cat that was apparently friends with them. And I accidentally kicked a pigeon. In my defense, it was trying to nap in the middle of the sidewalk. It was surprisingly fluffy and I feel bad but not that bad because, seriously, it was a clearly idiotic specimen of flying vermin.

But I digress.

We didn’t go all the way out to where the coral got really pretty, where most of the coolest animals could be found, because the current was super strong that day and I didn’t have the flippers with which to fight it, but the reef did go all the way up into the shallows of the bay and there was plenty of stuff to see anyway.

I wish we’d thought to bring an underwater camera along, but it was really nice getting to just swim and try to spot things without having to worry about focus/lighting/movement/etc. So unfortunately I have no photographic proof of the absolute coolest thing that happened to us there. . .


Dudes, it was a-maz-ing.

Gary gets all the credit for spotting him (or her, IDK, it, whatevs). He was almost completely hidden in this little depression in the coral except for his little eyeballs just barely poking up and keeping a look-out for random swimmers/dinner/potential girlfriends. We floated there for a few minutes and would you believe it — that little dude was just as curious about us as we were about him. Octopuses are notoriously intelligent invertebrates. He just ever so slowly sort of floated up out of his little hidey-hole, keeping an eye on us but becoming less and less shy as the minutes passed. We must have floated there, the three of us just sort of staring dumbfoundedly at each other, until a couple of other snorkelers blundered up and scared the little guy back into his safe spot. It was so great.

I also almost ran into a porcupinefish. I think I startled it as much as it startled me. It was huge! Actually most of the fish we saw there were much larger than I anticipated.

Anyway, the fish were cool, but I just can’t stop thinking about that octopus.

That afternoon we went back to Tiki’s for a late lunch/early dinner.


It was pretty great. I’m glad we went back. Relaxing atmosphere, good food, amazing view. I just have to rave about the food for a minute. I had a mixed plate with panko crusted fish, kalbi rib eye, and chicken katsu, plus fragrant rice and kimchi and macaroni salad. The macaroni salad thing again!

Later that evening we walked around Waikiki some more. We got some souvenirs/candies for folks back home. We ended up at Duke’s and Gary got me a cute little tiki cup to take home from there. We had a pretty nice night.



Getting home

The trip home wasn’t too bad. I mean, it sort of sucked to have to leave, but that’s how vacations work.

We had a late afternoon flight so we slept in a little and then had lunch there in Waikiki. We ended up at the airport pretty early. The Oahu airport is actually surprisingly lovely — lots of open air walkways and bright flowers and some nice little shops, too.

We tried to sleep through the “night” on the way back to the states, but we both still had a little trouble adjusting to a normal schedule once we got home. That’s to be expected I guess.

Sneakers seemed to have had a lovely time at his doggy “summer camp” (our vet boards). He came home with a little bandanna and even a little photo fridge magnet. Curiosity was pretty upset at being left at the house all by himself for almost a week (well, not all by himself, the neighbor lady looked in on him every day) but he seemed to recover quickly and didn’t punish us too much.

I’d like to go back again someday. Maybe for a longer amount of time. Gary says that he doesn’t want to wait another 12 years to return. In the meantime, though, we have some great memories and lots of daydream material.


Hawaii – Part 1

September 15, 2013 Adventures 0

We were lucky enough to get to go to Hawaii a couple of weeks ago!


Part 1 covers our trip there + the first couple of days.

Getting there

We flew out super early on Monday morning. I learned a hard lesson from our Thanksgiving fiasco of 2 years ag and got us a reservation at a nearby airport parking garage. We’ve used them before and the experience was decent, so I don’t mind recommending them (with the caveat that there was a little snafu with the reservation fees, but the manager of our location kindly cleared that up for us).

We actually had to fly out to Atlanta before catching a connecting flight to the islands, but it wasn’t so bad. The plane we were on was pretty new. Everyone had little screens right in front of them on the back of the headrest part of the seats in front. That way everyone got to pick their own movie or TV show or game — all we had to do was plug in headphones. The movie options were mostly fairly new releases. I watched The Great Gatsby and Monsters University and part of Tangled. The flight would apparently have normally had WiFi, but not this time for some reason.

The first thing we had to do once on the island was pick up our rental from Hertz (we chose them because they had the best deal for USAA members). We got a soft top Jeep Wrangler. It took us a while to figure out how to get the top down and put away because the instruction manual was just not very helpful, but once we managed it we were pretty darn pleased with ourselves.


First day

We stayed at the Waikiki Marriott which was OMG freaking beautiful y’all. We were literally right across the street from the beach. Our room wasn’t super huge but it was big enough, with a nice little TV and lovely lighting and the most comfiest bed ever. There was a little city view balcony, too, which was lovely.

That first night was just all about relaxation and recovering from the flight. We went for a walk along Kalakaua (the main shopping strip along the Waikiki beachfront) and had dinner and drinks at Duke’s and then passed out pretty early in the evening.


Our first “real” day on Oahu was dedicated to a jaunt up to the North Shore by way of Mililani, the town where Gary spent his high school years. We stopped to shop and eat and see Gary’s old school and the house that his family used to live in. It was bittersweet for him. A lot has changed in the 12 years he’s been away.

We intended to go to Waimea Bay, but we dawdled around to much in Mililani and couldn’t find any parking for that particular beach. We ended up at Pipeline/Ehukai instead, which was nearly deserted. This beach’s slope is pretty steep and the undercurrent is strong even on its calmest days; it’s actually pretty famous among surfers for amazing (and dangerous) waves. We played in the surf for a bit and sprawled out in the sun and later we watched the little kids being let out of the elementary school across the street as they basically just skipped down to the beach for the shave ice truck and some swim time before dinner.


Dinner for us was at Tiki’s, and it was amazing. I had a calamari steak, which I didn’t even know was an actual thing up until that point. There was some decent live music, too. We ended the night back at the hotel bar with more live music and drinks.


Second day

Our plan for Wednesday was to head down to Hanauma Bay, but we got there way too late. Neither one of us seriously believe the guidebooks’ suggestions to get there early before the parking lot filled up. Too bad! We ended up taking the scenic route around the island, and in this case “scenic route” is not a sarcastic euphemism for the dumb long way ’round. We stopped for lots of photos, of course.

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Of course we had to make a stop at Matsumoto’s in Haleiwa for shave ice. I had some kind of rainbow flavor with ice cream and azuki. It was every bit as tasty as I’d been promised.

At some point we had lunch at Mililani Restaurant, but I can’t for the life of me remember if that was before or after the shave ice. It was a great little “Chinese” (Americanized/Hawaiianized East Asian) place. The atmosphere is maybe not that impressive but there were lots of people in an out, picking up lunches… you could tell it was a popular place with the locals. And for good reason. The food was delicious and the portions HUGE. The funniest thing to me was the inclusion of macaroni salad with every entrée. Apparently that’s pretty common on the islands?

We ended up at Waimea Bay and this time we found parking. It was a tiny bit of a hike to get to the beach but it was so, so worth the wait. There was hardly anyone around at the water was just so clear and calm and cool… it was hard to believe that sometimes in the winter (surfing season in Hawaii) the waves here can get to be 20+ feet, even splashing up to the parking lot high above. Gary and I floated around lazily, watching the small school of silver fish doing the same just feet below us in the crystalline water.


Later we drove up to Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau, the remains of a major indigenous Hawaiian temple. Gary was particularly excited to show me a path that he fondly remembered that led from the temple through some brush out to a cliff’s edge, where we had a spectacular view of Waimea below.

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Dinner was at Cheeseburger in Paradise, which was… just… not that great. I mean, the food was OK. Our server was rather inattentive. The whole ambiance was just really cheesy, like some kind of Rainforest Café but ocean-themed and for grown-ups.

That mediocre experience didn’t ruin the night, though. We had a lovely little moment on the beach that night.


Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!

Rose Under Fire
by Elizabeth Wein

September 8, 2013 Book Reviews, Books 0

★ ★ ★ ★

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein | Disney Hyperion | September 2013 | Hardcover $17.99

While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?

The author of best-selling WWII thriller Code Name Verity has produced another work of the same impressive quality. Fans of Verity will find Rose Under Fire very much to their liking.

Rose Under Fire is the dairy style first-person narrative of Rose, a young American woman who is working for the war effort in England during the 2nd World War.

She flies military planes as a transport pilot; though women at the time were not allowed to be actual fighter pilots or bomb droppers, moving planes and occasionally people from one Allied airfield to another was considered a relatively safe job for them. Of course, this occupation still involved some definite dangers, like malfunctioning equipment and rough weather conditions — not to mention the bombs that rained down on Britain in a near-constant storm of explosive destruction.

The book is split into two parts. The first is a diary of a young woman who is far from home in a war-torn land, who experiences fear and thrills and romance and grief and every other kind of thing you might expect a person in her situation to experience. Rose is brave and perhaps a little overenthusiastic, but she’s certainly a relatable character. She’s an aspiring poet and her poems add a special something to this book-as-journal interpretation of her story. Everything seems normal, or at least as normal as an expat wartime pilot girl can expect… until Rose crash lands behind enemy lines.

The second part of the book is told primarily in retrospect, as Rose remembers and comes to grips with her experiences at the Ravensbrück concentration camp prior to escape and rehabilitation in Paris. This is some real punch-in-the-gut stuff, made all the more startling by being based on actual historical events. Our protagonist meets girls and women who have been experimented on and horribly abused by Nazi guards. Rose herself is soon subject to the kinds of cruelties that are so astonishing that the real concentration camp survivors upon whose own experiences this part of the story is based were accused of exaggeration or outright lies even by their rescuers. Rose struggles to heal, both physically and psychologically, as she relives her POW experience and tries to reclaim her own life.

Though powerful in its treatment of WWII Nazi atrocities, this book isn’t exactly a tear-jerker. Recommended as a companion read for The Diary of a Young Girl (The Diary of Anne Frank) or for folks interested in realistic early-mid 20th century historical fiction.


This is a partial draft version of a full review that was submitted for publication to the Galveston Daily News in October 2013. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer.

Publication information: Wein, Elizabeth. Rose Under Fire. New York: Hyperion, 2013. Print.
Source: Public library
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.

The Rithmatist
by Brandon Sanderson

August 31, 2013 Book Reviews, Books 0


★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson | Macmillan – Tor Teen | May 2013 | Hardcover $17.99

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. 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 learn 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.

Brandon Sanderson is well known amongst sci-fi/fantasy fans as a prolific source of imaginative epics packed with never-a-dull-moment storylines on top of complex settings and backstories. Sanderson, who is only in his late 30’s, is already the author of 82 distinct works. He is perhaps best known for his Mistborn series and for completing the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, who passed away before he could complete his 14-book behemoth.

Most recently, Sanderson was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novella for The Emperor’s Soul. He is currently working on 3 different projects and has several more on the backburner; fans will be happy to hear that his next novel, Steelheart, is due out in September. Though his works generally appeal to SF/F genre enthusiasts of all ages, The Rithmatist is his first work to be specifically targeted to middle-to-high-school readers.

The Rithmatist follows the story of a young man who goes to school with people who possess a magical power – but he himself does not possess that same ability. The idea for this story came to Sanderson as he contemplated the possibility of non-magical students attending a magic-focused school, such as the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. Sanderson, of course, puts his own spin on the rules of magic. The book is illustrated by Ben McSweeney with examples of typical chalk drawings. Sanderson has clearly put quite a bit of thought into the mechanics of this world’s distinct magical system. The power to animate simple lines of chalk is extended to only a select few students during a one-time initiation ceremony. These young rithmatists are trained to draw chalk circles and lines that can attack enemies, defend positions, and act as small helpful creatures called chalklings.

Joel, our “muggle” in this case, missed out on his initiation ceremony and wishes for nothing more than to be allowed the chance to train as a rithmatist. He jumps at the rare chance to study with a rithmancy professional alongside a particularly apathetic rithmancy student named Melody; they are soon pulled into an investigation of mysterious kidnappings committed by improbable chalk creatures. What he and his new companion discover could change the way rithmancy is used forever.

Though distinctly Sandersonian, The Rithmatist is not an intimidating brick of a book. Younger readers who are just beginning to test the waters of the fantasy genre should definitely get their toes wet with this story. Fans of the aforementioned Harry Potter may recognize and enjoy some familiar elements, but this is in no way a “copycat” series (and yes, Sanderson has indicated his intentions to continue Joel’s story – the 2nd installment is expected sometime in 2015). This book is recommended for teen readers who enjoy detailed magical systems and fantastic plotlines tempered with doses of realistic coming-of-age character development.


This is a partial draft version of a full review that was submitted for publication to the Galveston Daily News in August of 2013. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer.

Publication information: Sanderson, Brandon. The Rithmatist. New York: Tor, 2013. Print.
Source: Blue Willow Bookshop
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.