From School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-The idea that evil chalk drawings pose a threat to humanity quite frankly sounds silly. Add in the none-too-subtle Harry Potter parallels and you have the makings of literary mediocrity. And yet Sanderson has crafted an action-packed mystery that will keep readers hooked, especially toward the end. Joel is an underachieving, charity-case student at the elite Ardemius Academy where his mother is a cleaning lady and his late father made chalk for Rithmatists. In the hands of a Rithmatist, chalk is a weapon keeping North America safe from wild "chalklings," two-dimensional beasts of unknown origins. Only one in 1000 people possess Rithmatic abilities. Much to Joel's chagrin, he is not one of them. But when Rithmatic students begin disappearing, Joel gets a chance to help in the investigation, and maybe get another shot at becoming one of the elite. Part fantasy, part alternate history, part steampunk, this story succeeds nicely despite some flaws (logical inconsistencies and an annoying female lead foremost among them). An exciting ending and skillful setup for a sequel will have readers hungry for the next volume.-Anthony C. Doyle, Livingston High School Library, CAα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Joel longs to be a Rithmatist with the magical power to bring two-dimensional objects, called Chalklings, to life. But he is 16, and Rithmatists are chosen at age 8. Surely he has missed his chance, or has he? When Rithmatists-in-training at the prestigious Armedius Academy begin to go missing, Joel—a scholarship student there—determines to find out what has happened to them. Could it possibly have something to do with the Wild Chalklings of the Nebrask territory? Could his success or failure determine the fate of the American Isles? And, for that matter, could he become a Rithmatist, after all? So many questions and so few answers in this spoiler-free review. Suffice it to say that with an intriguing premise and captivating characters in Joel, his friend Melody, and their teacher Professor Fitch, Sanderson’s first YA novel is a fast-paced mash-up of fantasy and adventure that will grab readers’ attention at the first page and hold it until the inconclusive end, which promises a sequel. An auspicious YA debut that will leave readers hungry for further adventures of the aspiring Rithmatist and his friends. Grades 6-12. --Michael Cart