Story summary: I remember reading summaries for this long before I got around to reading it, and they always sounded slightly boring. It's why I took so long to get around to reading it. And though I've thought about how to do this, I can't seem to do any better than anyone else. Which is a great shame, because this is an awesome book.
So read the following very short summary if you want, but don't take much from it:
Although Joel can never be a Rithmatist (people who have the ability to create animate chalk figures), he still hungers to understand as much of Rithmacy as he can. His crashing in on the school Rithmacy classes causes unwanted attention on him, which is quite a bad thing when talented students start mysteriously disappearing.
- Brilliant world-building, including snippets from ancient texts, explanatory diagrams, etc.
- But not the confusion that often comes with brilliant world-building: this is exciting, fast-paced, funny, and just generally entertaining.
- It does not answer all your questions by the end, instead finishing on a "To Be Continued". The next book isn't supposed to come out till 2017 at least. The wait might very well kill you.
- You may be put off by alternate-universe religion, I suppose, but that's pushing it. Especially since we don't even know how it works or what exactly's going on. (Come on sequel, cooooome to meeeeeeee.)
"They make perfect sense to me," [Melody] said. "The prettier the drawing is, the stronger it is and the better it's able to do what you tell it to. What's confusing about that?"I appreciate Joel's reply greatly, and I hope it's answered well in the sequel.
"It's confusing because it's vague," Joel said. "I can't understand something until I know why it happens the way it does. There has to be an objective point of reference that determines what makes a good drawing and what doesn't--even if that objective point of reference is the subjective opinion of the Rithmatist doing the drawing." (pg. 191)
Secondly, it has all the necessary plot, adventure, and interesting characters to support its love-of-knowledge. Melody is an awesomely wacky girl. The villain ends up having fascinating potential, although I can't discuss much it due to huge spoilers.* The final confrontation is tense and very exciting.
So yeah, as I said before, I'm going to read a lot of Brandon Sanderson now.
* But very briefly in rot13 for those who've read it: vg'f gur jnl ur frrzf gb rfpurj abezny ivyynva genvgf sbe zber fhogyr naq pbzcyrk tbnyf. Va n fvzvyne jnl gb Wbry, ur frrzf zber vagevthrq jvgu haqrefgnaqvat naq xabjyrqtr guna eriratr, natre, be nal bs gur bgure glcvpny ivyynva rzbgvbaf. Gb dhbgr gur cneg jurer ur jngpurf Wbry naq Zrybql'f njrfbzr punyxvat fxvyyf: "Uvf rkcerffvba unq punatrq, gur unhtugvarff tbar. Vafgrnq, gurer jnf fvzcyl pbafgreangvba. Snfpvangvba rira."