Sanderson's world of Rithmatists and Chalklings is well-imagined and intriguing. The departure from popular steampunk into his "gearpunk" world of clockwork and springs is full of the differences between those who have the power to make chalk obey their commands and the ordinary folks who ride the springrail train to travel across the American Isles. Everything from the group of islands that form this odd version of the U.S. to the Oriental flavor of the alternate Europe makes the reader stop and think.
Joel's father was a chalkmaker and worked at Armedius, the university where Rithmatists train. After his death, his wife and son remain at the school and Joel attends general classes, but is fascinated by the Rithmatists. He is assigned as a research assistant for one of the Rithmatist professors and becomes involved in the investigation of the kidnapping of several students. Who could be doing it? All of them were talented Rithmatists can could protect themselves with their powers. Is it a rogue Rithmatist? Have Wild Chalklings somehow made their way to the campus? At the same time he is trying to learn all he can about Rithmatists from Professor Fitch and find a way to get along with Melody, the student Fitch is tutoring over the summer.
With its school setting and the magical powers of the chalk drawings, it will probably appeal to fans of books like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. The mystery of the kidnappings and the gear-driven mechanical gadgets add more details and depth to the story. Even in this fantasy world the characters are easy to identify with - Joel studying Rithmatist history just like his father, Melody resenting her place in the Rithmatist classes, Professor Fitch being a great teacher but not able to compete against a younger rival. Fantasy lovers should definitely give this a try (and hope for a sequel soon).
I just placed a copy in the library, so I hope you enjoy it!