The main character of the novel. The son of a cleaning lady and a chalkmaker, Joel is neither the son of powerful or influential people nor, to his great regret, a Rithmatist. He attends Armedius Academy due to a scholarship granted to him by Principal York after his father's death eight years previous to the beginning of the book.
- Ascended Fanboy: Gets to participate in the Melee (the annual Rithmatic mass duel), if only as Melody's support.
- Beleaguered Assistant: Feels like this with Finch sometimes, when forced to do archival work. As he puts it in his head, the Master certainly didn't mean for him to be a clerk.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: A schoolboy variety, with Melody. He comments several times during the book that she would be quite pretty - if she weren't so annoying.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: He's quite bright, and is in fact something of a savant when it comes to math and Rithmatic theory, but his obsession with Rithmatics leads him to neglect other coursework - he's failed at least one course every semester since he started at the Academy.
- Disappeared Dad: Died 8 years ago after a railroad accident. Joel's mother lets slip that it might not have been an accident.
- Fanboy: Joel obsesses over Rithmatics, and is actually better at both drawing Rithmatic figures and strategizing than most of the students. It's a shame he doesn't actually have any Rithmatic power himself...
- The Friend Nobody Likes: He has a lot of acquaintances, but very little friends, and high-born and Rithmatic students ostracize him.
- Good with Numbers: So much so that his geometry teacher is sure that he's cheated on a test, because he never pays attention in class and he never explains how he arrived at his answers, so clearly he must have copied them down from somewhere. Joel proceeds to demonstrate that no, the reason why he just wrote down the answers is that they just seemed that obvious to him.
- Heroic BSoD: Has a brief bout of this after his second initiation fails.
- Hyper-Competent Sidekick: To Melody during the Melee. He's much better than her in Geometric Magic, so she simply draws over his lines.
- I Just Want to Be Special: Obsesses over Rithmatic theory, partially due to his own father's interest in the subject. His biggest regret is that he can't actually use what he knows - he has no true Rithmatic ability.
- Insufferable Genius: Is developing traits of this, as Fitch gently points out to him. At the start of the story he's incredibly patronising towards those who don't share his love of Rithmatics, or his skill at it.
- Missed the Call: Joel could have been a Rithmatist, but something happened to keep the process from happening properly both times.
- Occult Detective: He has great aptitude to analysis of a Rithmatic crime scene, to the point that Harding suggests he should become an investigator.
A red-haired Rithmatist the same age as Joel. While she's an excellent artist (and thus exceptional at using Lines of Making to summon chalklings), she's VERY poor at the geometric aspects of Rithmatics - so poor, in fact, that she winds up in a remedial course with Professor Fitch over the summer.
- Alliterative Name: Melody Muns.
- Animal Motifs: Unicorns, unicorns everywhere!
- Art Attacker: The most 'traditional' example of one. The area of Rithmatics she most excels at is creating detailed and powerful Chalkings, and she uses incredibly complicated Chalking based defenses with ease.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: A schoolboy variety, with Joel (or at least, that's where it seems to be developing).
- Big Brother Worship: Implied to have idolised her brother William. She gets very touchy when Joel callously brings up his death in her hearing.
- Blessed with Suck: Melody sees her Rithmatic gift this way. See I Just Want to Be Normal, below.
- Catchphrase: Tragic! This almost becomes an Abandoned Catchphrase, as she toys with the idea of replacing it with appalling!, but she eventually decides that the latter just doesn't have the right ring to it.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: She sometimes comes across as this, having sudden outbursts of "tragic!" and comparing ice cream to a religious virtue. She also comes to conclusion that Joel is stalking her based on the fact that he - a person living on the Academy grounds - appears in several places she - a student - is at the time.
- Drama Queen: The fact that we have to list this trope is tragic! She has quite a habit of bringing other people's attention to herself and believes her best tactic of dealing with people to be throwing tantrums.
- Fiery Redhead: Her emotions run as hot as her hair colour.
- Girly Girl: Her defensive chalklings are unicorns, which she doodles alongside castles instead of taking notes, describing them as an "elegant and noble creature" whenever Joel speaks against them. She also mentions wanting to use pink chalk.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Melody resents her Rithmatic powers, which she never asked for, because it means she's essentially been conscripted to train to fight the Wild Chalklings, and she doesn't actually have much skill at drawing defenses or strategizing. In this, she acts as a perfect Foil for Joel.
- Pink Means Feminine: The only thing stopping her from drawing all her lines in pink chalk is that only Juniors have the privilege of using any other color but white.
- Took a Level in Badass: A minor example, but halfway through the novel Joel shows her an exotic strategy that takes full advantage of her incredible skill with chalklings while minimizing the damage caused by her problems with the other lines.
- Tsundere: Again, seems to be going here with Joel.
- The Un-Favourite: Not explicitly stated, but strongly implied, due to her lack of skill compared to her older siblings.
- Wrong Context Magic: Human-created chalklings are usually mindless, executing only whatever orders were written into them. Melody, on the other hand, seems able to create chalklings that can perform simple tasks, take verbal orders, and relate information back to her.
One of Armedius Academy's foremost Rithmatics professors. A scholar, teacher, and historian rather than a warrior, Fitch doesn't have the nerves to be much of a combatant, but he's a brilliant theorist.
- The Ace: His defences are pretty much perfectly executed when he has the head on his shoulders.
- Badass Teacher: A harmless duel for his reputation? His hand shakes so much he can barely draw a line straight. His two students are in danger of being eaten? He leaps head-first into swarm of deadly chalklings.
- The Cavalry: Helps rescue Melody and Joel from the Scribbler in the final confrontation. It's exceedingly awesome.
- Cool Teacher: Said to be one of the best theory teachers in school, and much less strict than others. He's also the only one who doesn't mind Joel sitting on the lessons.
- Cowardly Lion: Just the very idea of combat turns him into an absolute bundle of nerves - however he's perfectly willing face down an entire swarm of chalkings to keep his students safe.
- Dual Wielding: The climax has Fitch with a piece of chalk in each hand. It's more badass than it sounds.
- Gentleman and a Scholar: Gentleman, and Rithmatics theorist.
- Heroic Resolve: His combat jitters threaten to rear their head several times during his confrontation with The Scribbler. However one look at the helpless Joel and Melody gives him more than enough incentive for him to power through the nerves.
- The Mentor: Older? Check. Teaches the protagonist? Check. Not the hero? Check (mostly, see above).
- Mr. Exposition: The second biggest font of Rithmatic knowledge after Joel. At one point he also shows off his historian chops by giving a mini politics lesson to Joel
- Nervous Wreck: Turns into one when he's forced to duel rather than theorize.
- Non-Action Guy: Does not do well with combat or violence in any form. However, the fact that he managed to survive Nebrask is one of the first hints that he's not a complete write off when it comes to combat.
- Not a Morning Person: When Joel wakes him up in early morning, Fitch is unusually grumpy and almost hostile to him.
- The Professor: One of the most esteemed professors of Rithmatics at Armedius at the beginning of the story. It makes his duelling loss against the young upstart Nalizar all the more humilating.
- Running Away to Cry: After his loss against Nalizar, when he realises that (due to his abysmal dueling skils) he'll never be in a position to give another Rithmatics lecture again.
Professor Andrew Nalizar
An ambitious new Rithmatics professor. Tall, handsome, and arrogant, he tends to rub almost everybody the wrong way - especially Joel, who immediately suspects him when unusual events start taking place.
- Affably Evil: When Joel realizes he was the mastermind behind the Scribbler plot, he drops the Jerkass Façade, calmly admits it (while noting Joel won't be able to prove it, and would look like an idiot trying), explains a few other minor plot points, and even apologizes to Joel for repeatedly failing to recognize him.Nalizar: I have trouble telling the difference between those of you who are not Rithmatists, you see. You all look so alike.
- Ambition Is Evil: What initially convices Joel that he's up to no good; someone as ruthlessly amibitious as Nalizar must have an ulterior motive in mind. And he does: he aims to get himself into a position that let's him teach the future generations of Rithmatist's being sent off to Nebrask, where he'll proceed to train them in tactics which will be usless when facing off against wild Chalkings.
- The Chessmaster: Arranged for the entire plot of the first book to happen in order to gain trust and authority at Armedius, thereby putting himself in charge of the training of the next generation of Rithmatists to be shipped out to Nebrask.
- Dead All Along: The real Professor Nalizar died in Nebrask.
- Demonic Possession: The real Professor Nalizar is long dead, and something has taken over his body in the meantime.
- Expy: of Professor Snape. Arrogant, cruel, very powerful at his magic, always suspiciously seeming to be involved in the bad things going on, and yet held to be above suspicion by the authority figures. In the climax, Joel catches him red-handed, mixed up deeply in the attack on the school, and douses him with chalk-destroying acid, only to find that the real bad guy is the federal investigator, and Nalizar was trying to fight him off. Climactic chalk-battles ensue, and in the end, he's defeated, and Joel has to admit that Nalizar really was a hero and a good guy after all... only to discover, a few days later, that there were two villains, and Nalizar helped take down his compatriot so as to establish himself as above suspicion in the very organization that is training the people who will be fighting the bad guys.
- Fantastic Racism: He's big on the idea of total separation of Rithmatists and non-Rithmatists, but it seems to be an act, given The Reveal - it's likely he's been using this to put a wedge between people and their protectors.
- Good Is Not Nice: Subverted, Double Subverted, and then triple subverted. Ultimately averted entirely: Nalizar isn't actually Good at all.
- Hot Teacher: Melody certainly thinks so.
- Intrigued by Humanity: The creature using Professor Nalizar's body is observing humans, and was ultimately trying to stop new Rithmatists from being created so that they'll be helpless against the wild chalklings, forgotten shadows and whatever powers are controlling them.
- Mole in Charge: All the events of the book turn out to be one big scheme on his part to get into a position of power amoung the Rithmatists. He succeeds.
- Stern Teacher: Quickly gets a reptutation as a no nonsense teacher. The end of the book reveals this to be a carefully cultivated act - no one will suspect the strict teacher of knowingly teaching his students detrimental Rithmatic techniques, after all.
- Worthy Opponent: Once he finally sees Joel fighting in the Melee he seems to upgrade him to this status.
- Young Conqueror: An academic variant. Becomes a tenured professor at Armedius at the tender age of 24 by beating Fitch in a Rithmatic duel and taking Fitch's position at the Academy for himself.
The Federal Inspector assigned to investigate the disappearances at Armedius. A stiff but well-intentioned man still adjusting to life away from the front lines at Nebrask.
- By-the-Book Cop: More than technically necessary, due to his military experience.
- Demonic Possession: By one of the Forgotten Shadows.
- Detective Mole: At day, he's working hard to hunt down the Scribbler. At night... he is the Scribbler.
- Face Framed in Shadow: How he initially comes across to all his victims.
- I Owe You My Life: Has nothing but good things to say about Nalizar, thanks to the latter saving his company at Nebrask.
- Living Shadow: His form as the Scribbler.
- Manchurian Agent: Due to the above-mentioned possession. Unlike Nalizar, he seems not to be completely taken over - he's himself during the daytime, and once he's exorcised he seems fine.
- The Mole: For the Forgotten Shadows.
- Powers via Possession: The regular Inspector Harding isn't a Rithmatist. However possession by a Forgotten Shadow grants him Rithmatic abilities.
- Red Baron: The Scribbler, or, as press nicknames him, "The Armedius Killer".
- Serial Killer: Thankfully, it turns out he's a serial kidnapper, not killer, though what he does to students could count as Fate Worse than Death.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: He was a soldier at Nebrask and still has troubles adjusting back to semi-civillian life.
- Verbal Tic: Calling people "soldier".
- Weapon of Choice: His clockwork rifle. Joel and Melody realise near the end of the novel that, when he rests it on the ground, in the darkness it looks awfully like...a cane.
One of the clerks in Armedius's office building. A friend of Joel's mother and a bit of a gossip, which makes her a useful, if somewhat hazardous source of information.
- Clerk: Her job in Armedius.
- Girly Girl: While she's not into pink and unicorns like Melody, her chipper behaviour and use of words "sweet", "adorable", "charming" and the like brings this to mind.
- Gossipy Hens: A singlular example, but she manages to carry the entire trope by herself. Her role in the story is mostly to annoy Exton and pass on gossip.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The bubbly red to Exton's blue.
- Token Girl: She implied to be the sole female clerk at Armedius, thanks the the world at large still clinging to 20th century gender norms.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Exton - she treats him like a humorless fuddy-duddy and delights in distracting and annoying him, but is one of his foremost advocates when he's accused of being the Scribbler.
The other clerk in the Armedius office. Portly, mostly humorless, but secretly fond of Joel and Florence.
- Big Damn Heroes: He's the first and only one to come to Joel's aid when the latter's assaulted by the Scribbler.
- Boomerang Bigot: Underplayed, but he dislikes Rithmatists despite being one.
- Clear Their Name: The subject, rather than the one working to do the clearing.
- Clerk: Works as this in Armenius.
- Fall Guy: Harding frames him as the Scribbler.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Tries to keep up the Jerkass facade, but it's clear he cares for Joel and Florence.
- Nervous Wreck: Panics pretty much immediately upon realizing what's going after them.
- Power Incontinence: His inability to control his Chalkings is implied to be the main reason he was expelled from Armedius.
- A Pupil of Mine, Until He Turned to Evil: What Harding tries to convince the professors he is. Exton used to study at Armedius, but failed because he couldn't control his chalklings.
- Red Herring: He's actually 100% innocent of the crimes.
- The Resenter: He's quite bitter about failing Armedius, and dislikes Rithmatists in general.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Quite the dandy, going as far to import clothes in from other Isles. Unfortunately this habit comes back to bite him when he's accused of being The Scribbler (who has been running around in quite the dapper bowler hat).
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Florence - he constantly complains about her interruptions and annoyances, but is glad to see her once he's released from prison.
- Wake Up Make Up: Implied; when Joel wakes him up in the middle of the night, Exton is perfectly dressed and groomed.
Principal Thomas York
The head of Armedius Academy, York is a brilliant administrator and a kindly man. He is friends with Professor Fitch and was once friends with Joel's father, and thus is somewhat softer with both than another administrator might be.
- Badass Bureaucrat: He can juggle egos of really powerful people and keep the lid on all that's hapenning with apparent ease. He's also not scared by the Scribbler in the slightest.
- Cool Teacher: He's a Reasonable Authority Figure and excellent politician, apparently liked by students, and he's the one to position Joel as Finch's assistant.
- My Greatest Failure: The ending of the novel shows that he greatly regrets hiring Nalizar, and this is without knowing that Nalizar is most likely a Forgotten Shadow.
- One Of These Is Not Like The Others: The head of the Rithmatist academy is not a Rithmatist himself.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Played refreshingly straight. York manages to juggle the egos of the powerful students and parents at his school and still keep the place running well.
- Spotting the Thread: Something makes him suspicious of Nalizar. Unfortunately, the latter manages to metaphorically cut the thread before it can be traced to him.