2 + 2 = magic?
It does if the book is Napier's Bones by Derryl Murphy. I must be honest, I never planned to pick up this book until after I saw Mr. Murphy on a panel at Ad Astra where he described the magic system, and then I couldn't wait to pick it up.
I'm, well, not exactly math-phobic but it was my least favorite subject growing up, so a book entitled after a mathematical tool is not something that would normally appeal to me. And that would have been my loss. Napier's Bones starts off like a rocket and doesn't let up on the throttle. The action is well written and believable, even when it dips into the fantastic. Add on top of that an intriguing magic system that embraces mathematics without clubbing the reader over the head with it, so that even the math averse will understand and enjoy it, and you have an amazing read.
When I say this novel doesn't let up, I mean it. It starts with Dom, who we find out is what's called a numerate (right now I'm resisting the urge to call him a mathemagician) and able to work magic with the numerical ecology that permeates modern life, barely survives the backlash from a confrontation out in the desert while searching for a powerful pieced of mojo, an item infused with mathematical essence that a numerate can draw upon. Mojo comes in many different flavors, from sports memorabilia to calculating tools, each with its own abilities and problems. As I said, this is a well thought out magic system and the inclusion of mojo is one of its masterpieces.
Dom ends up with a ghost in his head and an apprentice by his side while running from a force from the past that could change the way the world's numbers, and therefore the world, work. Murphy does a splendid job of making this threat believable without being over the top, scary without it becoming cartoonish. Even better, I found the book's ending satisfying, which can be hard to find sometimes.
I highly recommend checking out Napier's Bones. Especially if it motivates Derryl Murphy to keep on writing. I want to see what else his mind can produce.
Napier's Bones can be found here on Amazon.