West (Libellus de Numeros, 2014) returns with another historical YA novel in his series about young Alex and her continuing adventures in a magical world.
This book picks up after the first volume left off and soon reintroduces Alex, the heroine of the first installment, and her friends, who take part in a celebration for Nosaj, one of many students of Archimedes who helped save the city from outside invaders. Later, a mysterious man comes to the local arena wearing a circlet inscribed with an equation featuring the symbol pi. This causes Archimedes to call upon Alex and her friends to go on a quest to find Pythagoras, perhaps the only man who understands what pi means, so the mystery man can be stopped before he fights all 100 Guardians, the city’s elite fighting force, and wreaks further havoc. Meanwhile, throughout the work, Diades and Demetrius, embittered former apprentices of Archimedes, plot to destroy what the city holds dear and to thwart Archimedes himself. Alex and her friends display courage, ingenuity, and maturity in the face of obstacles, and they know their math, just as they did in the first book of the series. In the end, Archimedes confronts the threat to the city (for now) in a manner that has just as much to do with Alex and her accomplishments as it does with the mystery of pi. She’s about to embark on yet another adventure as the book closes. West never forces mathematics or Latin on readers, but they both exist on the edges of the story. Readers will get comfortable pondering equations for determining volume and square roots, and they may pick up some Latin from the spells that Archimedes’ students use. There’s a looming sense in this book of an impending battle between good and evil, which lends every character’s actions a certain gravity. Overall, the novel is fast-paced and exciting and is a worthy follow-up to the first installment in the series.
An ideal read for middle-graders who like plenty of magic and adventure.