Libellus de Numeros by Jim West

Product Details Harry Potter fans, take note: there’s a new wizard-in-training on the literary scene. But this time, the protagonist is a female.

There are just enough Potteresque elements to this story to make it feel familiar. Latin phrases and spells, magic, classes run by a wise elderly man – all combine to appeal to preteen fans. But make no mistake – this is not a copycat. It stands on its own as the first in a series about young Alex (female), a fairly typical girl whose parents are overly busy and leave her feeling somewhat neglected. Dad is an in-demand engineer who travels a lot, and Mom is a busy veterinarian. Alex heads to her first day in the new school year. She’s smart, and is determined to beat bully Jason out of the race for the best grades this year. But the first battle has nothing to do with grades. Jason and his friends corner blind boy Adam in the hallway, and Alex steps in to defend him. It works, but they then turn on Alex, knocking her unconscious and throwing her in the hallway school closet.

When she comes to, Alex is nowhere near the closet or even at school. She’s in the sand somewhere far from home, and encounters an old man named Archimedes, a Master Wizard. He speaks of the need to get back to The City walls. What city is unclear.  Archimedes is able to fly them to the mysterious City, and what follows is a story of revenge, tribesmen vs. guardians, magic, and the power of mathematics, which can apparently have an impact on everything in life.  As the overall backdrop of the story is Alex’s desire to go home again. Being away  – truly away – from her parents has made her appreciate them even more.

The book is aimed at preteens, and it surely will reach its mark there, with the extra good news being that math is made to seem “super cool”, and having a young female as the lead character as opposed to a young male, is another positive step.

The Latin phrases add an extra dose of mystery, and this reviewer’s only concern is whether it will be evident from the cover what language the book is written in. True, Libellus de Numeros is translated to Book of Numbers right away, as a subtitle, but will only the truly savvy youngsters know it’s Latin and not a Spanish (or other language) novel they’ve stumbled upon by mistake? Let’s hope not, because this is a fun book with unusual twists, and will leave young readers (and older ones, as well) eager to know what lies ahead in the next installment.

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