Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review: Napier's Bones by Derryl Murphy

Napier's Bones


What if, in a world where mathematics could be magic, the thing you desired most was also trying to kill you? Dom is a numerate, someone able to see and control numbers and use them as a form of magic. While seeking a mathematical item of immense power that has only been whispered about, it all goes south for Dom, and he finds himself on the run across three countries on two continents, with two unlikely companions in tow and a numerate of unfathomable strength hot on his tail. Along the way are giant creatures of stone and earth, statues come alive, numerical wonders cast over hundreds of years, and the very real possibility that he won't make it out of this alive. And both of his companions have secrets so deep that even they aren't aware of them, and one of those secrets could make for a seismic shift in how Dom and all other numerates see and interact with the world. (Goodreads)

Book Details

Genre: Science Fiction
Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: ChiZine Publications
Published: March 29, 2011
ISBN-10: 1926851099
ISBN-13: 978-1926851099
Source: NetGalley/ Publisher


Dom and Jenna are just like everyone else if we could all see numbers and formule and control them, as well as having Dan Brownish adventures and trying to save the world or numerate ecology as they know it.
I am not a math person and I had never heard of John Napier until this book. I know, take a few minutes to let the shock wear off. For everyone else like me, John Napier was a Scottish mathematician and discovered the logarithm (xy=x+y yada yada) and made the use of the decimal common. He also created “Napier’s Bones”, essentially a fancy abacus made with rods. In our story he didn’t make it with rods, but with his fingers, creepy. It would also give him the power to control the world with numbers, if he was alive, which he is kinda. John Napier is one of many “numerates”, people who can see and control numbers, and he is an especially powerful one that left his “shadow” in various items, so that he can use another numerate as a host and eventually regain his abacus and corporal body.
Dom ends up with Billy the adjunct, a shadow using his body as host, and Jenna, whose numerate mother abandoned her. There is an attraction between Dom and Jenna, but it’s never fully explored. There is quite a bit in the book that is never explored below face value: Dom’s past, the relationship between Jenna and her mother and the numerate world. The author touches on these things as well as a dialogue with Jenna’s mother and the shadows living inside of her, but seems to abandon that train of thought for more action.
Overall, the characters needed more depth and the math world was too confusing for me, no matter how much the author tried to explain it. I never got lost in the book. It was like eating cake without frosting; good, but not the full experience.
Happy Endings,
2 moons
2 moons: It was ok.

Recommended For

I recommend this book for Adults and Mathletes.
There is some violence, cussing, Dom wants to sleep with Jenna, so some sexual thoughts.


  1. Sad. The blurb made it sound so good but from your review, I don't think I'll like it.

  2. Aw too bad to hear it wasn't too stellar. The premise sounds so interesting too ...

  3. I'm curious about this one nonetheless. Thanks for bringing it to me attention!


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