Clara shines as a spunky protagonist who is grown-up enough to accept her destiny to bring balance to Underhill but still a middle school student who forms a bond with her classmates. Even before the fantasy takes over, Jones captures the awkwardness of tween school life and the feeling of not fitting in. Clara soon discovers that she can see the colorful mathematical equations that power magic—and that she’s a whiz at balancing the equations to create stability and potency. She has her hands full as she also must discover the secrets of why her birth parents had to hide, the true origins of magic, and the motives of Underhill’s Minister Oberherr, author of the decree that magic users never leave Underhill.
Jones links math and magic in a way that makes math seem cool, and fans of Harry Potter will enjoy some familiar story beats, right down to a magical version of an athletic competition. Fresh ideas, some welcome diversity, and memorable character work enliven the material, though the pacing at times is sluggish. Younger readers will relate to the school antics, and older ones will appreciate the creative magic system.
Takeaway: This story of a school for witches wins with its unique incorporation of math into magic.
Great for fans of: Lynette Noni’s Akarnae,Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A