I just finished The Arithmancer and I thought I should resume the habit of writing some thoughts down after I finish reading something. Spoilers, as usual. I’m including all 3 books in this not-review, The Arithmancer, Lady Archimedes, and Annals of Arithmancy, since they’re a series.
I thought it was great. Better than the original Harry Potter, even. Granted, I’ve only read Harry Potter once around 10 years ago, and The Arithmancer is, I assume, designed to appeal to STEM types more than the original.
I love its worldbuilding. Weaving math into the fundamentals of magic is a fascinating take on arithmancy, which practically didn’t appear in the originals. Using real world math in the story is a nice touch as well, thought I do hope the author had shown their work for the more complicated spells. It seemed like a lot of the time, especially in Lady Archimedes when we get to the horcruxes, the best we got was some handwaving about arithmantic inverses, not even a mention of which branch of math was being used, when earlier they did mention light transmission curves shaped like a parabola or an elliptic curve to block out a basilisk’s eyes. I hoped for more of that, but the later parts failed to deliver.
I also never thought I’d say this, but the latter parts of the series are too physicsy for my tastes. Mathematics is a physics-adjacent field, of course, so I’m not surprised Hermione would know some physics, like light and carbon nanotubes and stuff, but things like colored gems I’m surprised she would dig into. I didn’t think someone who likes math for its own sake would dig into the mess of the real world like that. Another example is in Annals, where she actually took experimental data (the horror!) on antihydrogen. Granted, she could be an applied mathematician, but ultimately the lack of mathematical details on the magic she did hurt the story, in my opinion.
There are also a couple of things that I’m sad the author never followed up on: The Iambic Pentameter Curse, for one, which is somewhat understandable due to its long incantation taking away from its practicality, but a disappointment nonetheless. Wandless wand summoning, for another, featured once in the entire series after Hermione did it accidentally the first time. Some other plot points were also saddening: Septima getting a traumatic brain injury that stopped her from doing arithmancy. Bill Weasley and Snape dying, as well as the Barty Crouch Jr. raid going poorly for Parvati Patil. I was also somewhat disappointed that Hermione never ended up going to Slytherin, given the Sorting Hat’s insistence, but that was saved by her daughter having ambition to spare (by which I mean she ended up going to Slytherin).
The one scene that alerted me to the author having read Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality was the dementor “boo!” scene. The methods were different, but the result was the same, and I was not too happy about this. I felt the latter half of Lady Archimedes gave off HPMOR vibes when the earlier chapters and the book before hid the inspiration well.
The last chapter of Annals of Arithmancy also didn’t age quite well. Biden got the nomination, and apparently magic stopped someone from having bat soup. One thing I’m sad about is that around maybe half of Annals is fanfic fuel, only going over some events in broad strokes when each of the events can by themselves be a whole story by themselves.
The portrayal of Hermione as her specific type of Christian was also a questionable move to me, considering her background (highly educated child of dentists, English, irregular churchgoer), which meant it is more likely that she is practically irreligious, maybe a C&E Christian. I think the author based her off Christians in the US, who are much more into it. I could be wrong, but that is the impression that British Christianity and US Christianity give me. I also don’t mean the last sentence to absolve me of all responsibility of getting it right (since I do think it is), but I’ll also admit I haven’t looked deeply into the differences.
But on another note, I thought the shout-outs were nice. The boggart Weeping Angel made a particularly fun one-shot.
I’m also glad Umbridge got her comeuppance. Quite possibly more than she deserved, but still.