Mathemagics is totally my jam, so I honestly have no idea why I’d never heard of this series till the author messaged me about it! In this first novella of the series, “Mad” Malago Browne is one of the mathematicians outlawed by the Capitol, eking out a living doing illicit math jobs in the Western States. When she and partner Pierre “Polecat” Fermat are betrayed by someone they thought they were helping, Browne swears off the outlaw life and goes into hiding as a simple railroad assistant in a small, out of the way town.
Fast forward five years and Fermat needs her for a big score that could give them enough money to flee the country and live unbothered across the border in Mexico. Browne is reluctant to give up her quiet life but, when forced to abandon it, resentfully joins Fermat as he puts together a crew. Betrayals, hijinks and acts of derring-do — usually involving a set of mathematical tools — ensue.
A lot happens in this novella’s 50-odd pages, and I was panting to read more by the end of it. While a large part of this was due to how exciting the story had been, I also found myself wishing that more of the setting had been filled out. I know mathematicians had been outlawed by the Capitol States in this universe but I wanted to know why this version of the United States, a capitalist mecca going centuries back, would so violently repudiate math and therefore the means to economic and scientific dominion. And why, if Mexico was more accommodating to mathematicians, it hadn’t invited them all over and used their skills to overpower its determinedly ignorant northern neighbor. I really dug all the mathemagical fighting otherwise, so I’m very much hoping more of the setting is explored in the follow-up, due out tomorrow!
Oh, and while I loved the reference to, I’m assuming, Marjorie Lee Browne, I rather wish Malago was more explicitly presented as a Black woman. Philip Harris’ cover art, with its Art Noveau stylings, is gorgeous, but I would never have guessed from it that Browne is anything but a white woman. And while I know that part of the fantasy of this Weird West setting is the bringing together of mathematicians from many different times and places, changing Browne’s race just seems unnecessary and gross, which I’m pretty sure is not what Stark Holborn is about!
Triggernometry by Stark Holborn was published April 8th 2020 by Rattleback Books and is available from all good booksellers, including