ARC Review: Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini


EnchantressOfNumbersCoverOfficial Synopsis from Goodreads: The only legitimate child of Lord Byron, the most brilliant, revered, and scandalous of the Romantic poets, Ada was destined for fame long before her birth. Estranged from Ada’s father, who was infamously “mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” Ada’s mathematician mother is determined to save her only child from her perilous Byron heritage. Banishing fairy tales and make-believe from the nursery, Ada’s mother provides her daughter with a rigorous education grounded in mathematics and science. Any troubling spark of imagination—or worse yet, passion or poetry—is promptly extinguished. Or so her mother believes.

When Ada is introduced into London society as a highly eligible young heiress, she at last discovers the intellectual and social circles she has craved all her life. Little does she realize that her delightful new friendship with inventor Charles Babbage—brilliant, charming, and occasionally curmudgeonly—will shape her destiny. Intrigued by the prototype of his first calculating machine, the Difference Engine, and enthralled by the plans for his even more advanced Analytical Engine, Ada resolves to help Babbage realize his extraordinary vision, unique in her understanding of how his invention could transform the world. All the while, she passionately studies mathematics—ignoring skeptics who consider it an unusual, even unhealthy pursuit for a woman—falls in love, discovers the shocking secrets behind her parents’ estrangement, and comes to terms with the unquenchable fire of her imagination.

Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: England, 1816-1850

***I received an eARC copy of Enchantress of Numbers from the publisher, Dutton, via NetGalley***

*** this post contains affiliate links ***

Review: Interesting history, but a bit long. Enchantress of Numbers tells the story of Ada Byron King, the Countess of Lovelace, who was Lord Byron’s daughter, and is considered the first computer programmer.

Written by Jennifer Chiaverini, Enchantress of Numbers starts off with a lengthy prologue that details Byron’s relationship with Ada’s mother, Lady Annabella. While this prologue and detail of Byron and Annabella’s relationship was necessary to set the stage, the problem here is that Byron is so fascinating, so full of personality and drama that the rest of the book doesn’t live up to the magnetism of his story.

Byron’s daughter, Ada, narrates Enchantress of Numbers and we see solely into her head and thoughts. While she was passionate about mathematics and learning, unfortunately she never quite leapt off the page for me. I could feel for Ada, and how the legend of her father shaped her mother’s choices in her upbringing, and some scenes were difficult to read. Difficult because Ada’s mother wouldn’t allow Ada to have any imagination at all, worried that she would follow her father’s path. This feels so cruel as Ada yearns for fairy tales and information about her father.

Since Ada focuses so much on mathematics, and I must admit math has never held my interest, some of the sections were very slow and boring to me. Now, someone who loves math and has a mechanical mind might find this fascinating, as Ada meets Mr Babbage and learns about his Difference Engine, and works away on solving problems with the machine.

Before I read Enchantress of Numbers, I had no idea who Ada Lovelace was, and about her contributions to computers. I can appreciate her drive and determination, and this book really showcases her talents and her story, but it was too long and slow in places. Since we just hear from Ada’s POV, I think the book would’ve been more interesting had it been told from multiple POVs. I really would’ve loved to see inside the head of Ada’s mother, Lady Annabella. Other potential POVs would be Augusta (Byron’s sister), Lord Byron himself, and Mary Somerville, a mathematician who takes Ada under her wing. I also would’ve loved to peek inside Babbage’s thoughts as well.

So while Enchantress of Numbers told an interesting, important story, it felt very long (Goodreads has the length at 448 pages) and parts of it were dull, especially when compared to the dramatic prologue. Those with mathematical minds may really love this! It was truly wonderful to read a book where the main female character was focused on math and science.

Bottom Line: Interesting enough, but it has some dull parts.


LINKS ***the Amazon link is an affiliate link which means I receive a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase***

Author Website

Does this sound like a good read to you? Have you read other books by Jennifer Chiaverini? This was my first and I’d like to read more!


8 thoughts on “ARC Review: Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini

  1. Sorry to hear this was a bit slow and boring in places. I was so excited to read this book as I’m always interested in the women of our History and how they contributed to society. Coding is such a manly profession nowadays I was completely shocked to learn it had started with women. Shocked but very pleased!
    I, too, never liked math or numbers so I have similar feelings. The fact that Ada’s mother completely erased that part of her daughter’s heritage is so sad and I wonder whether she’d be interested in programming had she not been brought up to do so.
    I’ll still keep this one in mind because it does sound like a nice story. Amazing review, Ami! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!
      I was so surprised to read about her contributions to computers! And it was also interesting to read about the early stages of computers and how the idea of the computer started to come about. I, too, wonder what Ada would’ve focused on had she been allowed. There was an early scene with her trying to invent flying wings, as she really wanted to fly like a bird. But sadly her mother stopped her from that invention.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Since I’m not interested in math, I never would have picked this book up myself. However, if I found an anthology that went through the history of women in math, I would be more interested. I think in fiction the author wants it to seem real, whereas in biography the writer can explain more clearly with the audience in mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes – I see what you mean. I was so fascinated by Ada’s contributions, and her mentor, mathematician Mary Somerville. I hadn’t heard of either of these ladies before so I found the history interesting. Definitely more interesting than the actual math and science involved!


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