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The Sand-Reckoner

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  653 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
The young scholar Archimedes has just had the best three years of his life at Ptolemy's Museum at Alexandria. To be able to talk and think all day, every day, sharing ideas and information with the world's greatest minds, is heaven to Archimedes. But heaven must be forsaken when he learns that his father is ailing, and his home city of Syracuse is at war with the Romans.

Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 2nd 2001 by Forge Books (first published April 1st 2000)
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Deborah Pickstone
Who knew a mathematician and engineer could be so interesting? Archimedes made over into a heroic figure crossed with an absent-minded professor, with a worldly but morally upright slave as sidekick and Good King Hieron to boot - who apparently was a most praise-worthy king in reality. Again, a charming read with delightful characterisation throughout.
Mar 03, 2009 Scott rated it it was amazing
This novel is an excellent piece of historical fiction. I may be completely biased, however. I have read the earlier non-fiction work "The Archimedes Codex" and have enjoyed learning what we know about this astounding man from the few fragments that have survived from antiquity.

The novel is entirely plausible. The author, Gillian Bradshaw, studied Classics at Cambridge University, and the world the characters inhabit has a plausibly real look, smell, and feel of Syracuse circa 250 B.C. Syracuse
Jul 15, 2012 Jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not much is known about the life of Archimedes; but the author has done a very good job of writing a fictional historical novel on him. She made the the technical aspects -- math and engineering -- fairly understandable. I can now see their importance in our everyday life. I loved all the characters; however, King Hieron did seem a bit unbelievable, too good to be true, although I understand the historical King Hieron, was a very good king. I empathized completely with Archimedes' Roman slave, M ...more
May 15, 2012 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
I have shiny sparkly hearts in my eyes. Plot I understand and historical accuracy and complex characters and they talk to each other and they have relationships with each other and these relationships change because there are consequences for actions and the hero is a math genius and omg the only thing I regret is that I cannot read this again for the first time.
Among Bradshaw's better books. Remembering how much I enjoyed this the first time through, pushing the rating to 4.51.

Her portrayal of young genius brought to life an intriguing character.
Kate Hewitt
Sep 25, 2015 Kate Hewitt rated it it was amazing
I love this book! The period of history is fascinating (ancient Syrcacuse) and the hero is loveable, honourable, and quirky. Definitely recommended.
Nov 07, 2008 Bonnie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating book both for the story and for the historical aspect. I had known nothing about Archimedes before I read this book (although I vaguely knew that he had something to do with math and science). Very involving even if one isn't really into history, but especially if one is. Incidentally, I've liked all of her books that I've read.
J.S. Dunn
Aug 11, 2016 J.S. Dunn rated it really liked it
For lovers of prehistory, or mathematics, or well crafted historicals: a fascinating read about the mathematician Archimedes of ancient Syracuse, a Greek city-state of Sicily when Rome was just beginning to flex its militarist ambition on its neighbors. Nicely detailed as to Alexandria (Egypt) and Syracuse. Well paced, engaging main character in Archimedes and also his servant/slave Marcus.
Peter Tillman
Aug 07, 2016 Peter Tillman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reread-list
Historical fiction doesn't get much better than this. Very likely Bradshaw's masterwork.

For SF/F readers: Think Ken MacLeod, in the days of the Roman Republic. High-order engineering and political fiction, with war & romance! Wonderful stuff.
Jun 12, 2017 James rated it really liked it
Much better than I thought it would be. Ending was both touching and unpredictable.
Jeremy Bonilla
May 11, 2017 Jeremy Bonilla rated it it was amazing
Great book about Archimedes. A story about a mathematician shouldn't be this interesting.
Nov 01, 2012 Alcornell rated it really liked it
Shelves: novelized-bio
Really too bad for me that I didn't make some notes when I finished this book about the life and work of Archimedes. It was a very good read. Entertaining and full to the brim of well wrought scenes of Ancient Greek culture, domestic and political life in Sicily. I do still think about this book a year after reading it. I wonder about the unknowns: who was Archimedes' wife and what would she say about living with this great mathematician? I am sad for the slaves and Helots who perished in all th ...more
Jun 22, 2014 Fiona rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book. It is a very engaging, well-researched piece of historical fiction. While I learnt a lot about Greek culture and history, it was never tedious and the plot was always relevant and interesting.

It is clear that Bradshaw is an expert on the Greek period, and all the cultural and historical information show this. However, she also explained Archimedes' geometry and engineering very successfully; descriptions of his machines were just enough to illustrate their pur
Historical fiction for kid's bookclub. A snapshot of the life of Archimedes from the time he leaves Alexandria to come home because of his father's failing health and the threat of war between his home, Syracuse, and Rome. It breaks his heart to leave Alexandria and his pursuit of pure mathematics but he does his duty. When he returns home, it is to find that his father is dying and he will soon be head of the house and must find a way of supporting himself, his mother, and his sister. He knows ...more
Cody Hume
Jan 28, 2015 Cody Hume rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 15, 2013 Wellington rated it really liked it

This is the story of Archimedes, the math genius. Because of his father's health, he has to return home to Syracuse away from wondrous Alexandria, home to the most advanced thinkers of the times.

It's a story of a man who just wanted to do geometry. Easily distracted, Archimedes would stop what he doing to do his calculations on the sand beneath his feet and get lost for hours. I have a found a soul mate (not that I have his math skills but I have been known to get lost in thought for hours at a
Apr 16, 2014 Joy rated it it was amazing
A fictional version of the years in which Aristophanes established himself as one of the greatest engineers of ancient times. In addition to the miracle that was the mind of Aristophanes, we become close to his warm, musical family; his slave Marcus with his conflicts of duty; the almost equally miraculous King Hieron of Syracuse; and the king's sister Doria, brave in reaching out to the unknown. Every one of those characters, and more, bind us emotionally into Aristophanes' homeland.

I am in lov
May 10, 2013 May rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. As mentioned by previous reviewers, it is about the life of Archimedes, about which little is known other than his brilliant mathematics. The same is true for the other historical characters--Hieron, the Tyrant of Syracuse, for example. The author draws a compelling story line of the relationship between Archimedes and Hieron, consistent with known facts and fleshes out their characters well. There is also a subplot regarding Marcus, the slave, that provides a wonderf ...more
Dean Madley
Sep 08, 2014 Dean Madley rated it really liked it
This book is about archimedes' works in math and his historical impact on the world today. In the book it talks about their early calculators and it makes you realize how hard it must have been to figure some of the things out that he did. This book is great for showing some of the struggles he went through with his family and everyone around him. I think it might be historically inaccurate on some of the timing of things. But it shows that to make it more dramatic, but it was accurate in showin ...more
Jul 06, 2013 Libby rated it really liked it
Although it started off a bit slowly for me, I gained steady momentum and then found myself having difficulty putting the book down. It was a perfect Summer read for me even though I don't prefer historical fiction while poolside; admittedly I'm more of a light and sloppy romance sort of girl this time of year! I'd recommend it to anyone who finds a glimpse into Europe's historical past's complicated political realms fascinating. The Sand-Reckoner touched on all the points of a good read for me: ...more
Jan 12, 2015 Abra rated it it was amazing
There were a couple of small niggling issues with this otherwise great piece of historical fiction on Archimedes, the Syracusan geometer -- in the first Punic War, if Colleen McCullough is right, the Roman Republic's legions did not yet use silver eagles as legion standards -- that was 150 years or more later, under Gaius Marius. Otherwise, great details, and a good job linking math and music, and people on the spectrum with math genius-ness. I am glad to discover Gillian Bradshaw, late as I am ...more
Oct 04, 2011 Sherry rated it liked it
I always enjoy Gillan Bradshaw's books. She has the knack of really making you see the world the characters lived in. However, I can't say that the Sand-Reckoner is going to be one of the first of her books I recommend. The story is a little flat, a little boring. The characters never seem to quite come to life, as compared to her other works that I found really compelling, like The Horses of Heaven.
However, this is in comparison to her own work. By any standards, the Sand-Reckoner is a good rea
Sep 20, 2012 Brittany rated it really liked it
I was hesitant to start reading this book, knowing that the main character is Archimedes. Trying to get inside the head of an ancient mathematical genius takes a lot of guts. Happily, Gillian Bradshaw has those guts, and the necessary brains and imagination, in spades.

This is a phenomenal book, with excellent characters, wonderful plot, and fantastic historical detail. I'd recommend it to anyone as a remarkable work of historical fiction.
Feb 16, 2009 Karen rated it it was amazing
I am a big fan of Gillian Bradshaw's historical fiction and this book about Archimedes did not disappoint. It has its flaws, the biggest of which is how predictable parts of it are, but overall it's a joy to read. Her characters are engaging, the pace is perfect, and the setting is fascinating and full of interesting historical detail. It's meant for entertainment and mild education and is not full of deep meaning, but it was a breath of fresh air for me and I greatly enjoyed it.
Kristyn Jensen
Jun 09, 2011 Kristyn Jensen rated it really liked it
What a great story! The characters sucked you in and made you love them. I live the Greek perspectives of the Romans because so often that's their perspective of other nations. It seems to come from a lack of self acceptance as a nation as well as ignorance, but that has nothing to do with this book. The combination of mathematics and music is inspiring as well as geometry as a tool for faith. Beautifully written!
Feb 06, 2009 Julia rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
My brother told me about this author and recommended this book and one called Wolf Hunt. This one is about Archimedes who lived in the late b.c. in Greece. He was a brilliant mathematician and engineer, and the story tells what happened to him when he had to come home to Syracuse after having spent 3 years studying in Alexandria. It was pretty interesting and made me want to get my son interested in math and science at an early age.
John Warren
Jul 19, 2014 John Warren rated it it was amazing
i really enjoyed this book about Archimedes. ive read historical fiction books that mention him in bits and pieces and u dont really grasp what amazing person he really was from his catapults to the Archimedes screw he was the Stephen Hawking of the ancient world. Gillian Bradshaw puts a wonderful and classy story around the the first punic war and the seige of syracuse she made u really care about the characters in this book highly recommend it
Mike Edens
Oct 10, 2009 Mike Edens rated it it was amazing
The Sand Reckoner is a great historical fiction book about Archimedes, the ancient mathematician, and his struggle of choosing between his country and his love for pure math. The book is very descriptive and paints a great picture in your head. It also does a great job portraying Greek history and technology. It’s a fun and easy book to read.
Mary Ann
Jul 10, 2012 Mary Ann rated it it was amazing
An excellent look at the Ancient Greek Archimedes through the lens of fiction. Did I really understand that relationship of the volume of a cylinder within a sphere? The author explained and described Archimedes' thoughts so well I felt like I understood.

This is not, however, a book about mathematics. The story line is interesting, as well.
Feb 06, 2013 Kathryn rated it really liked it
It kind of had an abrupt she got tired of writing it and the last chapter just skips over a lot of events (like marriages) and is set a year or two in the future. She also doesn't detail what Archimedes does with the rest of his life in terms of building machines or doing mathematics. So while it gives a glimpse of his younger years it offers no view of his later years.
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Born in Arlington, Virgina, Gillian Bradshaw grew up in Washington, Santiago, Chile and Michigan. She is a Classics graduate from Newnham College, Cambridge, and published her first novel, Hawk of May, just before her final term. A highly acclaimed historical novelist, Gillian Bradshaw has won the Hopwood Award for Fiction, among other prizes. She lives in Cambridge with her husband and their four ...more
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