It should really come as no surprise to me at this point that I loved this new release from Seanan McGuire. Everything I read by her is an absolute joy. I was lucky enough to interview her at Emerald City Comic-con, though I have yet to post the transcript (sorry Seanan). She is a master craftsman of BIG themes and metaphors. Though I didn’t know much about Middlegame initially, I was pleasantly surprised to find so many elements of other series like The Wayward Children and October Daye presented in new ways here.
Click here for the Synopsis!
Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story. Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math. Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet. Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own. Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.
I find it hard to talk about this book without spoilers, but there are so many things to address in this story. Middlegame is primarily about alchemy. For anyone unfamiliar with the goals of alchemical study, alchemists usually want to unlock the keys to eternal life, and unlimited power/wealth. In Middlegame an alchemist named Reed forms human being to embody various aspects of life, logic, and natural law. Mathematics, Linguistics, Order, and Chaos are just a few of the ideas captured in human form throughout the book. According to legend, beings like this can harness the power to control the fabric of reality.
Confused yet? That’s ok! This book does a wonderful job of revisiting these really dense and detailed ideas in a way that doesn’t feel overly repetitive. The story digs into alternate timelines and multiverses. Because of that, you do end up reading through the same or similar moments several times. It was really interesting to see how each iteration differed from the previous ones.
I really enjoyed the two primary characters, Roger and Dodger. As someone with a healthy interest in both mathematics and language, I found something to relate to in each of them. Though outside forces make their relationship complicated, they love each other very much. I finally got the (mostly) loving sibling relationship I have been wanting for years.
Middlegame is not short on heartache. Some truly horrific events result from the manipulation of natural law. There is some violence and a few thrilling moments throughout the story. There is also an air of dark academia as you follow Roger and Dodger through their high school and college years. I found myself thinking of books like Vicious by VE Schwab, and Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko. The atmosphere and setting in each of these books are similar. I highly recommend them all.
Do you have any recommendations for books with healthy sibling dynamics? I would love to read more like this!
If you liked Middlegame be sure to check out my review of Vita Nostra!