Just when I feel like I’ve gotten Seanan McGuire’s worked pegged, she comes at us with something like Middlegame – something so different and so complex, that while it changes the way I think about her work, it also elevates her status (to me) as a writer capable of expanding her talents and willing to try new things.
This book is essentially about Roger and Dodger (a female). ‘Essentially’ because like most of McGuire’s work, it’s character driven. But here the story is also concept-driven (which is a little different).
Roger and Dodger are twins who have been separated since birth. And though they haven’t met or even know that they have a twin sibling, Roger and Dodger have been able to communicate to one another, mentally. What they don’t know, until much later is that Roger and Dodger were lab-created by James Reed, a mad alchemist who has been doing human experiments for years, trying to develop magical powers – making them almost super-human – in order to embody ‘The Doctrine of Ethos.’
Reed discovered, through trial and error, that the values of the Doctrine are too much for one human and split the two components – math and language – into two individuals. Roger and Dodger are the first to survive Reed’s manipulation and they are being carefully monitored even though they, and their adoptive parents, don’t necessarily know it.
Roger has the gift of language and Dodger is the mathematician. In the early chapters we meet Dodger, a young girl – a math ‘prodigy’ – who solves a mathematical problem that has stumped the brightest minds for centuries. Where do you go from there?
When Roger and Dodger get together and the Doctrine of Ethos is merged the result is dynamic and will have ramifications far beyond what Reed might have expected.
Wow. This is an intense book. McGuire has woven together a story whose fabric is so tight, so interwoven, that I don’t think many of us will catch all the intricacies on one reading.
One of the beautiful things about McGuire’s writing is that she respects the intelligence of the reader and she doesn’t tell us everything – she lets the story unfold at her own pace. In this book in particular it can be a challenge as we’re given a lot of information but we don’t know what to do with it or why it’s important. But it’s always best to trust an author such as Seanan McGuire will bring a story together and reveal why early information is important.
The story takes a few strange jumps, but for me this was equal parts frustrating and exciting. Frustrating because I’d feel compelled to go back and make sure I didn’t miss something and exciting because I would look forward to learning more about it.
I tend to think of the author, as Seanan McGuire, writing urban fantasy and, as Mira Grant, writing fantastic, science horror. Middlegame is a dark combination as well as new territory for her.
There is a lot going on here and it will require an extremely careful reading, or multiple readings to really catch and appreciate what McGuire has written.
Looking for a good book? Middlegame by Seanan McGuire is a complicated mystery, thriller, fantasy that isn’t easy reading but is well-worth the experience.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Seanan McGuire
hardcover, 528 pages