Middlegame Review

Author: Seanan McGuire
Published: May 2019
Publisher: Tor
Readership: Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: ★★★

I received a copy of Middlegame from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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.

Middlegame, I think, will be a book that divides readers.

A few weeks after reading and I’m still unsure of how I feel about it – there are definitely significant parts of the story that really, really appealed to me as  a reader, and others that almost had me putting it down for good.

The basic premise (if there’s even such a thing for a book this complex) is an experiment in genetic engineering that sees pairs of twins being tested for their potential to achieve godhood over the course of their life. Rodger and Dodger, twins separated in their infancy and raised in different circumstances, are children of a sort of the alchemist Reed who wants to use them to harness a higher power that he cannot claim on his own. We follow the twins over the course of their lives, from childhood to adulthood, as their paths cross and diverge and change as they begin to realise their potential.

I want to say, upfront, that I went into Middlegame knowing nothing except that I’m a huge fan of McGuire’s Wayward Children novella series and I was very interested to read a full-length novel by her to see if her writing style transfers well across both formats for me personally.

The answer to that is yes… and no.

Middlegame is an intensely interesting story, but I really struggled with the pacing. A lot of it, I believe, is intentional, because we need to build up a relationship with the protagonists and see how they develop their relationship with each other. There are a lot of cool things that happen, but there’s also a lot of downtime in between which had me wondering when the next major event would occur. That downtime is what I really struggled with.

That said, the entire concept is very intriguing – it’s like Frankenstein’s monster started running the laboratory and is powerful enough that no-one is going to get in his way. The story itself is a fantasy (but not), set in our world (but not) and entirely normal except for the alchemists living in the shadows and secretly controlling things. There’s time travel, magic, paranormal-aspects and a whole host of things I love. I love it when books involve jumping around in timelines and this had some awesome moments.

I also really loved Erin, who was one of the side characters who ends up in an almost guide-like role, but who is entirely her own person with her own motivations.

So, I’m still conflicted, but it’s definitely worth a read to see where your opinions fall.

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