Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

Title: Middlegame
Series: Alchemical Journeys #1
Author: Seanan Mcguire
Source/Format: Tor ebook club; eBook
More Details: Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor.com Publishing; May 7, 2019

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
New York Times bestselling and Alex, Nebula, and Hugo-Award-winning author Seanan McGuire introduces readers to a world of amoral alchemy, shadowy organizations, and impossible cities in this standalone fantasy.

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’ve read some (but not all) of the current Wayward Children books, but the one story by Seanan McGuire that I had my eye on lately was Middlegame. Earlier this year, it was a Tor.com eBook Club title, and I finally got around to reading it.

The synopsis literally states what kind of story this is going to be—one that is magical and dangerous—particularly with the line: “Godhood is attainable.” The story is spread out across a lot of years, and there wasn’t too much of a mystery here, because the reader knows far more than the characters initially do.

Roger and Dodger are essentially thought of as pawns. The story hinged on them, on what they could do—and the theory about who they should be and how they should behave—but they were individuals with emotions, wants, and needs.

Middlegame played around with the limits of the conventions established within its world. It’s a strange but engaging kind of story that leaned hard into alchemy—as its fantastical elements—and into its sometimes nonlinear timeline, utilizing both in a way that was effective at building a sense of tension. It was something along the lines of: they found out about this, this, and this, now what are they going to do with and about it? Half the fun of Middlegame is seeing how the whole scenario is going to playout in the end. Will they succeed or won’t they? It was up in the air for much of the novel, and even when the characters got a renewed sense of determination, I wasn’t certain of what would happen.

Middlegame was a page-turner. The sequel, Seasonal Fears, recently came out, so I have more of this world to look forward to.

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