Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

(TW: attempted suicide, depression, murder, arson, and general violence)

Roger is a master of language. Semantics, pragmatics…foreign languages…it all comes naturally to him. Dodger, on the other hand, is a math wizard. She can find solutions to problems that have baffled scientists and mathematicians for years.

This pair of brother and sister twins were created by a man called Reed. He wants them to find The Impossible City, where he can achieve immense power. We don’t want that to happen.

Oh wow this book was amazing. The structure is told in several parts, but we begin in the end, with Dodger bleeding out yet not dead. We don’t know exactly what happened, but we will learn later. The book is told in 3rd person, mainly through the eyes of the twins; however, there are a few other perspectives given every once in a while.

This is one of those books that’s best gone into not knowing too much. The world is relatively the same as ours, except that alchemy is possible. The text is interspersed with snippets of a children’s book series written by an alchemist. The series itself is about a mythical Impossible City. The book seamlessly integrates the stories together. They are utterly alike, yet strikingly different, just like Roger and Dodger. (And yes, there is a reason for their names.)

Our two protagonists are what really makes the novel. We follow them from creation until adulthood. We see them argue, forgive, and everything in between. Dodger is a lonesome child, but she is determined. She has a plan for most things and the mathematical prowess to pull it all off. Roger feels a bit more laid back. He isn’t lazy, but he just has a way with words that makes him persuasive enough to not have to do any rigid planning. The twins juxtapose each other very nicely.

The prose is readable without being boring. It has a hint of whimsy, yet it is pretty grounded in its delivery — especially in the hard hitting parts. For example, there is a tough scene to read involving an (off-screen) attempted suicide. It (and the topic of depression) are handled with great care.

Overall, this is a book to read. If you enjoyed the author’s Wayward Children series, I think you’re going to love Middlegame. Nothing was disappointing; everything was wonderful. And honestly, it’s already up there for my favorites of 2019.

(We received a digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.)

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