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Middlegame by Seanan McGuire #BookReview

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.

Book cover for Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

Title: Middlegame | Series: N/A | Author: Seanan McGuire | Publisher: | Pub. Date: 7 May 2019 | Pages: 492 | ASIN: B07HF2ZK75 | Genre: Fantasy | Language: English | Source: Purchased | Starred Review

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Middlegame Review

Seanan McGuire has tweeted that Middlegame is the best book she has ever written.  As I write this it is a finalist for the Hugo and Locus Awards. I’ve read a number of Ms. McGuire’s books, though none under her pseudonym.  All were admired and enjoyed but I have to agree with her assessment of Middlegame given my small sample.  It is a terrific work of fiction with fine characters, textured storytelling, and action. The awards people put it in the Fantasy section which makes complete sense though there is some overlap with science fiction elements to my sense.

The story follows two children growing up as best friends even though they’ve never met, never talked, and live on opposite sides of the country. In many ways, they lead ordinary lives, though obviously there is nothing ordinary about their relationship.  They take turns accidentally hurting each other, as people in general and children in particular too often do.  Unlike as happens with ordinary people, these fester because the two do not come face-to-face for many years.   That mechanism allows us to watch them grow up, mature into adults, and then strike out to build fully-formed lives on their own. The author lets us see both sides of each insult, helping us sympathize with both characters.

Of course, this being an action-packed fantasy novel, there are forces scheming in the shadows.  This group is introduced early, slowly developed, and spliced into the main storyline overtime as the friends mature.  These agents are not as fleshed out as the main characters but that’s just fine for the needs of the plot.  One of the sinister crew, however, develops into a compelling and sympathetic character, in some ways eclipsing the two protagonists in my opinion.

All of that is well and good and to be admired in a work of speculative fiction.  Middlegame, however, also shows a terrific level of craftsmanship in my opinion.  You can tell Ms. McGuire has worked tirelessly at her craft, she tells a fine story and all of the pieces fit together tightly with no loose wiggle.  At one point I noticed a mistake she had made, a trivial detail that I was confident few would catch and couldn’t really matter to the story.  That mistake turned out to be the moment when a key element of the story first makes its appearance.  Well done.

One note/warning though not a spoiler.  Ms. McGuire has a new book coming out called “Over the Woodward Wall” under the pen name A. Deborah Baker.  It looks terrific and I look forward to reading it.  However, it is clear that the work is very closely tied to Middlegame though you wouldn’t know that without recognizing the pen name and book blurb.  So, if you are interested in reading that work (which I am) I assume it’s best to enjoy Middlegame first.  Or enjoy Middlegame even if Woodward doesn’t grab your attention, it is well worth your time on its own merits.

You can find this book at many retailers via clicking on the appropriate link on Goodreads; however, in the spirit of supporting literacy programs, we would like to point out that you may be able to purchase this book through BetterWorldBooks.


Attempted suicide

Published inFantasy Book ReviewsStarred Reviews
©Sci-Fi & Scary 2019
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