*I received a free ARC of this book, with thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan – Tor/Forge. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: 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 is a fantastical Frankenstein blending of the classic children’s fantasy (alchemy and magic) adventure story (Phillip Pullman, J. K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis, Joan Aitken) but NOT for children; with a large bolt of science, maths and science fiction (time travel and reanimation).
There is some pretty dark murder and violence, which is not graphically depicted, but could definitely spark shivers in more sensitive readers. I consider myself fairly unflappable but confess that Leigh Burrows gave me actual nightmares.
Roger and Dodger (and Erin and Darren) should be pretty unlikable characters in theory, as they are so focused on their particular narrow set of skills and interests that their humanity can slide into the background at times. Yet they were eminently likeable and I found myself very quickly caring deeply about what happened to them and how they would all make it successfully along their improbable road. Which made for a tense read, as the first pages make it clear how very improbable that would be!
So, a sci-fi fairytale for grownups. There is a love of wordplay and storytelling that propels the narrative beneath the STEM surface, but the real driving force is the characters and their relationships as they develop and change. Roger and Dodger, their relationship with the world and each other, are the heart and soul of the book. Which is exactly as it should be in a story that explores what makes us human or monsters, or both.
There is so much blood.
Roger didn’t know there was this much blood in the human body. It seems impossible, ridiculous, a profligate waste of something that should be precious and rare – and most importantly, contained. This blood belongs inside the body where it began, and yet here it is, and here he is, and everything is going so wrong.
– Seanan McGuire, Middlegame
Middlegame is available on Amazon right now!