Author: Seanan McGuire
Released: May 7th, 2019
Warnings: Kidnapping, child abuse/murder, dissections, self injury/suicide attempts
If I was the type of person to hand out awards, I would give Seanan McGuire’s Middlegame the award for best novel of the year. I know it’s only May, but this is without a doubt my favorite book of the year, and I just don’t see any others topping it.
Middlegame is a brilliantly written novel, full of alchemy and human nature. The combination of which results in a fascinating tale. The story itself follows two siblings, Roger and Dodger, and their unbelievable journey through time.
There was a lot to love about this novel, and therefore a lot for me to gush about. So I’m just going to make an attempt to summarize it here; Middlegame was perfection. It had this fantastical blend of science fiction and fantasy, courtesy of the alchemy focus. And it had a beautiful representation of the love and dedication between siblings. Granted, Roger and Dodger are so much more than that. I loved every minute of this book, and wish I could reset my timeline so I could read it all over again for the first time.
Warnings: Seanan McGuire has never been one to shy aware from the harder facts of life. And Middlegame covers a lot of that. Therefore there are intense subjects like child abuse and murder, self-injury and a suicide attempt. All of these subjects are relevant to the plot, and McGuire handles them very delicately and respectfully.
Another side note, before I begin my review: No matter what happens in this novel, I promise you that Bill, the fat and lovable cat, is completely fine. Nothing happens to him, and he is safe and sound at the end of the novel. This is a promise. So go ahead and read with that peace of mind.
Middlegame was an absolutely amazing read. Every twist and turn held me captivated. My only regret about this novel is that I’ve finished reading it. I suspect a reread will be in my near future.
So confession time; while I’ve been really looking forward to Middlegame, I’ve done everything in my power to keep my head in the sand about this book. I avoided early reviews, skipped the five chapter excerpt (though I was VERY tempted by it), and only read the briefest of descriptions. I tend to do this with author’s I love, because I trust that I’ll enjoy their works. In this case, I wanted to go into it with as fresh of a mind as possible, with few expectations.
I did know a few things. I knew about Roger and Dodger. And I knew about their creator. I also knew that any book that had a hand of glory on the cover had to be good.
And I have to say, I was completely blown away. This novel was so much more than I had hoped for – and I had seen comparisons to the Wayward Children series. Meaning that despite my best efforts, I had exceptionally high expectations about this book.
The story of Roger and Dodger was brilliantly written. From the way they were created all the way to the why of it all. It was fascinating to see these two characters come together again and again, despite all the efforts made to keep them apart. It was actually quite beautiful, in its own way.
Their characters were so human and yet so extraordinary. I loved the balance between the two characters. Who got which part of the Doctrine, and what exactly that meant. More so, I loved the flaws that came with them. Both children had flaws, and that’s what made them feel so real, so human.
I’ll confess that their journey broke my heart at times. But that’s a good thing. Their journey had to be a difficult one, or it never would have had the same impact. And trust me, there was impact. Middlegame managed to stick itself into my brain in a way that a book hasn’t done in years. It was wonderful, even when things were at their worst for our characters.
The alchemy in this novel was pretty spectacular as well. As far as reasons for the plot go, it was absolutely necessary. I loved the intricate nature of it all; from the way they created and studied their subjects, to the politics they were trying to break. It was brilliant.
There are a lot of other elements I could focus on, but I feel like I shouldn’t mention a lot of them for the sake of spoilers. I will say that I loved the time elements of this novel. Actually, I liked that element quite a lot more than I expected to.
Middlegame was an amazing novel, and I swear it’s not just my biases showing when I say that. It was radiantly written, full of expert world-building and fascinating characters. I honestly couldn’t have asked for more. Though I will say again that I wish I could read this novel again for the first time. Perhaps a reset is in order?