Book Review: Middlegame, Seanan McGuire
Fantasy: Middlegame, Seanan McGuire
Roger and Dodger grow up on opposite sides of the country. He is from Massachusetts. Gifted with words and languages, but he struggles in math. Dodger is a California girl who hates spelling and writing but loves her math. The two of them have nothing in common.
Except for everything.
For Roger and Dodger are twins. Not just fraternal twins, but the subjects of an alchemist’s experiment. Twins who have connected mentally across space, able to communicate mentally in a way that is not quite telepathy but is close enough to be a blood relative. And their connection is both the best thing in their world and the worst thing in their maker’s world, for it means he cannot control them.
I will try to avoid giving away any spoilers. The twins’ lives become both intertwined and complicated, their connection severed and restored. The twists and turns make up the 500 plus pages of this novel that I could barely put down for minor matters like exhaustion and hunger. Seanan McGuire weaves words together the way that a chef mixes ingredients, the way a designer takes threads, the way a sculptor molds clay. What is just flour and fabric and mud to others becomes magic in her hands. Authors may be alchemists with language. If so, McGuire might get invited to dine with Nicolas Flamel and Paracelsus the next time they meet.
Where McGuire shines is in her understanding of the human condition. We meet the twins as elementary aged children, as teens, then again as young adults. In each meeting the descriptions of their thoughts, feelings, needs and wants are perfectly pitched. We feel the longing for acceptance that every teen has. We feel the confusion and hurt that children get when they are rejected. We feel the power of connection between young adults. McGuire puts us not just into the minds of Roger and Dodger, but into their very hearts and souls. During a pivotal scene when they were teenagers, I found my heart racing and my own breath becoming faster and shallower. I assumed things would work out acceptably–there were still hundreds of pages left!–but my emotions were not nearly as convinced. That is the power and gift that Seanan McGuire has, and we are lucky she has shared it with us.
Middlegame may have children and teens as the protagonists, but it is a novel for adults. There is sex and violence and some scenes could be triggering to people who are sensitive. It may be her best novel yet. It is a master work by a fantastic wordsmith, and fans of Seanan McGuire (and Mira Grant, her alter ego) will love this book.
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