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.
I received an eARC of Seasonal Fears, the second book in the Alchemical Journeys series, so of course, I had to read Middlegame first. I am so glad – if I didn’t have the pressure of reviewing Seasonal Fears in the back of my mind, there were a half dozen spots when I could have given up on Middlegame in the first half of the book. I just could not see where it was going. As you can tell by my rating, though, I ended up loving this story.
They’re in Fremont, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area; all of them know that, and all of them know it doesn’t matter. Where they really are is the Up-and-Under, and in the Up-and-Under, sometimes the hardest thing to find is the road that takes you home.
I struggled in the beginning because it’s incredibly alchemy-heavy. However, once the narrative moves to focus more on Roger and Dodger’s lives, it is so. much. better. It doesn’t hurt that McGuire’s writing is undeniably beautiful; some of the most horrific actions or terrifying concepts are described with breathtaking prose.
The wings of crows beat in her ribcage, prisoned in the fleshy confines of her heart; sometimes she feels their feathers brushing against her bones, which are a mixture of human, caprine, and whalebone scrimshaw, carved so beautifully that she sometimes thinks it a pity she needs skin. She would be so much more attractive as a walking specter of tendon and bone, exposing her creator’s artwork to the world.
Midnight greets Leigh Barrow as she steps off the plane and onto Californian earth for the first time. (But not for the first time, never for the first time; there are so few first times for someone like her, a mosaic, a palimpsest of a woman; there are too many souls woven into the depths of her. Somewhere deep, a woman she once was rolls over and cries in restless slumber, remembering the scent of eucalyptus on the wind, the taste of sea air, the cries of the gulls that flew, white-winged and bright, above the California coast.)
Middlegame covers an epic series worth of subject matter in just one book. The timeline does whatever it wants, expecting the reader to figure it out on their own. This feels like a book that will only get better with each reread as hidden gems are discovered with the benefit of foresight.
I’m already so hesitant to DNF, Middlegame seems to be trying to convince me to never give up on a book again…