by Seanan McGuire


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New York Times bestselling and Alex, Nebula, and Hugo-Award-winning author Seanan McGuire introduces readers to a world of amoral alchemy, shadowy organizations, and impossible cities in the standalone fantasy, Middlegame.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250195524
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 05/07/2019
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 17,674
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.30(h) x 2.00(d)

About the Author

SEANAN McGUIRE is the author of the Hugo, Nebula, Alex and Locus Award-winning Wayward Children series, the October Daye series, the InCryptid series, and other works. She also writes darker fiction as Mira Grant. Seanan lives in Seattle with her cats, a vast collection of creepy dolls, horror movies, and sufficient books to qualify her as a fire hazard. She won the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and in 2013 became the first person to appear five times on the same Hugo ballot.

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Middlegame 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
LynnLTX 6 months ago
Rodger and Dodger are twins separated at birth in a complex, mind-bending scheme that is a mashup of Frankenstein, Harry Potter, Fractured Fairy Tales, and alchemy with an unparalleled hubris by alchemists seeking to own all of creation. James Reed created the twins in a very complicated scheme to essentially control the universe and rule over it. Rodger masters languages and words to the extent they are a power within him though he is unaware of it for a long time. Dodger is all about math; she sees the world in numbers and their attendant correlations. At an early age they discover the ability to communicate mentally from a great distance. As Rodger and Dodger grow up, separations occur because of various events and James Reed, who is their puppet master, but each time they come together, their powers of have grown. James Reed himself was creation of an alchemist who discovered how to reanimate corpses and through alchemical means, affect and alter time. While to most of us time seems linear, in this story, time is mutable and some events may have happened more than once. Reed’s obsession is to imbue in his creations the ability to control the physical laws of the world thus controlling everything and everyone. One thing his creator, Asphodel Baker, did not embody Reed with was a conscience and any type of scruples. He makes sociopaths seem warm and fuzzy. James Reed may be alive, but he clearly has no soul. Perhaps Reed is a cautionary tale of what happens when men try to play God. Not surprisingly, both Rodger and Dodger are prodigy, genius children who excel in their particular skills; however, they are never truly whole when parted. Each adds something to the other allowing a synergy that if they are allowed to fully manifest, will fulfill every one of their maker’s dreams. The saving grace is that they are not just extensions of the megalomaniac who created them. Rodger and Dodger can actually love each other on a level their maker does not fathom to his detriment. This wildly imaginative story begins at the end and ends at the beginning jumping back and forth between past and present. Ms. McGuire does a fairly deft job of guiding the reader through all the complexities, but parts of this book will set the one’s head spinning. It reminds me of the C.S. Lewis poem, Little Giddings:” We shall not cease from exploration/ And the end of all our exploring/ Will be to arrive where we started/ And know the place for the first time.” This very dark fantasy has elements of horror, fairy tale, and perhaps an implication of what Mary Shelley’s meant to say concerning what modern man might get up to in her book, Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. This is a lengthy tale that demands a lot of engagement which some might find it tedious. Middlegame will leave the reader with a lot to puzzle over and think about especially for fans of Ms. McGuire.
TheLiteraryPhoenix 5 months ago
Middlegame is a deeply intelligent story about a pair of engineered twins designed to embody two separate halves of reality - math and language - and therefore open the path to a utopia. While they were envisioned with a path of good, their minder has world domination in mind. Using alchemical theory as a basis, this subject matter of Middlegame can come off as a bit cultish... but it's really a very intellectual novel with intriguing conversations and characters. The reader follows twins Roger and Dodger through most of the story, taking pauses only to slip into the POVs of a few supporting characters along the way in order to tell a fuller story. The deeper you get in the novel, the clearer it becomes what the twins are and have been doing, but it's all lai out very slowly. The last 20% of the story is a rollercoaster... but the rest of it is a slow lead in and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't bored in the first half of the book. Generally speaking, it's a fascinating novel with interesting - if not endearing - characters and you really have to admire Seanan McGuire's writing. While this one wasn't a smash hit for me, I was captivated by it and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to an audience who enjoys authors like Dan Brown as well as other fans of Seanan's.
crystallyn 5 months ago
I.Could.Not.Put.This.Book.Down. I hadn't read anything by McGuire before I read Middlegame and now I feel desperate to go find everything else she's written. I was so deeply invested in the twin characters of Roger and Dodger and their mysterious connection to each other, and their ability to shape and reshape the world around them. This book is epic in scope, ambitious in plot and deeply layered with emotion. My one wish for the book was that I wanted more words from Roger--he was often in the shadow of Dodger and her mathy world. And that I hope this isn't the end...that there is more Middlegame in our future!!
DeborahJRoss 5 months ago
I’ve enjoyed Seanan McGuire’s books since I discovered Rosemary and Rue and the “Incryptid” series. Her sense of dramatic flow, finely-handled narrative pacing, and just plain nifty stuff made each successive adventure more enjoyable. I quickly learned that when I picked up one of her books, I was in for a good time. Sometimes I wondered how she was able to maintain the quality of her work, given how productive she was. Not only did she consistently deliver one good story after another, but her recent releases have leapt from “good” to memorable. Her novella, Every Heart a Doorway, was stunning, a journey of the heart as well as a series of dramatic events, richly deserving both the Nebula and Hugo Awards. I loved her “Sparrow Road” ghost stories, too. Now I can add Middlegame, an alchemy/Frankenstein/time-traveling/sibling-story to that list. The outer frame of the story involves a precocious and wildly talented alchemist who devises a way to remake the world through the human incarnations of the Doctrine of Ethos. “In the ancient world the Greeks believed music had a magical power to speak directly to human emotion. In what has come to be known as the doctrine of ethos, the Greeks believed that the right kind of music had the power to heal the sick and shape personal character in a positive way. The Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that when music was designed to imitate a certain emotion, a person listening to the music would have that emotion.” – From Music and the Doctrine of Ethos, classicaltyro.com. McGuire uses a somewhat different sense of this doctrine, albeit still in the sense of possessing transformative powers. The alchemist, Asphodel Baker, and her disciples set about creating pairs of twins whose natural talents (language and mathematics, for example, or order and chaos) complement and complete one another. Adopted out and separated as infants, when mature they will be drawn together to fully manifest the Doctrine and grant the one who controls them power over the universe. Or so goes the plan. I stayed up way too late on a number of nights, following Roger and Dodger on their quest for one another and for a life truly, humanly lived. I heartily recommend this book and expect it to be a contender for major awards in speculative fiction. The usual disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book, but no one bribed me to say anything in particular about it. Although chocolates and fine imported tea are always welcome.
MarziesReads 6 months ago
Middlegame My rating: 5 of 5 stars 4.5 stars bumped because, while all of it didn't work for me, the parts that did work were truly wonderful. Alchemy- a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination. Imagine you're an only child, with an imaginary friend. You find out your imaginary friend, whose voice you hear in your head, is a real person. You find out they live on the other side of the country. You also find out you both have the same birthday and year, and when you finally meet, the same eyes and features. Imagine you're a twin. And when you finally come together, you make something entirely new and different. And dangerous. Roger Middleton and Dodger Cheswich are twins. They aren't twin humans, though; they're twin alchemical constructs. They are called cuckoos (a la Wyndham's brood parasite Midwich Cuckoos) because human parents have adopted and raised them, though at least one set of those parents doesn't know that the cuckoos aren't human. But that's okay because Roger and Dodger don't know what they are and what they can do yet, either. An unusual aspect of this book is that we don't even meet Roger and Dodger (the central characters!) until more than fifty pages into the story, and we don't see what they can do until more than halfway through the book. Although, maybe that last part is a good thing. What they can do may not be beneficial for the world. Roger and Dodger are written with exquisite care, and for me, the best part of this book is their maturation as individuals, their sibling relationship and their character arcs. Roger and Dodger aren't "regular people" in the biologically-born sense but they are real and feeling people who are counted, like their brethren, as disposable by their creator. (There's a whole powerful subtext here that runs throughout the book in which alchemy could be equated to religion and religions may be too quick to discard those who are "imperfect.") Erin, a character who surprised me in that I grew to like her in spite of her viciously thorough side, gives us a poignant sense of what it's like when one alchemical twin is lost. In addition to giving us a story of two people finding "their other half" and figuring out who they are, the novel gives us the story of what happens when you meet your maker and your maker is a terrible person. Looking at what didn't work as well for me, the alchemy itself was rather sketchy (seemingly not based on gnostic alchemical-doctrine?), as was the application of quantum entanglement on a macroscopic scale. The non-specific fourth-dimensional math, and the timeslip elements of the story, were never really explained in a grounded way for the reader. Still, the story kept me engaged. I found it read like a perfect amalgam of Seanan McGuire (fantasy) and Mira Grant (horror, since there's a reason there's a hand of glory on the cover, folks) writing styles. Middlegame, middlegame... This is a book where I have contemplated the definitions of central themes (alchemy, cuckoos, manifestation, entanglement) including that title, which means the phase of a chess game, after the opening, when all or most of the pieces and pawns remain on the board. It leaves me wondering if there is space for a prequel. And a sequel. I'd be happy to see more of these characters. I received a paper Advance Reader Copy and a Digital Review Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
taramichelle 6 months ago
McGuire has been one of my favorite writers since I first picked up Rosemary & Rue. I have an entire shelf dedicated to her books (all of which I’ve read). And Middlegame is easily my favorite. Actually, it’s in my top five favorites of all time. Middlegame is a remarkably ambitious piece of literature and I’m in awe of how McGuire executed the concept. This book has it all - a brilliant plot, stunning world-building (including alchemy!), and characters that will melt your heart. Rodger and Dodger enchanted me and I loved watching them grow up. Plus the writing! All of that being said, I’d highly recommend going into this one as blind as possible. It’s a wild ride and discovering the secrets is half the fun. If you’re looking for an innovative book that melds science fiction and fantasy, definitely check this one out. *Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Betul90 6 months ago
I have to admit that Middlegame is not the type of book I would usually read. However, I am a big fan of Seanan's Urban Fantasy the October Daye series, and after being intrigued by the blurb of this book, I wanted to give it a go. I try to be as adventurous as I can and try out new things. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this book. In the beginning it was a bit confusing and I had to get used to all the unfamiliar terms, characters, world, and the set-up of the book. But after a while I really got into the story and it started making more sense to me. Middlegame is set in the modern world where alchemists want to have the highest powers in the world. And one in particular will do anything to have ultimate control and power. I am going to be honest with you guys, I have no idea how to explain this book, so just be satisfied with the blurb. I think it's better to go in blind and discover everything by yourself anyways. I absolutely loved the bond between Roger and Dodger. It was obvious that these two were meant for greatness, but like you and I they have internal struggles and doubts that hold them back. I loved that they weren't perfect and had their own flaws and faults. This made me connect with them better. Middlegame was very unpredictable and I loved all the twists and turns. It had me on the edge of my seat at times, and I couldn't wait to see what would happen next. I was 100% invested in the story, and I was happy the book was 500+ pages. Seanan took her time to fully tell the story and made me fall in love with the world and characters she created.
KimHeniadis 8 days ago
It has been a long time since I’ve read a book that makes me say, “Damn!” when I finish it. And even longer since I’ve read one that takes me a week to process it. But Middlegame by Seanan McGuire, had me doing both. If you’ve read previous reviews on the website, you may have seen my other reviews on McGuire’s books, or have read a review where I’ve mentioned some of her series because they remind me, or go well with, the book I’m reviewing. Although I’ve mentioned her books numerous times before, I have to mention her series again, because they are all wonderful. I first started reading about October Daye, which is an epic fantasy series. McGuire’s world building is outstanding in this series. The next series I found was her InCryptid’s. This one is more urban fantasy that encompasses a family with different skills who help to keep safe creatures that are suggested to possibly be real, but have not yet been proven scientifically. Think Yetis or mermaids. And finally her Wayward Children series, which makes me think of Mid-West folktales and urban legends. Although I didn’t see anywhere that says Middlegame is part of the Wayward Children series, there are still some nods to it, especially towards the end. Now for the fun part where I basically tell you nothing about the book, because I don’t want to spoil any of it! It’s about alchemy, time travel, reincarnation, and trying to do right by yourself and others. It’s about families, love, hate, and knowing who to trust even if it’s just yourself. It’s about good, evil, grey areas, and finding out life isn’t what you believed it to be. It’s all of this, and so much more. I truly feel bad giving you so little, but if you trust me and read the book, it can give you so much to ponder, enjoy, embrace, and question. Just like an amazing book should.
RoraBora 26 days ago
Fantastic! A true masterpiece from McGuire! This is a very difficult novel to explain. It unfolds in layers, in cycles, in iterations. It doesn't feel as complex as it actually is during reading, and I never felt overwhelmed or lost the threads. The characters are well-realized, their flaws and strengths all too familiar to me, and yet they're something so much more. You start off knowing more than the characters, for what little good it actually does you in truly understanding their situation. The true understanding is unveiled slowly, as the characters discover and rediscover it. The pacing is excellent. Nothing feels rushed or drawn out longer than necessary. It's a very tight narrative, but it still gives its characters space to exist. McGuire's prose is sometimes beautiful, sometimes frightening, and always the perfect tone for the moment. It's quite unique, actually. If this isn't nominated for a Hugo award, I think it will be only because there are so many quality books this year!
Anonymous 3 months ago
I have read lot of her books and loved them all. She has the ability to grab you and put you right in the middle of the story. Not with this book. I did not like any of the characters and the back and forth in time was annoying. I will continue to read her books, just not this type.
PenKay 6 months ago
I did something with this book I don’t normally do because I didn’t know how I felt about this book and what to say: I read what others were saying before I wrote my review. I have to say upfront that this was not really my type of book. I try very hard not to read books that aren’t my type because I feel it’s hard to give a review to something that isn’t your genre/type/etc. to others that do like that. I was on the fence about reading this, and I should have stayed there. However, I’ll say what I think those who would like it need to hear. As with all the books I’ve read by Seanan McGuire, this book was well-written, the characters were all multi-faceted and complex, and the plot was extremely interesting (if this is your type of plot; I can see that even if it isn’t my type). I did think the book was longer than it needed to be, but maybe that was just me. One thing I always find with this author is that her writings are very unique; she has a great imagination. So, yes, I do recommend this book for those who like this type and was provided a complimentary copy which I voluntarily reviewed.
lee2staes 6 months ago
Unfortunately this book just wasn't my cup of tea. I hadn’t read anything in this genre before, so I decided to give it a try. I was confused so much of the time and lost track of the storyline. I’m sure this is a fantastic read for some but fantasy is not for me. Advance reader copy was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.