Author: Seanan McGuire
Pub. Date: May 7th 2019
Genre: YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi
🖤ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review 🖤
I think I’ve finally met my match. This book is like no other I’ve ever come across in so many ways but trying to summarize it is just not going to work. Clever, dark, multi-layered…this story will sink it’s claws into you & keep you until all hours of the night. One of my my all time favorite classics is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein & all throughout my time with this book I kept getting those mad scientist vibes. Alchemy is at the center of this story, we get introduced to Asphodel Baker who is a very advanced alchemist ahead of her time. Being a woman, Asphodel encounters challenges by her own peers & decides to take matters into her own hands in order to leave behind her legacy. She begins her work to try & bring into physical manifestation, the Doctrine of Ethos. The Doctrine holds the secrets of the Universe ultimately granting it’s keeper a lot of power.
Asphodel creates Reed in her lab; he is some parts human, creature, alchemy & magic. Reed is meant to outlive Asphodel and carry on her legacy which he does & then some. Reed splits up the Doctrine into two of his creations, twins Rodger and Dodger. One is gifted with all things mathematical knowledge & the other comes with a mastery of language. We watch these twins grow and mature via alternating points of view as they live separate lives. When the twins establish a connection via what can be seen as some sort of telepathy, it becomes clear that staying away from each other is impossible. They have no idea how powerful they are individually & how dangerous they can be when they come together.
This book is 500+ pages but its non-stop action & character development. It won’t be for everyone, it will demand your complete attention but it will also introduce you to some of the MOST unforgettable characters you’ll ever meet on the page. McGuire gives us alchemy mixed with magic, mad scientists, telepathy, math & words that form their own language for these twins and at its core a story about family & friendships.
Content Warning: Murder, suicide, torture, abandonment, mass murder, violence
Reed is Asphodel Baker’s greatest creation so much so he’s outdone his creator. Reed is a master manipulator, great at sitting back and observing before he strikes. Reed is only interested in one thing: world domination. He will stop at nothing to create the perfect set of twins that can embody the Doctrine & ultimately extract it from them for power.
Leigh is Reeds creation & honestly she inspired fear in me the MOST! even more so than Reed himself. In some ways I did feel Reed also feared Leighs detachment from humanity. Leigh loves taking apart (twins) the creations she keeps in her lab in the most grotesque of ways.
“Her bones were stolen from the graves and deathbeds of thirteen brilliant women- and if those deathbeds were made by a long-dead alchemist, rather than by natural selection, she has no sympathy for them”
Erin is Leigh’s creation & true to the understanding that the predecessor is more superior…Erin does manage to keep Leigh watching over her back. This character plays an interesting role because she’s used as a pawn with the twins and their development. Erin’s life is directly affected by the decisions made by the twins on any given timeline. Erin could quite possibly be the single most cold blooded TERRIFYING fictional character I’ve ever come across!
Rodger & Dodger- these twins hold within them a genius level of knowledge over language and mathematics. They have a sort of telepathic way of communicating with each other. An understanding that whatever happens to one, the other will feel as well. I loved seeing the twins develop from adolescence into their adult years. Their bond is strong and we get that depth through the years as they come into awareness of their power. They may just be artificially created however, I felt this sibling bond deep in my core.
This is one of those rare reads you come across every once in a while that I feel might come off as too smart or too complex when trying to understand the he science of it all. Personally, I enjoyed the characters the MOST & glad for it since this is a very character driven book. It’s not at all a easy read, oftentimes painful seeing these twins who can’t help but be driven towards one another but cause so much destruction in their union. I felt this on another level because Dodger was left with abandonment issues that played a major role in her growth & development. We see suicide attempts & anxiety rule over her life meanwhile Rodger tries to understand it all to be there for her. He is the #1 most important person in her life while also being the one to bring her the most pain. I may not have been a fan of the plot as a whole but I have a deep level of respect for these three dimensional characters. This book is hella dark & not for the feint of heart but ultimately it will keep its hold on you when given the chance. I’m SUPER curious now to read all of McGuire’s other books and would recommend Middlegame to anyone who loves sibling stories, sci-fi, twisted villains, and alchemy.
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