Roger and Dodger are the embodiment of the Doctrine of Ethos. Separated at birth, they’re not entirely human but an experiment by shady alchemists. Roger is gifted with words and language, Dodger is a maths genius, together they could be gods, and Reed wants that power for himself.

Heredity is not only in blood. It is in the sympathetic vibration of the universe, in the places where atom becomes alchemy.

I absolutely loved Middlegame, a unique premise with the unmistakable mark of Seanan McGuire on it. The story starts at the end, with blood and imminent death of the twins, before taking in their lives from childhood to academia. Roger and Dodger are each other’s invisible friends, accidentally forming a bond across the country. They won’t meet for years but they help each other with their homework; Roger is useless at maths and Dodger struggles with spelling. They are the friends they wouldn’t otherwise have at that stage in life, where their intelligence makes them unusual.

Numbers are simple, obedient things, as long as you understand the rules they live by. Words are trickier. They twist and bite and require too much attention.

The twins are just one of many experiments carried out by Reed and his team of quite disturbing alchemists. He follows the teachings of his former mentor, who hid them in children’s books, in plain sight for anyone who wished to look hard enough. She had different ideas of what alchemy could do for the world, Reed is more of a sociopath, not flinching at the sacrifice of children to reach his goals. These alchemists are not just turning lead into gold, but turn body parts into magic. The cover is a Hand of Glory, something which comes up throughout the story and is grim in its creation.

Other kids got Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. She got Ian Malcolm and a world where mathematicians could be rock stars.

I loved the sibling relationship between Roger and Dodger, even though they don’t grow up together together. They are repeatedly separated throughout their lives, partly because that’s how Reed thinks his project will succeed, but also due to fallings out. They are still there for each other when it matters.

Middlegame is a celebration of nerds, of a love of a subject that goes beyond work or hobbies. Intelligence that makes you superhuman, but still a child in need of affection. It is also gripping and creepy, and full of love.

The fictional children’s series about the Up and Under is reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz, but it also reminds me much of Seanan’s own portal fantasy, the Wayward Children series.

Words don’t mean anything without someone to understand them.

Seanan says this is the best books she’s ever written and I’m inclined to agree. You can currently grab the ebook for peanuts, and I urge you to do so! And to get meta, Over the Woodward Wall by “A. Deborah Baker” is going to be published as a complete book later this year.

ATY: 26. A book from the 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards

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Book Source: Purchased