Bookish Blind Date: Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
Happy Friday Everybody!
Aren’t you excited for this weekend? I sure am! I don’t have too much planned, which feels amazing. I’m hoping to get some pool time and relaxation.
Anyways, today’s post is all about my bookish blind date of Seanan McGuire’s Middlegame.
I’ve known of McGuire’s work for several years now, but have never read anything before now. I actually heard of this book vaguely on WordPress and decided to finally take some time to give her work a chance.
I went onto my local library’s online catalog and searched her name. Though I’ve been DYING to try her Every Heart a Doorway series, I didn’t want to start with that in case I got disappointed, so I went with this one.
Hope you’re ready!
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.
I gave this book three and a half reality-warping stars!
In a nutshell, Middlegame started with Asphodel Baker, an alchemist from the late 1800’s. Her work allowed her to create living beings from spare parts (very Frankenstein!). When she dies, she leaves her legacy to her creation. Asphodel always had big plans (I mean, huge!), just not enough time to act on them. After her death, her creation continues her work, aiming to change the very foundations of the world through creating creations of his own. Can he figure out how to get his creations to lead him to the promised land that Asphodel intended, or will it all end in flames?
Middlegame is an intriguing novel. There are some really strong elements to this story that I enjoyed, but ultimately there were several bigger issues that caused me to give this book a lower score.
All right, so first things first. The writing style. In the past I’ve stated how apprehensive I was of books written in the 2nd person. I’ve never seen much value in this type of writing, but I was delightfully surprised when the writing style didn’t really bug me at all. It comes to show that 2nd person POV can actually be written in a manner that I really like. So brownie points right there.
Also, I really liked the concept of this book. There was fantasy and sci-fi elements a plenty in this book, and I truly lived for it. The scale of this book was pretty epic, so there was a lot at stake, and that really drew me in as well.
That being said, I had a real struggle getting through this book.
The main issue I had with this book was something we’ve all heard about before. Show vs. tell. Throughout the book, there are quite a few places where the narrator steps in and gives us some extra info in parentheses. At first, I wasn’t too bothered by it, but after a while it really started to get on my nerves. These info dumps occur every several pages, which is a bit often if you ask me.
I’m a firm believer that a story should mainly tell itself. Sure, info dumps may be a necessity, but you have to plan them well and strategically so you don’t aggravate your reader or interrupt the flow of your writing.
Sometimes the information in parentheses was useful, other times it made me want to rip my hair out in frustration. The placement of these parenthetical spots wasn’t executed very well in many instances. Many times there is a conversation being had, and right in the middle we got an info dumps about how years later, a character will realize something from this conversation.
Um, why did you interrupt this conversation to tell me that? It truly killed the flow of my reading, and the information isn’t useful enough to warrant the interruption.
My main issue also ties into the pacing of the entire book. The pacing was pretty good (parenthetical info dumps aside), though certain situations occur over and over again that made me question if it was all that realistic. I can’t reveal what this situation is, but you’ll understand should you read it. Not the biggest issue for me though.
Lastly, the mythology of the novel. There are a good number of instances where we are referred to the Impossible City and the improbable road, along with other references (I’m not telling you what they are. Nope, you can’t make me!). If I’m being honest, the mythology of things didn’t quite pan out for me.
Throughout the novel, the reader is given tiny tidbits of information about these references, but I really just felt like it wasn’t concrete enough for me to fully understand it. There was too much smoke and mirrors around the mythology, and maybe that’s what McGuire was going for. Still, I prefer to fully or at least mostly understand the elements of what I’m reading, and this was something of a let down.
Ultimately, Middlegame wasn’t quite the book I was hoping it would be, but I’m definitely not giving up on Seanan McGuire! Its obvious that she has talent in spades, and she sure can set a scene. Though I can’t fully recommend this book, consider checking it out at your local library and giving it a try. Who knows, this could be the perfect book for you!
That’s a Wrap!
Thanks for stopping by, and happy reading!
Have you read this book before? What did you think? Do you have a book recommendation similar to this series? Feel free to share in the comments!
Have a great day!