I finally read Middlegame by Seanan McGuire and after years of having it on my TBR, I really didn’t like it. Flowery writing and a confusing story is not my thing at all, but apparently I’m in the minority since people love this and The Starless Sea.
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.
Oh boy, what was that? 525 pages later and I’m confused and frustrated and totally bewildered by all of the people who love this book. I really need someone to explain to me what they thought this thing was about. Now I’m going to ramble as I try to sort out my thoughts.
Roger and Dodger started off as pretty interesting characters. I quite liked them as children and the sort of flash forward scene at the beginning had me intrigued about how we’d get there. And then the story plodded along very slowly and with quite a lot of childish angst for an adult fantasy book. Unfortunately, my connection with them never grew beyond my initial interest and while their sibling bond had promise, the two characters were so odd and inhuman that I didn’t find myself connected to them at all. The villains were actually more interesting but took such a back seat that they couldn’t save it.
The mysterious doctrine and endgame in this one held my attention at the beginning. I’m fine with a confusing start, especially when the characters themselves are confused. However, when the characters begin to understand what’s happening, I want to understand too. I understood nothing and moreover, I don’t think I was supposed to. This is not something I like and it just makes me mad. Add onto that the math that wasn’t actually math (sorry, you can’t use math to figure out the location of some hidden place or turn equations into words, not a thing and I didn’t buy it at all) and my lukewarm feelings for the characters and it was just not an enjoyable reading experience.
I also found that this book had the same issue that made me stop reading the Wayward Children’s Series, there is random fantasy stuff talked about that is not the focus of the book or ever explained properly. The King of Cups, the Impossible City, all of these things that are mentioned and everyone in the book seems to know what they are but I’m totally out of the loop. I looked up Over the Woodward Wall about halfway through thinking maybe I was supposed to read that first but it was published afterwards. I am never going to like a book that refers to a bunch of interesting-sounding fantasy stuff that is never explained. I want my fantasy worlds fully built, not just referenced to see how characters in the real world react. I will say McGuire’s writing is quite good, if a little wordy although this book had way too many asides in parentheses.
So this is it, I’m done with Seanan McGuire, I don’t like this style of fantasy at all. I seem to be in the minority so enjoy it for all of those who like being confused but I won’t be joining in.
I rate my books using the CAWPILE system creating by Book Roast but with a few tweaks of my own. Here’s the breakdown:
- Characters – 6: I sorted of liked Roger and Doger in the beginning and I thought the villains were interesting albeit underutilized.
- Atmosphere – 6: Parts were pretty good and all had the creepy factor but so much went unexplained that I had a hard time visualizing what was happening.
- Writing – 7: The writing was solid but a little longwinded and pretentious.
- Plot – 3: Almost the entire plot was horribly confusing.
- Intrigue – 1.5: I started reading another book when I was part way through this and almost DNF’d several times. I had no problem putting this one down in the middle of a chapter.
- Logic – 2: I define my logic rating of 2 as “most stuff made no sense” which fits this one perfectly.
- Enjoyment – 2.5: I didn’t hate it but definitely glad it’s over.
Weighted Average CAWPILE – 3.67
Star Rating – 2 stars
4 thoughts on “Book Review – Middlegame”
Thanks for the review. I’m not the biggest fan of Seanan McGuire either. Her books are more miss than hit for me.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I really enjoyed Every Heart a Doorway but it’s been downhill since, I think it’s time to give up for me.