roger and dodger
by Seanan McGuire
“The universe operates according to several basic principles”
Seanan McGuire, Middlegame
Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come quickly 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 realize 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 am sitting in stunned silence. I finished dashing through the last thirty pages of Middlegame about 5 mins ago’ I now have the most unsettling feeling of, “Now what? Please story; don’t end.” Alas, it did as it would have to. And I am sitting here twiddling my thumbs and wishing for so much more. I miss Roger and Dodger already.
Middlegame is as it is purported to be, it is a middle, the midway, the equidistant point between the beginning and the end. The term middlegame refers to space between the opening and endgame in chess. A space that often blends into both the opening and the endgame where there is not a sharply seen divide. It is an interesting play on definitions. The middle of a story, the middle of a chess game, and the story in its entirety is an elaborate chess game.
The middle is the most crucial part of most stories. Openings are but a fleeting moment that sends the characters on their path while endings are the explosion like a volcano after many years. Endings are the outcome. But the middle is the actual story. Middlegame is written about all the points in between for Roger and Dodger. Their tales are not done, although I have the sneaking suspicion that this story is a single book, not planned for a series.
I could tell you that this story is about twins, but so what. There are a million stories about twins. I could tell you it is about alchemy. Again, so what. It doesn’t do any of it justice. So how about this, “Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come quickly to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.” More so Rodger understands that naming something gives it power. Language in all its forms has power. “Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.” Math is in every movement of a bird, thing of beauty; math is sunsets, waterfalls and the first cry from a newborn. Math is a creation. But Roger’s powers of language allow him to solidify creations through words. They work together.
The intertwoven, multi-decade story is about the intertwining of to opposite forces whose lives, and love meshes together like the roots of a gnarled old oak tree. Rodge and Dodge need each other, and through McGuire’s excellent writing we can see that need coalesce into a yearning and a struggle. Sometimes the intertwining to the two of them feels like iron band banded around them, other times the intertwining is a hug from a long departed loved one in arms you never want to let go again. All of this is under the watchful eye of Reed, an alchemist, whose plans to exploit them for his own game have been the spiderweb the twins have lived in their whole lives.
I can’t tell you many details from the plot save for Rodger, and Dodger have been pulled apart and pushed together most of their lives. In the pulling and pushing they have figured out mostly who they want to be, but only when the other is around can they obtain their full potential.
First, let’s talk about the magnificent. Seanan McGuire is damned good at story creation only to be bested by her ability of character creation. The writing of this story is sumptuous, atmospheric, and thick with meaning. While most other writers are thin soup, Mcguires writing is thick dark chocolate pudding. To be poured over and savored mouthful by mouthful. The only small quibble that led me to drop the rating by one star was the pacing. The story felt very uneven in terms of speed. Some section dragged on like molasses, others over in a flash.
Also, thank you, McGuire, for writing a math-driven girl as to be something celebrated and not something to be ashamed of. So many stories take female characters and say that their love of math is cute or silly and something that should embarrass them. But, not so in this story. Dodgers love for math goes deep into her bones. It is who she is. There is nothing to feel shame for. I love that, and it is wonderfully refreshing to read. Go STEM!
I will miss this story, and I have fleeting hope that she will continue to write this series. But if she decides not to, thank you Mcguire for the beautiful book. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
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Elizabeth Tabler runs Beforewegoblog and is constantly immersed in fantasy stories. She was at one time an architect but divides her time now between her family in Portland, Oregon, and as many book worlds as she can get her hands on. She is also a huge fan of Self Published fantasy and is on Team Qwillery as a judge for SPFBO5. You will find her with a coffee in one hand and her iPad in the other. Find her on: Goodreads / Instagram / Pinterest / Twitter