cover image Middlegame


Seanan McGuire. Tor, $29.99 (528p) ISBN 978-1-250-19552-4

McGuire (the Wayward Children series) puts a genuinely innovative spin on the magical child horror novel in this mesmerizing story of two gifted, telepathic children and the unsettling source of their powers. Massachusetts seven-year-old Roger Middleton is struggling with his multiplication worksheet when a girl’s voice pops into his head and gives him the answers. Dodger Cheswich, his mental correspondent, lives in California, and Roger is soon able to reciprocate her assistance when she shares that her academic struggles are with reading and spelling. Roger has an intuitive connection with words that’s as strong as Dodger’s with numbers. As their relationship develops, the two remain unaware that they are pawns in a larger game initiated by James Reed, the son of Victorian alchemist Asphodel Baker; Reed and Baker aspire to create human incarnations of Pythagoras’s Doctrine of Ethos, which concerns humanity’s ability to command nature. As Roger and Dodger grow up and explore their more terrifying abilities, their investigation into their origins puts them in danger. Heightening the tension is a prologue set “five minutes too late” and “thirty seconds from the end of the world,” in which Dodger is bleeding to death as Roger takes desperate measures to save her. Shifts and alterations in timelines demand close attention from readers, but McGuire’s rigorous plotting pulls everything together by the end. This is a fascinating novel by an author of consummate skill. (May)