Middlegame by Seanan McGuire (Alchemical Journeys, #1)
Middlegame is fervent and beautiful; words feel inadequate but maybe numbers can do. I read this in two days because I wanted to read it forever. A book about time and distance, words and numbers; the culmination of the universe is calling and you should answer.
Finishing this book feels like waking up from a dream, I read it in sections, and loved every minute of it but now I'm struggling to say all the wonderful things it led me through. Every time I finished another section I was torn between a desperate desire to know what happened next, and the existential terror of a precious resource dwindling; not wanting this book to ever end. All the characters are complex and vivid; the villains are horrendously dark and terribly evil but also completely understandable, with simple motivations pulling them along twisted paths full of malice, greed, and efficient brutality. Roger and Dodger (named by people who should never be around children) begin as lonely child geniuses and become so much more.
It's a story of time loops, paradoxes, trying over and over to get everything just right. I love time loop stories, but this one stands out because it's unafraid to let things go. It's surprisingly linear, reserving temporal mischief for where it's most needed, where change will be poignant and weighty. We hear whispers, catch glimpses of how-it-might-have-been-but-is-not. This book is rich with metaphors, practically dripping with them when Roger is involved. Dodger's sections are more brusque, creating a distinct feel when the perspective switches between them. I won't spoil the other perspectives we get, but the narrators have enough presence to affect the tone of their various sections and it works really well (both in each section and coming together to create the narrative).
Book CWs for bullying, parental gaslighting and emotional abuse, murder, major character death, blood, violence, arson, child death, graphic depiction of suicide attempt, parental death.