As a public service announcement, just in case you don’t have time to read this whole review:
Seasonal Fears is a “sidequel” of sorts, set in the same alchemical universe as McGuire’s miraculous novel Middlegame, with several returning characters. I finished reading it literally fifteen minutes ago, so I haven’t had much time to ponder, but I think, for me, it’s at least as good as Middlegame, and maybe, just maybe, even better. Ask me again in a couple of weeks, after the overwhelming experience of reading this book has properly settled in.
Melanie and Harry have been inseparable since they were small children, and there’s a reason for that. They were both born (although in Melanie’s case it’s a bit more complicated than that) to be the living embodiment of seasons—Harry the summer and Melanie the winter. Now, after 300 years, the king of winter and the queen of summer have died, and new ones must be chosen to take their place. Without warning, without preparation, this high school football player and cheerleader are thrust into a world they know nothing about, with death for both of them as a possible, even likely outcome.
That’s about all you’re getting from my in terms of plot. I don’t believe in spoilers. What I will tell you is that Seasonal Fears becomes a perilous road trip across America, with heart stopping danger and jaw dropping wonders around every corner.
McGuire is at her very best here, and it’s so much more than just the plot, which hums along like a fine-tuned engine.
As the father of young adults who were teenagers not that many years ago, I can attest to the fact that she understands how teenagers think, and act, and talk. McGuire has proved this again and again, particularly in the Wayward Children novels, and she truly delivers here. Melanie and Harry are living (well, that’s complicated too), breathing (also complicated) characters, filled to bursting with love and hope, but also despair and anger and frustration. The other characters, and most of them are teenagers as well, are just as achingly real.
There’s another thing McGuire is better at than just about anybody. She explains the complex alchemical concepts underpinning Seasonal Fears (and Middlegame before it)—humans as the living embodiment of things like math, language, and the seasons, for instance—in a way that makes it understandable, without dumbing it down, but more importantly without taking away the breathtaking, mind-blowing grandeur of her ideas. That, my friends, is a high wire act.
A couple other thoughts:
- Sprinkled throughout the novel are excerpts from a children’s book that retell, in children’s fantasy book language, the history and mythology of McGuire’s world. These snippets are so good that, just putting it out there, if McGuire were to write a full-on children’s fantasy, it would be a game-changer, an instant classic.
2. This would make one helluva television series. Please.
3. I’m supposed to be working on a short story with a deadline this weekend, but I just kept reading instead. Those last hundred or so pages are a freight train I was not capable of stopping. So I guess what I’m saying is, it’s not my fault I’m behind.
Seasonal Fears debuts on May 3, 2022. Pre-order it now. Get a few extras for friends and family members. It’s that good.