My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is definitely a leveling up for Seanan McGuire, technically: the prose is tighter, the plot more complex. This tale of rogue alchemists who (as best as I can understand; the worldbuilding is more than a little confusing) want to control the universe by embodying aspects of it--specifically, mathematics and language--in human bodies. These are lab-created sets, one male and one female. The mathematician of the pair can calculate the way to the Impossible City, the home of the alchemy that has been banished from the world, and the linguist can speak it into existence. Together, once they manifest and come into their full powers, they can control the so-called Doctrine of Ethos and reshape the world.
They also have to have rhyming names for some reason, hence our protagonists: Roger and Dodger. Really? This grated on me every time I read it. Which may sound like a petty thing to be picking on, but it's a symptom of why I had an uneasy relationship with this book: it felt like it would just get going and toss out something so pretentious and twee I could hardly stand it. It wasn't helped by the third person present tense narration, which seemed to be there just for the sake of being "edgy," or something. This may be a different sort of story than the author has ever written, but I don't think it's up to her usual standards. The last Toby Daye book far more depth of characterization and worldbuilding, as far as I am concerned, and even the formerly-fluffy InCryptid series is getting serious.
No, this book just comes across as an experiment, and a not entirely successful one. I'm glad the author wants to challenge herself, and I certainly think she's turned out better examples of this in the past: I thoroughly enjoyed the Parasitology series, for example, and it doesn't seem to get as much love. This book seems like a stand alone, and I hope that's the case. If it turns into a series, I'm not going any further with it.