This was definitely very good, no doubt about it, but I think I liked the idea of it far more than I liked the execution. The idea, at its core, is just so, so very cool! It’s all about alchemy and incarnating ideas into human bodies and trying to control the universe. It’s awesome! Very confusing at first, but not so much that I couldn’t follow along, and things (mostly) make sense at the end, even if some ideas remain rather abstract.
I just am not sure that I am a fan of which parts of the story were prioritized: Roger and Dodger’s lives. There was just so much time spent on them growing up and getting to know one another and this book is so long.
And I completely understand the purpose of giving the siblings time to grow close and develop their bond, which was really one of the best things about the book, but the narrative definitely dragged at times. This was especially noticeable in the last 80%, where the pacing was just utterly bizarre and things took way, way too long to happen.
But! It is still Very Cool! I loved learning so much about alchemy. I loved these characters, especially Erin. I enjoyed the big, abstract ideas and the time travel (even when it was confusing as hell). The writing is beautiful. The story unfolds expertly, like a slowly-blooming flower. It is definitely a very weird and strange book and I completely see why it’s been nominated for a Hugo.