Reading Middlegame takes me almost to the end of this year's Hugo shortlist for Best Novel, with just one book to go (and it's backed up on my e-reader waiting for me!). To be perfectly honest, me and Seanan McGuire have not always got on in terms of what she writes and what works for me, but I was determined to give this stand-alone novel a fighting chance.
It's not the easiest book to summarise, given that it involves quite a lot of different timelines and that in itself is going to be enough to make some people pass Middlegame by. Essentially, it's all about an attempt to use alchemy to create a pair of children who can embody the Doctrine, as whoever can control them will them control the world - this leads to a breeding programme, of which the two main characters of our story are one of the results.
Separated at birth, twins Roger and Dodger are adopted out on different sides of the US, one a maths prodigy and the other a whizz with languages, neither knowing they have a sibling out there. It's only when they begin to communicate, a process which is not smooth sailing in more ways than one, they start to uncover the truth about their own origins and also about what they can do. They're tied together, whether they like it or not, with almost-fatal repercussions on at least one occasion.
Add into that the attentions of the man who set up the breeding programme in the first place, frustrated that they might be coming to terms with their powers when he has a much more malleable alternative pair back home on the ranch, and the twins are heading into a world of trouble. There's also an element of time travel involved, all of which would have potentially been an unholy mess in the hands of a less competent and experienced author.
Well worth a read if you're looking for something in the SFF genre you haven't quite seen before, as well as if you're in search of a novel that isn't part of a trilogy. Those have their place but sometimes you just want one and done. If that's the case, Middlegame might work for you too.