Marsh is back...back in London of 1939.
If you have read the prior two instalments of the "Milkweed Tryptich" - and you should before reading this review - you know that Ian Tregillis has played out the ramification that a Nazi superscience program - based on giving human beings "battery-powered" abilities - has succeeded. This tipped the early days of World War II dramatically in favor of the Germans, allowing the Germans to destroy the British military at Dunkirk. The only thing that spared Britain from invasion were the warlocks, who dealt with Lovecraftian horrors, aka the "Eidoloen," from another dimension. With the warlocks, the Brits were able to defeat Germany, but this left all of Europe in Soviet hands in this alternate history...and the Lovecraftian horrors with the key to the destruction of the world.
Marsh - the protagonist of the first two books - is sent back in time through the eldritch powers of the Eidolen. His mission is to destroy the German program and the British program, and maybe spare his alternate self from the life of misery that he lived after his daughter was killed in the saturation bombing of a small British village. He's aided in his mission by Gretel, the German "mutant" with the ability to see, and control, the future. Gretel for some reason has decided that she loves Marsh and therefore must destroy Marsh's baby daughter and his wife.
Does Marsh succeed in his mission? Will the British army survive Dunkirk? Will the Eidolens eventually destroy the universe? Will we have the history we remember?
You can pretty much figure that out for yourself.
The strengths of the book was its conception of an alternate history, so similar but so different from ours. This "big picture" element of the book is what kept me reading through to the end, quite frankly.
On the other hand, I didn't like the characters at all. The were, quite frankly, a bunch of whining, bipolar ingrates. Marsh and Will and the rest would go from being judgmental, sarcastic twits to their "friends" to berating themselves privately for being such bad friends to berating their friends for being "stupid toffs" every other scene. Will and Marsh would think kindly of each other, until they were together and then they would become accusatory jerks to each other. Marsh's relationship with his mentor seemed to be a sketch in how to have an abusive relationship ("Well, I must say Marsh, when you cock something up, you cock it up royally.") And why was Gretel infatuated with Marsh? Not a clue, other than that it helped move the plot along.
Gretel could have been a fascinating character, but midway through this book, she loses her power to see the future and is taken off the board, except insofar as it is necessary for our heroes to torture her by letting her injuries fester and then sending her to a Britsh-version of the Gulag. Admittedly, Gretel was evil, which is not surprsing since she grew up in a human "test to destruction" environment, but our heroes became essentially unsympathetic in my view in their treatment of Gretel. I mean, hate her, but give her some medical treatment, for heaven's sake!
Also, another character that we formed an attachment to in "The Coldest War" is written out of the script without any effort at redemption.
Also, the plot coincidences and lack of common sense were annoying. Younger Marsh really was going to get on a sub to go to Germany to destroy the dreaded German experiment with no plan or resources...on the say so of a complete stranger, i.e., the older Marsh. And, of course, it made sense not to take the younger Marsh into the older Marsh's confidence because of no reason in particular.
And then there was the reveal that the mysterious old man in book one really was the older Marsh in book three, except that they were completely different time-lines. Tregillis attempts to explain this as "reverberations" with babble of jargon, but this was unconvincing, and seemed to beg the notion that another Marsh from another time-line made it to older Marsh's time-line, but then did nothing except make two plot-necessary appearances....or something else.
All in all, this was an entertaining book and an entertaining trilogy. I certainly don't recommend that a forewarned reader not read it. I did find the characters annoying and the plot holes problematic, but I did keep with it to the end to see what the answers were going to be and how things came out in the end. The writing is accessible, and I did get a sense that Tregillis was providing a reasonably accurate view of life in London during the Blitz.