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The Coldest War (Milkweed Triptych) Paperback – 7 Feb 2013
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I tore through this one in a day and a half. Tregillis is a major new talent in the field, and this is some of the best - and most exciting - alternate history I've read. Bravo. (Cory Doctorow)
Eloquent and utterly compelling (KIRKUS REVIEWS)
Will keep readers spellbound and on the edge of their seats with an intense sci-fi/alternate history thriller plot (RT Book Reviews)
Superhumans and magic collide in this a secret supernatural history of Twentieth Century events - the second book in this landmark seriesSee all Product description
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The real weaknesses for me are the almost soap opera style personal misery and the need for people to do the stupidest things to make the misery compound.
Will decides that he blames everybody for the blood sacrifices..carefully forgetting that he caused it all...apparently now, the guys he recruited made him do it.
All the main characters, enmity not withstanding, all end up in the same safe house where Gretel can do her machinations.
And that's the thing, the minute you knew what Gretel had done and could do, you'd kill her...no questions asked. Maybe Gretel has chosen a timeline where people do the stupidest things and give her huge latitude, but such stupidity does not make for a good novel.
Going downhill I'm afraid.
"The Coldest War" opens some 20 years after Britain, and its Empire, were saved in the darkest days of the Second World War by the brave few - not, though, young fighter pilots: in this universe, the Battle of Britain was decisively lost. Rather, the saviour's were Britain's warlocks - solitary and suspicious figures able to converse with "Eidolons", elemental spirits capable of great harm, and willing to inflict it - for a price.
Now, in 1962, the warlocks are being killed. Suspicion falls on Britain's Cold War rival. The USSR has exploited and developed a different supernatural weapon, the result of twisted German science and designed to endow humans with superhuman abilities. Raybould Marsh and Will Beauclerk, leading lights in the wartime Milkweed organisation which trafficked with the Eidolons, are called back to the Service. Both live blighted lives, paying, in different ways, for their dealings with the Eidolons. They must now, again, face Gretel, the unhinged seer who is manipulating destinies and timelines for her own obscure ends. Will things work out better then the previous time they met?
This is an excellent read, especially in the final third as events really begin to accelerate. Tregillis keeps the story moving at a decent pace and weaves a clever web between this book and the previous one, with some things left unexplained there now falling into place. There is a twist at the end that I really didn't see coming, and things are set up nicely for the final volume.
My only reservation (or I'd give this 5 stars) is that, like the previous book, there are some American turns of phrase put into the mouths of English characters, generally things that could easily be spotted by a British proofreader. But they don't greatly distract from the story and this is really a very small quibble.
The series is an original take on the events and the aftermath of the World War II period of history and Britain's fight against Germany and Russia.
Set over 20 years after the events in Bitter Seeds, Europe is a vastly different place, Russia is the controlling entity and an uneasy truce remains in place.
Gretel and Klaus, for me the two outstanding characters from the first novel have been prisoners for 20 long years in Arzamas-16, a large and heavily guarded research facility, a secret city formerly known as Sarov.
The Russians have reversed engineered the Götterelektron (battery powered) technology and made massive strides improving there 'supersoldiers' to eclipse anything the Nazi Doctor Von Westarp's Reichsbehörde project could produce.
Incarcerated for 20 years its finally time for Gretel to initiate their tricky escape and restart the gears turning to bring all her plans to bear as they make their way to Britain. During these events Klaus has been growing in awareness of what Gretel is capable of, he realises with horror that she talked Heike into suicide all those years ago simply to use the glass jar that contained part of her brain as a glass for the guards to get drunk and aid in their escape. The sheer callousness bought new depths to Gretels amazing foresight and the insight into his sister brings a fear to Klaus like nothing before.
Raybould Marsh, the former British spy, is now a broken down middle-aged man with his marriage hanging by a thread and a depressing life with nothing to look forward to. Flitting between jobs, he works as a gardener, fuelled by alcohol and a temper that keeps getting him into trouble. His wife Liv seeks escape but they are bound by a son who is mentally ill, a child without a soul. As Gretel and Klaus reach London, Marsh is called from his enforced retirement to once more serve his country and serve he must as he is vitally important to Gretel's plan.
The warlocks are dying, a mysterious assassin who deals death that looks entirely natural, the Milkweed team has a traitor and once more Gretel whose aim is now seemingly to assist the government pulls the strings and the traitor is caught on film but to what ends.
A stunning read, Tregillis raises the bar with The Coldest War, a tension filled jaunt with some surprising twists and turns. All the characters are excellent but once again Gretel steals the accolades and as her plans slowly reveal it is captivating and fascinating. She is one of the most memorable female characters in all the books that I have read, incredibly realistic, devious in a spine chilling way.
Gretel's ability is the power of precognition and her plans revolve around what she has seen but these plans have taken seed right from the start of the series and the author skirts around this wonderfully, never quite revealing enough until the end. And the ending is done superbly, can Gretel manipulate the future or simply delay the inevitable.
That said, what Ian does do well is utilise his world to the fullest taking each opportunity to allow the reader to see the time period through different eyes. All in, for me not a series I'll be returning to any time soon and whilst for some it may entertain them quite a bit its more a middle of the road series rather than something that stands out on its own.
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Pulls together a lot of the open mysteries of the previous books; the...Read more