I recently finished Ian Tregillis’s Bitter Seeds and thought it was full of refreshing new ideas, compelling characters, and great writing. Combine all of these characteristics of a great book with my forgetfulness, and you’ll understand why I wanted to get the next volume of The Milkweed Trilogy in my hands sooner than later. The Coldest War attempted to carry the torch ignited by the first volume, but as often happens with sequels, that flame, and my interest, only flickered and faded.
We catch up with Raybould Marsh and his hugely depressing life 20 years after the end of WWII and his forced removal from Milkweed. However, when surviving sibling Nazi experimental superhumans, Klaus and Gretel, held & studied for 20 years by the Russian Military, surrender to Milkweed in exchange for asylum, they bring news of Russian advancements and improvements on the superhuman capabilities. Again, Milkweed needs Marsh to use the siblings and the Eidolons, Britain’s own non-human defense system, to remove the Russians’ superhman advantages and once again save the country.
Despite the fact the Bitter Seeds was teeming with Nazis and unnatural human experimentation, somehow The Coldest War manages to be darker than its predecessor. The first book ended with a lot of dangling strings that could or could not potentially turn into something serious, and apparently, things got very serious during the 20 year interim period. Some characters are dead, thankfully and not, some are imprisoned, literally and not, some are on a steady downward spiral, mentally and emotionally, and only one is happily thriving. Readers have to sort through a lot of personal issues and unhappy situations before we get to the action, and even then, things stay dark and dramatic.
Back in college, I used to watch a show called Private Practice until one character started having a major drug problem and things just got too real for me; I have a problem with projection, so that character’s drug-addled life felt personal and I had a hard time reminding myself that my own life was drug free sunshine and daisies. This happens with any show/movie/book that just makes life seem a little too dismal, and The Coldest War tiptoed over my line of comfort a few times. Marsh’s life has gone to crap. Utter crap. He’s the main character, so I took it personally. It was all very depressing; interesting, too! But depressing. I’m two books-worth of invested, so I’ll definitely read Necessary Evil, the final volume, but I’m really hoping things lighten up a bit. However, ***Minor Spoiler*** time travel seems to have made an appearance at the end of the second volume so I might be going back into Nazi-infested waters. Regardless, Tregillis’s story is still unique, intricate, and fascinating, his characters (even some of the Nazis) are compelling and make you question yourself, and I’m excited for the final volume.
I’d give it 3 stars, fewer than book one, and I’d recommend it only if you read & enjoyed the first one, but overall it was an adequate segue volume. I’m reading Leviathan Wakes now by James S. A. Corey and it’s great! Stay tuned!