Tag Archives: Nazis

L: Review of Ian Tregillis’s “The Coldest War”

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.

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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!

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L: Review of “Bitter Seeds” by Ian Tregillis

​Now THAT is a darn good novel! Thank goodness I didn’t give up on Tregillis after not loving The Mechanical, because then I would’ve missed out on his captivating novel, Bitter Seeds, the first in the Milkweed Trilogy. I find myself drawn to anything pertaining to World War II, Nazis, the Holocaust, etc. so I wasted no time after reading the blurb in reserving a copy from the library.

Bitter Seeds

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Tregillis’s main protagonist, Raybould Marsh, is a secret agent for the British Navy who uncovers evidence of Nazi experimentation that potentially created a handful of superhuman soldiers who, if perfected and multiplied, could render the German army unbeatable. In an effort to fight these supernatural beings, and thereby protect the Allied Nations from an overwhelming and horrific defeat, Marsh and his friends in Milkweed (the small group founded to try to understand and destruct the power of the superhumans) call upon their own unnatural means of defense, which demands a steep blood price.

Bitter Seeds is a fast-paced novel full of compelling characters, tense action, thought-provoking moral dilemmas, and a fair share of vivid descriptions. One cannot read a WWII novel without anticipating at least some disturbing detail, and Bitter Seeds by no means overdoes it, but it certainly imparts the severity of war and the potential for engineered soldiers to multiply the destruction exponentially. Still, the hypersensitive might take issue with a few parts, but I think letting that overrule the bigger message of this book would be a huge mistake. Unlike in The Mechanical, Tregillis provides plenty of compelling characters, both “good guys” and “bad,” and makes it easier for the reader to connect and feel effected by the chain of events. AND, the best part is that the ending doesn’t grid my gears! He summed everything up nicely, leaving just enough dangling threads that I feel resolved but will still certainly be reserving the next volume, The Coldest War, STAT.

My only gripe is that Tregillis seems to give a bit too much credit to his readers in terms of other cultures or time periods, and especially terminology. Just as The Mechanical was peppered with Dutch and French terms from a long ago monarchy, Bitter Seeds was drowning in terms like “Gotterelektrongruppe” and “Sicherheitshauptamt” without enough context clues for readers, or at least me, to always fully understand the intent of the sentence. I feel like I missed out on a few important moments of intended suspense because I was trying to decipher the German words or military jargon. This could very easily be my problem as a non-German-speaking, non-military-affiliated reader, but then again, I’m not sure that my station in life should factor into my ability to understand and enjoy this novel. What do you think?

Again, the somewhat infrequent and altogether momentary confusion was my only issue. Otherwise, I truly enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it to any and all readers!

I’m still working on The Grace of Kings and have recently started A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. As always, let me know what you all are thinking and stay tuned!

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