Necessary Evil: The Milkweed Triptych: Book Three by Ian Tregillis

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Necessary Evil: The Milkweed Triptych: Book Three by Ian Tregillis

Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: The third and last book in the Milkweed Triptych; an exciting end to a journey that I for one would love to make all over again.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 496 Date: April 2013
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0356501710

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Raybould 'Pip' Marsh has been sent back from the 1960s to the Second World War to avert the end of the world while saving the life of baby Agnes. At least that's what he thinks he's doing it for. He's armed with a plan but, even if his friend and warlock Sir William Beauclerk and his own younger self help, there are unforeseen disadvantages in dabbling with time. And then of course there's the seer and ex-Nazi experiment, Gretel. Is she mad, bad or just has a funny way of showing her philanthropic side? We're all about to find out…

The third and last of Ian Tregillis' Milkweed Triptych books is with us and soon all our questions will be answered via the adrenaline rush he transfers to paper. Each had fantasy/FS/alt hist elements but the first book, Bitter Seeds was also a nail-biting war adventure, the second The Coldest War took the story on further into an uneasy peacetime, making it an espionage thriller and this Necessary Evil? This is a time-slip novel during which we discover that they have all been time-slip novels courtesy of some clever plotting. Talking of which, what I'm about to say isn't a moan, just me mentioning something that others will tell you…

It doesn't make a smidgeon of difference but Ian Tregillis initially wrote this for an American audience and in places this shows. There's mention of English blokes carrying billfolds rather than wallets, it's mildly amusing to hear a middle-class war-time SIS officer call someone a 'minger' a good 40 or 50 years before the rest of the country adopted it and, because we don't have post boxes for our houses over here… well… you'll understand that bit when you get to it. I agree that from some other authors this would be distracting enough to spoil but this guy is so good I (a small-detail-pedant) just shrugged and re-immersed. I just needed to see how it ended as I cared that much for the characters and, for a little while, I quite happily became an American reader in order to achieve this.

Now back to cleverness: Gretel. The final book belongs to Pip but Gretel's the series' tour de force. We marvel as she works towards her plan's fruition and we witness the reverse and forward referencing across years and novels that makes sense of apparent randomness. The prologue even takes us back to previously unseen and hugely revealing wordage from her childhood. (Don't worry; we don't have to remember micro-detail from the past. Where necessary we're given assistance but anyone who’s not read the first two books misses out on plenty of other stuff.) Eventually we even see her notebooks but they're nothing compared to the notebooks Ian Tregillis must have kept in order to write her concurrently through three volumes.

The remaining characters support well. Time-slip Marsh is distinguished from contemporary Marsh by a first person versus third person narrative brainwave. Dear, sweet Will shows himself to be the most inept intelligence operative since Mr Magoo and the Eidolons are also back as their presence effortlessly rekindles memories of past horror.

Necessary Evil finishes the series with great aplomb, tying loose ends with flourish, a few tears (I held it together till the very last page this time!) and the odd gasp of surprise alongside sheer suspense. It also promotes an urge to go back through the series, knowing from the beginning what we realise by the end although perhaps we should expect that. Did I mention how clever Ian Tregillis is?

Needless to say that if you haven't read either of Ian Tregillis' first two books that's where to start. However if you have and enjoy thrillers rooted in history, you may also enjoy Unsinkable by Dan James.

Buy Necessary Evil: The Milkweed Triptych: Book Three by Ian Tregillis at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Necessary Evil: The Milkweed Triptych: Book Three by Ian Tregillis at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Necessary Evil: The Milkweed Triptych: Book Three by Ian Tregillis at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Necessary Evil: The Milkweed Triptych: Book Three by Ian Tregillis at Amazon.com.


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