The Coldest War (Milkweed Triptych) by Ian Tregillis

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The Coldest War (Milkweed Triptych) by Ian Tregillis

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: This, the second in Tregellis's 'alt hist' Milkweed Triptych brings more conundrums, more excitement and a bit more of an understanding as to what ex-Nazi-manufactured seer Greta is up to. It's not as if that will stop her though.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: February 2013
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0356501703

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England 1963: The war is over, Hitler defeated and the Russians (Britain's ally) retain most of mainland Europe. The Briton in the street believes that it was Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain that saved the nation but ex-naval intelligence officer Raybould 'Pip' Marsh and his former friend Lord William Beauclerk know differently. The nation was saved by warlocks like Lord Will, the same warlocks that are now being murdered. However, fighting over, Pip and Will are both war-weary and want to be left alone but the Secret Intelligence Service has other ideas. For the Nazi experimental 'willpower' children are now adult and assembling in England, still equipped with the super powers of their childhood. This means Will and Pip have old scores to settle and greater evils waiting to be faced… Yes… those greater evils are back.

This is the sequel to Ian Tregillis's Bitter Seeds, continuing The Milkweed Triptych moving it on from an SF/war story to an SF/spy story and much has changed in the intervening years. Will has been mended by his marriage to nurse Gwendolyn while Pip has fallen further apart, his marriage disintegrating under the strain of caring for a son who is severely disabled. The lad lives a broken existence thanks to Will and his unwitting pact with the evilly alien Eidolons. Yes, they're back and provide a stunning climax this time out. Looking back now it seems a bit Dr Who but that didn't stop me feverishly turning the pages as the remaining characters look for a way out.

The children we met in the first book are now middle-aged, over-stressed (apart from the still wonderful Gretel) and over here. Reinhardt the fire-starter makes a gripping, almost panto, baddie whereas Klaus the chameleon and his sister (the aforementioned Gretel) are a little more complex. In fact once again I marvel at the way that Ian Tregillis has written this. As she acted in accordance with the future, Greta's actions in the first book are beginning to make sense providing a few 'Aaaah!' moments and a couple of shocks. Of course, there are plenty of things that still don't make sense… yet. Whether Gretel is good, bad or mad remains unanswered as she plays her own long game.

Now we're used to the concept of this alternative history, something different had to be pulled out of the bag to retain our interest, and it has along with nice touches like post-war USA. This book is paced differently but just as superlatively. With the backdrop moving from war to espionage thriller, it becomes a little more cerebral digging deeper into the characters, providing a new level of interest. We particularly see how Klaus's past has affected him. There is, however, some action for the adrenalin junkies, executed with aplomb and panache, including closing off an entire London street. (One of the hope-for-a-movie moments.)

The Coldest War does everything a second-of-three novel should deliver, but many don't. It builds on the story, develops new facets in the characters and leaves us slack-jawed with a surprise that turns to impatience for the publishing date of the third. Since we're on the subject (you were about to ask weren't you?), number 3 (A Necessary Evil) hits us in the UK on April 30th 2013 and, from what we've seen so far, 'hit' seems an opportune word.

Before you read this you really need to read the first book as you'd miss a wealth of excitement otherwise. We also have a review of book three. If you've read it and you fancy some more alternative history, try Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. Don't let the 'Teen' label put you off or you'll miss a treat.

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Buy The Coldest War (Milkweed Triptych) by Ian Tregillis at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Coldest War (Milkweed Triptych) by Ian Tregillis at


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