The Coldest War – Ian Tregillis

Posted: September 15, 2013 in general fiction, Review
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coldest war This is the second of the Milkweed trilogy (or Milkweed Triptych as the publisher prefers). It’s approximately 20 years since the War ended. Stalin’s armies made it further west, thanks to the eidolons, and Paris is a divided city. Britain is slowly sinking into decay, and is home to Reinhardt, and eventually Gretel and Klaus who manage to escape from their own little Gulag. William Beauclerk has escaped from the self-loathing he ended Bitter Seeds on and has acquired a wife, Gwendolyn. Raybould Marsh has a son to replace the lost daughter, but the boy is a broken vessel and has wrecked the Marshes’ marriage. Marsh is sinking faster than Britain when news of Gretel and Klaus’s escape reaches what used to be Milkweed.

As with Bitter Seeds, The Coldest War changes perspective every few pages. This helps link the various threads. Gretel and Klaus surviving in Britain. Reinhardt attempting to make a battery so as to use his talent. Marsh recovering some purpose as he is recalled to Milkweed, and Will’s fall from grace as his treason is discovered. This may be the second of a trilogy, and usually they’re the weak link, but I preferred this volume to the first book. Whatever it was that didn’t work in the first does here. It is as though Tregillis had to write the first in order to get warmed up.

The action flows. The Soviet villains are mostly off camera, lurking menacingly in the shadows as villains should. Soviet Willenskrafte agents can use more than one talent, and have modern equipment. And the real monsters, the eidolons, only appear briefly. Marsh is no longer the all brawn action hero, although he still tends to think with his body. Reinhardt may hunger for revenge for a long dead Reich, Klaus has matured. He can almost contemplate a life not serving a state.

The key figure of Gretel is as enigmatic as ever. Her talent, clairvoyance, is the McGuffin for the whole story, and we finally learn what she is plotting at the end of The Coldest War.   It is so simple (and obvious if you sit and think about it) that if volume three, Necessary Evil, is half as good as the Coldest War it shock be a cracking good read. Tregillis annoyed me with Bitter Seeds but all is forgiven as he has repaid the debt with interest.

Orbit

Supplied by Hatchette New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

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