The Coldest War – Ian Tregillis

About the book

Someone is killing Britain’s warlocks.

Twenty-two years after the Second World War, a precarious balance of power maintains the peace between Great Britain and the USSR. For decades, the warlocks have been all that stand between the British Empire and the Soviet Union– a vast domain stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the shores of the English Channel. But now each death is another blow to Britain’s security.

Meanwhile, a brother and sister escape from a top-secret research facility deep behind the Iron Curtain. Once subjects of a twisted Nazi experiment to imbue ordinary humans with extraordinary abilities, then prisoners of war in the vast Soviet effort to reverse engineer the Nazi technology, they head for England.

Because that’s where former spy Raybould Marsh lives. And Gretel, the mad seer, has plans for him.

As Marsh is drawn back into the world of Milkweed, he discovers that Britain’s darkest acts didn’t end with the war. And as he strives to protect Queen and country, he’s forced to confront his own willingness to accept victory at any cost.

352 pages (hardcover)
Published on: July 17, 2012
Published by: Tor
Author’s webpage

The publisher provided this book for review.

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Disclaimer: I’m a crazy fangirl for this series. It shows in my review. This completely effects my ability to be unbiased. Take that as you will.

So far 2012 has surpassed my wildest dreams with the quality of what I’ve been reading. I’ve absolutely loved more books than I thought possible. I honestly think it’s probably starting to make me look like a crappy excuse of a reviewer because I seem to love nearly everything. The truth is, I’m not making this excitement up. I’m just really lucky to have some great stuff cross my path.

The Coldest War isn’t an exception. I loved Bitter Seeds and I’ve been anxiously awaiting this book. When it showed up in the mail I just about passed out with excitement. Tregillis is executing a brilliant spin on history with his Milkweed TriptychThe Coldest War begins roughly twenty years after the events of Bitter Seeds, and the name is fitting. Not only is this The Coldest War, but it’s also a very cold part of the lives of the protagonists. In fact, the first half of the book is downright depressing as characters realize what an unfortunate life March lives, and while Will seems very lucky, his life takes a negative spin as well. Then, you insert Gretel (who makes my skin crawl) and her brother Klaus, and you have a simmering pot of dark tension just waiting to boil over.

Gretel is, perhaps, one of the most memorable characters I’ve read recently. As I said above, she makes my skin crawl, and that’s a real testament to Tregillis and his ability to make an incredibly realistic character that just crawls into your consciousness and takes root there. Gretel works toward her own goals, and Tregillis does a wonderful job at keeping the readers from knowing exactly what that end goal is until the very end of the book. Until then, she strings the reader along just as much as she strings her fellow characters along. No one really knows what to make of her and the horrible things she’s responsible for. Tregillis, toward the beginning of the book, illuminates the incredible lengths she’ll go to set certain events in motion.

As I mentioned above, this book is just as cold as its title suggests. Marsh is consumed with anger toward pretty much everyone. Will has done something stupid and he’s sucked into events he wants no part of, and this effects his relationship. Klaus realizes what an incredible monster his sister is and tries to distance himself from her. Things happen, and the tension is ramped up even more. The incredible thing is, even when the reader isn’t exactly sure what’s happening and where the book is going, Tregillis keeps the reader fascinated with his brilliant characterization is his constantly moving plot. Combined with that is some incredible prose.

If nothing else, it can be said that Tregillis not only matched the quality of Bitter Seeds, but The Coldest War left it in the dust. Tregillis has obviously grown and developed as a writer, and this brilliant installment in this trilogy proves it.

Lastly, I will say that the ending of The Coldest War was a huge surprise. It’s incredibly rare that I read a book and don’t know how it will end before I get there. While some of the ending will be slightly predictable, other parts will be a surprise and that’s a huge testament to the nature of the plot. However, not only does the ending surprise the reader due to the culmination of events (and readers will look back at portions of the book and think, “Ah ha! What a brilliant clue he left me there and I didn’t even realize it until now…”), but Tregillis does a remarkable job at tempering all of his darkness with some chilling and very somber justifications. (This is another point where I’m afraid to elaborate more due to giving portions of the plot away so I hope this makes some sort of sense).

If you’ve read this far, it’s probably obvious that I loved this book. There really isn’t anything more than that to say. It’s a wonderful installment in a brilliant trilogy and I’m anxiously waiting for the third book. Here’s the bottom line: If you haven’t read the Milkweed Triptych yet, you need to. The Coldest War isn’t just a book – it’s an experience.


5/5 stars

4 Responses

  • So Jealous! I can’t wait to read this book. Bitter Seeds was great, and I can’t wait to read more Gretel. She is one hell of a character. She makes my skin crawl too!

    Glad to hear Tregillis didn’t have a sophomore slump.

  • Mike

    Interesting. I read the first book and thought it was excellent.

    I’m pretty excited about this series, the problem, read your review on the Void Trilogy, so, what do I do now?!? What do I read! 🙂

  • I flat out adored the first book, and it left me with a huge book hangover that was hard to fill.

    I bought the sequel hardcover but have yet to dive into it. I’m doing a re-read of David Mitchell’s CLOUD ATLAS first, but after that I will be getting into it!

    Very excited!

  • a book i’ve been wanting to read.=)

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