Review: The Coldest War (Milkweed 2)

Coldest WarBy Ian Tregillis

Orbit, out now

1963 – and the consequences of the Eidolons’ actions during the Second World War start to become apparent.

With the changes in the timeline caused by the battle between the superpowered Nazis and the Allied warlocks (and their use of the interdimensional Eidolon), the 1963 of The Coldest War isn’t quite the world we know. The Iron Curtain extends around the whole of Europe; America is in the fourth decade of depression (with Nixon at its helm); and austerity is still the order of the day for many Britons. Raybould Marsh has gone to seed – the consequences of the final blood price exacted by the Eidolon in Bitter Seeds have driven a wedge between him and his wife which seems impossible to heal. However, the escape of Gretel and her brother Klaus from Soviet custody sparks changes across the board.

In an article on John Scalzi’s website, Ian Tregillis talks about the necessity to plot all three books in detail before writing the first, and it becomes horribly clear as this book goes on just how much Gretel has planned – even if the reasons for her doing so don’t really become apparent until the final confrontations. The others try to pretend they have free will – and maybe they do, and Gretel simply knows what they will have done (tenses become unsurprisingly difficult when talking about a precognitive who always gets it right).

The Coldest War of the title doesn’t just refer to the conflict between East and West – there are numerous other equally cold battles within this book: Marsh and his wife; Gretel and her brother; Will and his wife. As you might expect from the second book of an intricately plotted trilogy, this doesn’t really stand alone – but it will definitely have you seeking out the conclusion rapidly.

Verdict: A chilling, well-constructed alternate history that expands the canvas of the first book to devastating effect. 8/10

Paul Simpson


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