Audible was thrilled to discover this genre-busting alternate history of World War II by an exciting new writer, Ian Tregillis.
It's 1939. Raybould Marsh is a British secret agent in the early days of World War II, haunted by something strange he saw on a mission during the Spanish Civil War: a German woman with wires going into her head who looked at him as if she knew him. It wasn’t his imagination; the wired woman can see into the future and use her knowledge to twist the present. In fact, Marsh soon discovers that the Nazis are running missions with people who have special powers – a woman who can turn invisible, a man who can walk through walls, and the woman Marsh saw in Spain.
Marsh is called upon to stop them from aiding the Nazi expansion. He rallies a group of secret warlocks in Britain to hold an impending invasion at bay. But magic always exacts a price. Eventually, the sacrifice necessary to defeat the enemy proves as unthinkable as surrender. Alan Furst meets Alan Moore in this wildly entertaining epic of supernatural historical fiction. Bitter Seeds portrays a twentieth century much like the one we knew, but also profoundly different.
Also listen to the next book, The Coldest War.
©2010 Ian Tregillis (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
"A major talent.... I can't wait to see more." (George R.R. Martin)
"Debut novelist Tregillis breathes new life into alternate military history with this fun take on WW II." (Publishers Weekly)
"Magic and mad science mix in this entertaining alternate history of WWII, with the warlocks of Britain uniting to battle German forces with super powers. A striking first novel." (Locus magazine)
"Tregillis writes and plots beautifully. The characters - twisted German psychics, bitter warlocks, the brutal calculators of the British intelligence apparat - are complex, textured, surprising. The physical descriptions are wonderful. And the plot is relentless, a driving adventure story with intrigue, battle, sacrifice, and betrayal." (BoingBoing)
Sci-Fi & Fantasy Reader
First off, I feel inclined to note that I gave the novel 3 stars, but I really wanted to give it 3.5 stars. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to others, but I just didn’t love it.
I decided to listen to this after hearing rave reviews from Tom and Veronica on the Sword and Laser podcast. They really talked it up and it had a pretty interesting premise so it felt like a no-brainer. To give a little background, Bitter Seeds is an alternate history set in Europe during World War II. In this retelling however, the British employ warlocks and the Germans basically have soldiers with superpowers.
Overall, I did enjoy it, but it definitely left something to be desired. The story wasn’t bad nor were the characters, but they also weren’t amazing. I never felt that invested in the characters (on either side). They were realistic enough, but were just somewhat flat. It’s hard to describe, because they weren’t poorly written or unlikeable…they were just kind of bland.
My biggest gripe with the story was the ending. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say the climax fell short. I wanted big explosions and high excitement–it seemed like that’s where things were going–but that’s not how it played out and I was a little underwhelmed.
My only other comment is about the narrator, Kevin Pariseau. Mr. Pariseau has narrated a lot of novels and I expect that he’s pretty well respected, but he just didn’t feel like a great fit to me. Most of the novel takes place it the UK and it just stands to reason that a British narrator would have been selected. The accents of the characters would have been a bit more convincing and I think it would have increased my enjoyment.
That said, it was a pretty fun read. It’s not very long either so it’s no major investment.
One of my first alternative history (audible) books. Saw this in hardback, was waiting for the paperback - but to my surprise (even better) it's on Audible!
Basically, the British are losing the war - the US did not join in the war and the Germans have created the ??bermensch (Superman/women) - sociopathic orphans taken from WW I, and endowed with X-menesque power by mad scientists.
In response, a desperate Admiralty establish the Milkweed organisation - British warlocks that use magic to fight back.
I believe this is Tregillis' first novel - stunning piece of work and fortunately there's more to come as this is the first book of the Milkweed Triptych (trilogy).
I don't think I would listen to Bitter Seeds for a long while. I was expecting a golden age/pulp hero type of setting with super powers and magic based on the summary. Instead it was a horror story, and a darn good one.
Yes, the end of the first novel is a cliff hanger; however, I need some more lighthearted fair before diving back into the next novel.
I don't have a particularly favorite scene, however, Ian Tregillis did a great job of bring the story right to the brink of being too gruesome or callous (in terms of the "reality" of war and the supernatural) without crossing over, but not going into actual details so my imagination took over many times through out the story.
What price for victory?
Kevin Pariseau did a good job of bringing the different characters to life, it was easy to tell which character was speaking.
The story is complex, and may require more than one listen, many story lines are woven into one all-encompassing plot line.
The concept: it's fascinating. Considering that Hitler was such a fan of the occult and science...this story fits very well into the 'what if' scenario for the SS and what Hitler could have / might have done if he'd had the chance.
The description of the Taragon Film; where all the battery charged students are displaying their abilities.
It made me think hard about what levels of technology we have today versus what was cutting edge in 1940-41...if this is 'what might have been' then what are we headed towards today?
If you're not a fan of the WWII genre or steampunk, or accustomed to hearing German spoken/written, then you may have a hard time understanding sections of this book. However, don't pass up a great tale just because you may not know the language. Tregillis has woven a fascinating tale.
My wife says she can read me like an open book. Though she regrets not being able to shut me up the same way. :)
Magic, a team of warlocks, and scientifically engineered "x-men." This was a great idea for a story. Sadly, this story never got off the ground. I regret to say that the publisher's summary pulled me in; it was very well written and more intriguing than the actual story.
It seemed like the author kept padding the pages with narratives about minutiae that was unnecessary and which had the effect draaaaagggging the pace. I was a trooper, though, and kept at it. But, after a while, it seemed to me that the reason for the minutiae may have been because the author was waiting to see what inspiration he might get for compelling new scenes and scenarios. Nope, 'never got there. Inspiration apparently never quite flashed.
*** Caution: Mild spoiler follows... but very mild. If it matters to you, you can skip the paragraph below and continue to the next paragraph.***
Personally, I think the author shot himself in the foot with regard to the nature of the "physics" he defined for the warlocks in his story. The bounds he placed here, I think, sadly limited the many possible directions he could otherwise have taken such colorful characters as warlocks in World War II. Rather, he effectively reduced them to not much more than facilitators with some unique language skills, but no real power.
*** Mild spoiler part ends. You can safely continue reading below, if you want. ***
The other thing about this audio book that never quite gel'd for me is the performance of the german and british accents. Now, here I'm going to give the narrator, Mr. Pariseau, credit. As I have no real ear for British and German accents, all I can say is that Mr. Pariseau shifted between American / British / and German accents quite skillfully. He did well to use this skill in differentiating each character with consistency. I was able to keep up with which-character-was-which because of his skillful shifting. That said, the German accents in the story was fairly annoying... they came off as somewhat of a parody. But, like I said, I don't have an ear for what a proper German accent is supposed to sound like, so I'll give Mr. Pariseau the benefit of my untrained ear and just say the German-accented dialog just didn't help with the uptake in this story.
Overall recommendation: Move on.
I love to read, but I am time-limited. Audible allows me to keep up with all my favorite authors while on the hiking trail. Thanks, Audible!
'Bitter Seeds??? takes us to an alternative World War II in which the Allied forces are developing demon weapons and defenses, and the Axis Forces are developing paranormal weapons and defenses. While this type of arms race is not new in literature, Ian Tregillis??? version reads more like a thrilling history book than fiction. Tregillis really has done his homework, and this story has the gravity and intrigue found in the real-life arms race to create an atomic bomb. This is an amazing book that captures the excitement and dread of an era that still shapes our view of the world today. I highly recommend it.
This must be the WORST book in my library. I absolutely hated it. Maybe I just don't like historical fantasy, I don't often read it, and this one just seemed brain-dead from any angle.
Germans are depicted as cruel comic-imbeciles, who nevertheless have achieved a technological highpoint the Allies never manage to understand. The English are equally cruel and unkind to their own people, and try to overcome the Germans with Enochian magic, which (in this book) is savage yet futile in its usage.
There is never any attempt at an explanation of either technology or magic. We're supposed to simply take it all at face value.
The whole thing just strikes me as stupid. I'm not able to give it less than one star, but my advice is to steer clear.
I thought I would love this one -- alternate history, WWII Nazis fighting British warlocks. What's not to like, right?
Well, the book reads like a really nicely written high school fiction workshop project. The characters have an average IQ of around 75, and their approach to each of the "problems" encountered is slow, obvious and completely expected. Even the dialog is pedestrian.
Sorry to say that I wasted a whole credit on this one, but please, please do not make the same mistake I did. Skip right past this one and get something better and worthier of your time.
The narrator made some of the characters sound a bit over the top in the stereotype department, but overall it's a great story.
After reading the back cover of this book, I felt it sounded mildly interesting. Then I started listening.....I immediately was engrossed. As a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, I found some elements of that genera in the preface. As a fan of the RPG Godlike, I loved the similarities between this and the game. I am really looking forward to the rest of the series. Can only give 4 stars, some of the writing is needing some better editing, some sentences don’t flow as well as they could, and the reader’s accent is overdone at times. But this book is a great begining for a series.
"Good story, not so good narration"
It is, as the critics' reviews say, a good story that kept me listening... it also kept me grinding my teeth at the narrator's poor grasp of accents. Lorimer, a Scot (who, thankfully, has little to say in the book) does not have a Scottish accent, rather, he has a wandering Irish/North Country hybrid accent that left me wincing. The Germans all speak with preposterous mock German accents and Olivia, wife of Marsh, is voiced with a strange received English plus occasional hints of Mockney even though she is described as having a common accent.
If you can ignore all this (and I did, after a struggle) then it's a good audible book.
Narrators really should be discouraged from giving accents to characters unless they know how to do them properly.
"Story is ok - narration is painful"
I can only agree with the other reviewers.
Why on earth, when a book is set entirely in Germany and England, would they choose an American to narrate it? He simply cannot do the accents!
Not only is this painful on the ear at times, but also, when involving converstaion between two of the main male characters, it becomes impossible to tell who is supposed to be speaking, because the accents vary so much.
The plot is interesting and the story well told - with the exception that the Author does tend to get over impressed with his own eloquence when describing the esoteric. His descriptions of the awe-inspiringness of his super-natural beings do tend to drag.
All in all, I shall probably get the sequel – but I will wish that someone else was reading it.
"Good story, but hard to bear the narration"
I downloaded this because someone on a podcast I enjoy recommended the sequel. The concept of this book is interesting and I like that it's not your usual black-and-white WW2 story; everybody's doing horrible things, for different reasons.
But I have to agree with previous comments, and comments on the sequel, that the narration is just not good. Never mind the atrocious accents (the German ones are downright offensive), it's as if the narrator isn't able to "read ahead" to make sure he pronounces a sentence so that the full stop is actually at the end of it, and not somewhere in the middle. "Marsh opened the gate. To the garden." It is absolutely annoying. Unfortunately, I am now committed to listening to part 2 as well, but I probably won't enjoy it very much!
Recording these is probably quite expensive, so I am guessing the chances of giving this one a do-over are fairly slim.
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