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 oth..Show More »ers, 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.
In the first book of the Milkweed trilogy, British secret agent Raybould Marsh and his poncy toff friend Will Beauclerk tried to find a way to fight s..Show More »upersoldiers created by Nazi science. The solution was the top-secret Milkweed project: gathering Britain's warlocks, who can bargain with cosmic horrors called Eidolons, they used magic to destroy the Reich's armies and counter the supermen, at the cost of sacrificing their own citizens.
In Necessary Evil, Raybould Marsh is sent back in time thanks to Eidolon sorcery and the machinations of Gretel, the most powerful of all the original super-soldiers, with the power to see the future and, it turns out, all the many possible branches it can take, and choose between them. Gretel is basically unstoppable: she brings into the question the very existence of free will, since nothing happens that she doesn't foresee. Unfortunately, she foresaw the end of the world in every possible future, and so schemed to create a new timeline in which the Eidolons don't destroy the world and she lives.
Thus, Necessary Evil is not only an alternate history but a time travel novel. The older, scarred Raybould Marsh has to somehow manipulate his younger self and his friend Will into not using the power of the Eidolons to save Britain from the Nazi supermen. The problem with this, of course, is that saving the world might mean losing World War II. With a younger Gretel also involved, still playing her omniscient games, the plot twists through replays of events in the first book, taking them in new directions.
Like the first two books, Necessary Evil is heavy on plot and imagination, and while the characterization is still a little shallow at times, the tormented Raybould Marsh, seeing a wife that still loves his younger self, manages to elicit sympathy, while Gretel becomes, almost, human. Still crazy and evil, but human. The "necessary evils" the characters are required to perform cause quite a bit of angst, but they never really search for alternatives.
Time travel is tricky to pull off; time travel combined with an all-seeing precog even trickier. How do you create surprises and avoid paradoxes? Tregillis manages to pull it off without unraveling the plot. The ending is just right: a climactic battle, a bittersweet victory, and just desserts. It's a fine ending to the trilogy.