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WesternSFA
The Coldest War
by Ian Tregillis
$25.99, Tom Doherty Assoc., 349pp
Release Date: July 17, 2012
This is the second in a trilogy called the Milkweed Triptych.

Please refer to the review of the first book, Bitter Seeds for more background.

In this alternate history, Britain and the Soviet Union share the balance of power in the world but that could end soon for Britain.  Someone is finding and murdering all of Britain’s warlocks.  These were the men responsible for stopping the Nazi war machine and giving victory to the Soviet Union.  But the price extracted by the demons they summoned was soul-draining to all involved; particularly for Will Beauclerk. Will had to climb out of a deep suicidal crevasse but was able to do so with the help and love of a special woman.  Marsh had retired at the end of the war to reconnect with his wife after the death of their baby girl drove them apart.  Happily, they anticipated a new life with a new baby. 

Two decades later, all the retired warlocks are being efficiently hunted and exterminated.  And with each death, Britain loses a defense against the Soviet Union.  Will is haunted by his deeds and desperately craves a release.  Marsh and his wife, Liv, now lead a love-less, dreary existence that revolves around the constant care demanded by their son – a boy whose insanity challenges a diagnosis.  These two men, once the closest of friends now mortal enemies, must work together again against a new threat from the Soviets.  The Soviets did manage to capture several of the Nazi super-soldiers and have spent the past two decades reverse-engineering the process with the unwilling assistance of Klaus and Gretel.  But Gretel has finally engineered their escape and brother and sister flee to Britain.  Klaus, trailing in the wake of his mad sister, is starting to recognize that he has never been his own man.  Someone has always controlled him, including his own sister.  He craves release and may be willing to do anything for it.  Gretel continues to confound Marsh who is obsessed with understanding her agenda and is beginning to have dark suspicions about the extent of her talent. 

The threat in this story seems to be the Soviets’ attack on Britain with their own super-soldiers but that pales against the growing threat of the demons losing the reins the warlocks held.  Britain has an ace in the hole of which the Soviets seem unaware.  But, again, the price of dealing with the demons is horrifyingly high. And everything seems to circle around Marsh and Gretel.  What has she been planning for so very long and what is Marsh’s role?  Will he be the savior or the vehicle of destruction of the whole earth?  {Obviously not, as there is a third book….LOL}  The ending is quite surprising.

As with the first book, this is excellently crafted.  The plotting was tight and clear.  The characters are wonderfully wrought.  I am so looking forward to the final book.  ~~ Catherine Book

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