Ian Tregillis’ The Coldest War (2012) is the engrossing sequel to Bitter Seeds, which vividly reimagined World War II as a secret conflict between super-powered Nazis and British warlocks. That opening volume was a uniquely imaginative and compellingly written cross-genre debut, but amazingly, The Coldest War kicks it up a notch. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Nearly two decades have passed since the conclusion of the hot war in Europe, but now the Cold War — a very different Cold War — is in full swing. Russian communism has engulfed the continent, while the United Kingdom remains a last bastion of freedom and democracy in Europe. The tortured heroes of British intelligence’s Milkweed unit, which saved England from Nazi invasion, have left the service. Washed-up Raybould Marsh is struggling through a bitter midlife, while Will Beauclerk, a warlock who contributed greatly to the defense of the empire, has finally recovered from his cripplingly traumatic war experiences. Meanwhile, after years of confinement in a Russian science laboratory, Nazi super-soldier Klaus escapes to London, thanks to the careful manipulations of his precognitive sister Gretel, whose sinister powers conceal a mysterious hidden agenda. When an assassin starts picking off Britain’s warlocks, the Cold War quickly heats back up, luring Raybould, Will, and Klaus back into the spy world, where they set out to avert another global conflagration, which turns out to be even more serious than they ever expected.
I love this series, and not just because it fuses so many of my wheelhouse interests: World War II, spies, superheroes, magic, alternate history. Tregillis sure-handedly blends these disparate elements into something wholly unique and memorable, with beautiful, effortlessly read prose, strong characters, convincing detail and compelling big picture focus. The plot is complex but precise and unconfusing, and delivers the reader to an explosive, epic finale. If you haven’t started into this series yet, I strongly urge you to check it out!