Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis

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Why I Read It: I had the pleasure of listening to Ian Tregillis talk on a panel at Bubonicon 2012.

Where I Got It: Audible.com

Who Do I Recommend This To: Folks who enjoy alternative history in WWII.

Narrator: Kevin Pariseau

Publisher: Audible Frontiers (2010)

Length: 14 hours 11 minutes

Series: The Milkweed Tryptiche Book 1

Food is scarce and the story starts off with two children being taken in by a German scientist at his home for orphans. Only, there are far too many small graves about the property to be solely the doing of influenza. Something ain’t right.

With that gloomy start, Ian Tregillis then launches us perhaps a decade further along and into the WWII efforts of both the Nazis and the British Empire. A little Nazi side venture has created a handful of kids on the cusp of adulthood that have strange abilities, like invisibility, premonition, and fire. However, each miraculous person must carry a battery to power their ability. Think of it as a little handicap. Gretel is my favorite of this group as she is the most complex and curious – I can’t guess whose side she’s on. Her brother Hans also has depth and i often felt he was a good person trapped in horrible role.

Over in the UK, the society of English Warlocks are employed to combat the Nazi invasion. These Warlocks negotiate with these other-worldly beings who have the power to alter our plain of existence, like the weather. However, these beings have to be paid in blood. Young Will, who recieved the basic Warlock training as a child, is recruited by Marsh, who works for the British war effort, to pull off some questionable counter-Nazi activities.

As the story unfolds, each side commits atrocities. I found myself thinking that the Germans were honest with themselves while the Brits felt the need to go with ‘the ends justify the means’. Interesting to have those two things side by side. The dark complexity of this novel drew me in and kept me on the edge of my seat. The ending set the book up perfectly for the sequel, having me wondering what Gretel’s plan is, how Marsh’s family will move forward, and will Will self-destruct.

The narration was well done, complete with German accents and various British accents.

What I Liked: The dark setting of WWII; Gretel’s complex character; I love hating Klaus; I wasn’t expecting Warlocks; nothing is simple.

What I Disliked: There’s only a handful of women and only 1 of them has a major role.

As part of Stainless Steel Droppings’ R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event, I am going to count this book as Dark Historical Fiction. This event is still going strong until the end of October, so feel free to hop over there and join the fun.

3 thoughts on “Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis”

  1. I’m a little burned out on WWII alternate history, but this one, this one has me very interested. Sounds like there are lots of grey characters, and you know my weakness for greyer than grey characters and antiheroes!

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