Nazi supermen, English warlocks, time travel, and A Necessary Evil


If you haven’t read the first two books of the Milkweed Tryptic, you might want to proceed with caution. As Necessary Evil concludes the trilogy, I will be doing some commentary on the series as a whole which will contain some spoilers.

Necessary EvilAs a book reviewer, I try really hard to keep things professional and not engage in the kind of flailing that you might find in a Twitter feed or Facebook status. However, this book leaves you with a strong desire to go stand outside your local bookstore and grab other customers by their jackets and shake them until they agree to buy a copy of the first book. Partly because it would be a real shame for anyone to miss out on this series, and partly so that I can have people to gush over it with. I can count all the series that have managed to end so neatly without running out of fingers. That feeling the first time you finished Deathly Hallows? It was a lot like that, and, frankly, I wasn’t really expecting to get that kind of satisfaction from the end of series again.

It’s taken me this long to actually get a review up for two very good reasons. These are hard books to read. Most books take me about three days to read or less. All the Milkweed books have required me to slow down, make sure I read every word, really engage with the material intellectually, and keep flipping back and forth through the book since I’m sure this can’t really be happening. It took me a week and half to get through this one. And all these things that I often associate with poorly written books are actually a testament to how detailed and nuanced these books are…a missed sentence might be the lynch pin of the entire series. Also, I had to go back and reread the first two books and then A Necessary Evil again before I was convinced I could make certain statements online and not be in error.

BitterSeedsMMThis series is mostly promoted as an alternate history. The Nazis create their perfect supermen by ripping into people’s brains and connecting them to batteries. Unable to muster any kind of a military resistance to this threat, England responds by turning to one of their deepest secrets: warlocks. Honestly, this set up sounds like one of the flashiest summer blockbusters. However, rather than pyrotechnics, we’re treated to a long hard look at the nature of evil. Does the end really justify the means? Apparently not.  The demons the warlocks summon ask for blood in payment. A cut. A finger. A victim. Ten. The cost mounts as the desire for power grows…all in the name of the greater good. Finally, things go too far, and the demons get a foothold in our world. England may have had victory over Germany, but the price was the destruction of the world on a level Hilter could never have touched.

At the center of the schemes of warlocks and superhumans, is a very normal man, Raybould Marsh. He perhaps looses the most in the war and when offered a chance at the end of the second book, he agrees to go back in time to save both the world and his family. And I was stunned. Suddenly, we took a series oddly grounded in our own reality despite demons and man science and turned into a time travel story? I figured this was the point a really promising series jumped the shark. Soon though, I had out my copies of the first two books and started rereading them in parallel. Because the time travel had been there all along.

The Coldest WarHonestly, I’m not sure I can academically define how the way Tregillis handled time travel is so superior to how many other series have portrayed it, but for this first time since SG-1 went back to 1969, I found myself enjoying the inclusion of time travel. (Doctor Who is, of course, separate in that it’s always about time travel.) The attention to detail and the plausibility were incredible. I particularly enjoyed how ‘future Marsh” only tweaked the smallest details. Most of us, given the chance to change history, would probably go for something grander, but I think allowing the pebble to start the avalanche is a much more prudent form of rewriting time.

Any further gushing would definitely run the risk of spoiling this amazing trilogy, so suffice it to say, my mind was blown by A Necessary Evil. I would definitely say that this trilogy is both fantasy and science fiction at its very best. But beyond even being a spectacular genre piece, the Milkweed Tryptic is a phenomenal piece of writing. Books like these remind me why I read in the first place.


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