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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Necessary Evil by Ian Tregillis (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website 
Read the prologue & chapter one HERE 
Order Necessary Evil HERE 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Bitter Seeds 
Read Fantasy book Critic's review of The Coldest War 

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Ian Tregillis was born and brought up in USA. He was then raised in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated from the University of Minnesota woth his graduate studies and then attended Clarion Writer’s Workshop in Michigan in its second-last year at that venue. Since then he moved to southern regions and shifted to New Mexico and since then has lived in the northern part of the state while fraternizing with the other famous writers in that state.

OFFICIAL BLURB: The history of the Twentieth Century has been shaped by a secret conflict between technology and magic. When a twisted Nazi scientist devised a way to imbue ordinary humans with supernatural abilities - to walk through walls, throw fire, and see the future - his work became the prized possession of first the Third Reich, then the Soviet Army. Only Britain's warlocks, and the dark magics they yield, have successfully countered the threat posed by these superhuman armies.

But for decades, this conflict has been manipulated by Gretel, the mad seer. And now her long plan has come to fruition. And with it, a danger vastly greater than anything the world has known. Now British Intelligence officer Raybould Marsh must make a last-ditch effort to change the course of history - if his nation, and those he loves, are to survive. 

FORMAT/INFO: Necessary Evil is 384 pages long divided into seventeen chapters with a prologue and an epilogue. The narration is in third person via Raybould Marsh, Gretel, Will Beauclark and in first person via Raybould Marsh as well. This is the last book of the Milkweed Triptych trilogy.

April 30, 2013 marks the US hardback and e-book publication of Necessary Evil by Tor Books and also the UK trade paperback and e-book publication via Orbit UK. US Cover art is provided by Chris McGrath.

ANALYSIS: With this being the last book of the Milkweed Triptych trilogy, I was very, very eager to read it. After finishing The Coldest War, the stakes of the book were exponentially increased. Not only was the world threatened but also the fabric of human existence. With Necessary Evil, Ian Tregillis brings an end to the time-travelling, magic saga that began with Bitter Seeds, however this book is somewhat similar to that of the first book. The biggest difference being that this time around the audience as well as Raybould know of Gretel and her dastardly manipulations. The readers know why this book exists in regards to the climatic events of The Coldest War.

Raybould Marsh has survived the events of The Coldest War, problem is so has Gretel. She sent him and her memory back to the 1940s wherein she hopes to escape the Eidolon menace that is haunting her across every timeline. Marsh on the other hand has to contend with his younger self, Gretel’s machinations and a chance to redeem his life not for himself but for his wife and family. And that’s all I can talk about before venturing into any spoiler territory (which I don’t intend to).

With this conclusive volume, Ian Tregillis showcases how much planning must have gone into this series. Beginning from the first volume, certain events and characters occur that take new dimensions as the series progresses and with this volume, we learn what finally happens to the world wherein magic and science have been explosively combined. The book begins rapidly and continues with all its plot twists that keep the reader glued onto the pages and make it very unpredictable to predict.

What I really enjoyed was the characterization beginning with both selves of Raybould Marsh and Gretel. The author employs a first person and third person perspective to differentiate between the two and I really enjoyed that move. The biggest plus point about this book is its use of time travel, now I must re-iterate when it comes to time-travel stories, I’m rarely enthused. The reason being I’ve been burnt too many times in the past and I haven't really enjoyed the ones that I’ve read so far. Ian Tregillis is the exception for it though, with this trilogy he not only subverts the time-travel tropes but also shows how well skilled a writer he is. Even though the story almost falls into cliched territory, the author’s skillful planning becomes very apparent to the readers who have read the previous volumes.

Also the main antagonist Gretel is one of the scariest antagonists ever written and I especially loved how the author explained his reasoning behind her origins. The author however has made her human as well (or as much human, a sociopathic being with terrifying pre-cognitive abilities can be), many of Gretel’s actions have seemed inscrutable so far but this is the big payoff. With this final voilume, the author lays bare all of her scheming and machinations and it is terrifying to behold (Reminds me a bit of Kellhus from R. Scott Bakker’s books). But the best part of this book is its absolutely unbelieveable, slam-bang ending, you think you might know how this one might end but you would be wrong. There's also the massive research that has gone in the making of this trilogy which is listed by the author in the end and I feel that also showcases the depth of the author's belief in his story and the pains to which he went to make it as realistic and accurate as possible.

Perhaps the one thing I could pinpoint as a sole achilles point would be that in the end, Gretel is humanized to a certain extent that perhaps runs counter to what has been established so far. The end climax hinges on this aspect and therefore I felt it seemed to be slightly contrived because of this reason. However this is entirely subjective and might not be the same case for other readers. This was for me the sole dull spot amid this brilliant novel and it still didn't detract from my pleasurable reading experience.

CONCLUSION: Ian Tregillis absolutely thrills with this book and simply proves that he’s one of the best and definitely the most under-rated newbie SF writer out there. Make sure that you don’t miss this entire trilogy as Necessary Evil closes out a fantastic story.


Elfy said...

Nice review. I just finished this and it is one of the best three series books I can remember reading recently. A lot of this is down to the character of Gretel.

David Marshall said...

Sadly I couldn't disagree more. As a time travel multiverse story, this is a disaster. Major paradoxes are unresolved. You refer to the research. A few books are listed at the end but why bother reading them when you are writing alternate history, i.e. you are going to ignore what actually happened. And as to the reality of life in 1940, this is laughably inaccurate. But then this is just fiction so who cares whether it makes any sense or has factual credibility.


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