Review: Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis


Series: Milkweed Triptych #1
Published by: Tor Books
ISBN: 0765321505
ISBN 13: 9780765321503
Published: April 2010
Pages: 352
Format reviewed: Paperback
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites
Related Reviews: The Coldest War (Milkweed Triptych #2)

Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis is the first book in the series ‘Milkweed Triptych’, a supernatural science historical fiction, taking place between 1939 and 1941 in Germany, London and many places in-between. The Nazis have supermen (and women), the British have warlocks and demons, and one perfectly normal man gets caught in between.

We meet Raybould Marsh, a perfectly normal man who happens to be a British spy with a face and temper like a boxer. On a mission during the Spanish Civil War he witnessed something he has trouble forgetting – a woman with wires going into her head, winking at him before disappearing into the crowd. It’s almost as if she knows him.

We also meet Klaus, an orphan who was bought by Herr Doktor von Westarp and then experimented, operated on and trained to become something unbelievable fantastic – and I mean that in its actual definition, rather than the colloquial – ‘Imaginative or fanciful; remote from reality’.

Klaus can turn himself insubstantial. He’s not the only child Herr Doktor has changed – others can turn invisible, foresee the future, turn themselves into a walking fireball.

One may worry that the war could have ended differently if the Germans now have such powers under their very well behaved control, but never fear. The British have warlocks.

Despite these outlandish clashes between history as we know it, superhumans and warlocks, the characters don’t suffer in the least. They’re all well rounded and developed, complex and fascinating and somehow – believable. Generally when reading a book I find myself leaning in favour of one character, and yet in this I looked forward to seeing more of all of them – every single character.

The plot here is somewhat reassuring as it sticks to history well, while still being described with enough detail for those who either don’t remember or have never learned what happened in the first place. The level of detail in this book is enjoyable – you can tell that Tregillis has studied the history extensively, which allows Tregillis room to describe everything beautifully; transitions initially conveyed using birds, which become a running theme throughout the novel. Somehow Tregillis packs emotion and punch into his descriptions while they remain so brief each time.

This is easily one of my favourite books for the year, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of the series. It’s fantastic to have a well-rounded book, one that has a well developed plot, believable characters, beautiful description and above all else – a well written novel.

There is a website that’s quite in character that I enjoyed looking at:

This review was originally posted at SentientOnline on the 16th September 2012.


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