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Necessary Evil
by Ian Tregillis
Tor, TPB, $14.99, 381pp
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
This is the last of the Milkweed trilogy. Click here for the review of Bitter Seeds, and here for the review of The Coldest War.

In this alternate history story, England is at war with Nazi Germany but the stakes are higher than they were in our reality. England has a secret cabal of men who have learned to communicate with beings not of this reality, Eidolon, but which can enter our reality with an invitation and they can do things for us – but with a price. MI6 finds out about this cabal and enlists their aid to defeat the supermen the Nazi Reich is creating. A mad scientist has discovered a way to tap into and trigger superhuman abilities in children. And these abilities are deadly to the English war effort. But the cost of doing business with the Eidolon may be even higher.

Will Beauclerk is one who knows how to summon the Eidolon and he lends his considerable knowledge to the war effort. Raybould Marsh is an intelligence operative who discovers the farm in Germany that is turning children into inhuman weapons. His fate ends up tangled with Gretel, the madwoman who can see/predict/manipulate the future. It is also Marsh who learns what the true price is for dealing with the demonic Eidolon – the end of the world. At the end of the second book, the world ended. But Gretel made one last deal with the Eidolon – send Marsh back in time.

He appears twenty years earlier, back when everything was starting to get bad. This is also a wrenching love story as Marsh sees his wife as she was before the Eidolons destroyed their lives, their marriage and their love. The Gretel of that time knows everything so she knows exactly what her future self has done – secured a new timeline where Gretel doesn’t die from the Eidolons. Gretel now believes she has all the time in the world and a fresh chance at happiness and love with Marsh. The only trouble is, Marsh despises her more than the Eidolons. Marsh, on the other hand, sees this new timeline as an opportunity to give mankind another chance. All he has to do is totally erase all knowledge of the Eidolons and the Nazi program. He and his doppelganger, with the unwitting help of Will, must kill all the Nazi supersoldiers, destroy all records; then kill all the warlocks who can summon the Eidolon and destroy all those records as well. Oh, and save his wife and infant daughter from the madwoman…repeatedly. Piece of cake.

This is a bleak story but quite powerful. It is superbly plotted and the characters well-designed and well-drawn. The author has a very clear voice with very English overtones – at least it seems so to me. I wonder how the English received these books. I can’t recommend this highly enough. Ian Tregillis is truly an author to watch. ~~ Catherine Book

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