Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis
The year is 1939. Raybould Marsh and other members of British Intelligence have gathered to watch a damaged reel of film in a darkened room. It appears to show German troops walking through walls, bursting into flames and hurling tanks into the air from afar.
If the British are to believe their eyes, a twisted Nazi scientist has been endowing German troops with unnatural, unstoppable powers. And Raybould will be forced to resort to dark methods to hold the impending invasion at bay.
But dealing with the occult exacts a price. And that price must be paid in blood.
Bitter Seeds is the debut book of Ian Tregillis and the first in the Milkweed Triptych, a to be written trilogy with “The Coldest War” and “Necessary Evil” to be released in the UK soon. Bitter Seeds was first published in 2010, and sadly missed my attention, but looking for interesting titles I came across Bitter Seeds and as soon I finished the synopsis I knew this was a book for me. The English warlocks and German psychics, and the super human element has always appealed to me and Ian Tregillis has woven it into a plot involving the Second World War. Only a few pages in I knew I was in for gold…
Bitter Seeds plays out mainly between 1939 and 1941. The prologue begins in 1920, where you first see the German’s side and the scientist Von Westarp and his “orphanage”. It was by his introduction and the way he went around with some of the children that there was a certain dark and grim setting introduced to the side of the Germans and their super soldiers. But also in the prologue you see the English warlock side with Will, casting the spells as a warlock requires certain sacrifices, paid in blood, finishing the book has left me with some thoughts that though you see the Germans as the bad guys, the English warlocks are not altogether without blame themselves, some will go through lengths to achieve their goal... After the prologue the story centers around three different storyline: Raybould Marsh an English spy, the English Warlocks and the German Psychics. In only this short 400 pages book there happens a lot, both in terms of storyline coalescing as you see the battle being fought out and cantering around each storyline the depth and complexity of the characters.
Take Raybould Marsh: first a street boy and now in service of The Crown. After getting in touch with a contact for the English in Spain, where everything goes - unexplainably - sour, Raybould now finds himself in a plot that cannot be explained having recovered some picture only. The English are in for a mystery about what the Germans are doing. Besides the focus on the goal of Raybould, figuring out what the Germans are plotting to win the war, there is a nice broadening of the world where the story takes place. Ian Tregillis shows a compelling human side next to the war business between the English and the Germans. Raybould gets a wife and a family and this secondary aspect plays very nicely into the storyline and after some devastating events Raybould is fuelled with revenge on the Germans and particularly one of the psychics. Overall you see Raybould grow from a somewhat fresh officer to a more embittered officer determined to get to the bottom of the German research, but added to this in between the visits in England you see him show a compassionate side towards his wife. His struggle between doing the right thing is show perfectly.
Next are the English warlocks, where you see Will, a friend of Raybould. Will has been trained by his grandfather to be a warlock. When I first read about this I hoped it would not be burning candles and drawing circles, and this was not the case. Ian Tregillis added a - upon reflection - dark, gritty and grim side to being a warlock and what is required for the spell. On top of this he added a great set of rules of what is possible and what is required. The warlock spells are cast with blood sacrifices that can range from a single drop of blood to a person’s soul. This help is not without its costs... Next to the element of the warlocks there is a further build-up of the history of the warlock society and how they converse with the Eidolons, the warlocks negotiate with the Eidolons to set a price for a task. Now do not think of this as they can easily point and say “kill that person”, the Eidolons cannot harm people directly, the reason for this is explained in detail. As for the character of Will, he had a character that via certain events was very relatable too. He warned the English of the dangers and costs of calling the Eidolons for help, but the Admiralty will do anything to reach their goals… And this places quite the heaven burden on the shoulders of Will, where I felt that he was under quite the pressure to help. Will can see the Eidolons and he also see what is going wrong. In order to continue to pay the high blood prices, he and his fellow warlocks have to resort to some desperate and dark acts... I really liked the depth given to the warlock aspect in Bitter Seeds showing a careful and well thought out planning.
This leaves me with the German side, who, next to Raybould and Will, you get to visit frequently. As I said in the beginning Dr. Von Westarp is the founder of the German psychics. Too start it is not like the X-Men but the children were forced in boxes to master their willpower. Using a nifty gadget inserted into their brains and powered by a battery, that is accessible with using their willpower, these children can do amazing stuff. Think of: flying, starting fire, becoming invisible, becoming insubstantial, telekinesis and probably the power that really fuels the storyline: precognition, seeing the future. But there is one downside to these powers and that is emphasized in the story and in some cases proved fatal, batteries can lose their power... it was good to see that just as with the English warlocks the power was not always present but that there were rules. The German children that you see in the storyline are Klaus, Gretel, Reinhardt and Kammler, there were others but they were more secondary. From the beginning you see a certain division in the German psychics, especially Reinhardt, having first mastered his powers he is quite in for himself in thinking he is definitely the best super soldier. His personality clashes often with Klaus. In Klaus you see a lot of determination trying to get accepted. He is not the true Aryan in having a olive coloured skin. But in the heat of battle both Klaus and Reinhardt fight with full vigour for the Reich. I was really impressed with the character of Gretel, the precog, she is complex, having been subjected to a more rigorous regime to get to her powers that the others, she is now a bit disturbed in her doings. She knows what will happen in the future and is thereby a very important asset to win the war. As you see her visions helping the Germans in the war effort, I could also glimpse that she was somehow sabotaging them in a small way. It really felt in the end that the story is unfolding underneath the web that she is spinning. And if she is for the better of the Germans of English or none of the above is to be found out. This introduction of Gretel’s precog ability really gave another dimension to the story.
Bitter Seeds shows a great feat of combing a very strong narration, complex characters and several cool elements like the warlocks and psychics. Everything in the storyline from Raybould and Will daily doings to the concepts of the German psychics and English warlocks was worked out in detail. See the British Intelligence reverse engineering the mysterious batteries and creating the pixies to try to get the better hand over the Germans for example. These small additions really made me feel the story as a whole. On top of this some of the character left an impact on me in particular Will, Klaus and Gretel. The ending might have felt a bit abrupt for me, showing more or less the English side with their new found allies. It did leave a great introduction for the second book. I have high expectations of the sequel because with what happened in the end and overall in the storyline, I think that the sequels will have a more darker and sinister aim to them, what is really happening in the basement of the Admiralty and why is it needed now that the war is over?? This book really takes you to the edge of the seat!
This Bitter Seeds book review was written by Jasper de Joode
Have you read Bitter Seeds?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Bitter Seeds reader reviews
9.8/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a reader review for Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis; it really helps other readers find that perfect next read. Kindly enter your name, country and review below and click the 'Submit your review' button to send.
More recommended reading in this genre
Guy Gavriel Kay
Set in a beleaguered land caught in a web of tyranny, Tigana is the deeply moving story of a people struggling to be free. A people so cursed by the dark sorceries of the t...
A Christmas Carol
It is Christmas Eve in Victorian London, and all around the snow-covered city people are rushing home to be with their families. All except one man, that is: Ebenezer Scroo...
In the winter of his eleventh year, Little Hawk goes deep into the forest, where he must endure a three-month test of solitude and survival which will turn him into a man. ...
As they approach adulthood, Cat Barahal and her cousin Bee think they understand the society they live in and their place within it. At a select academy they study new airs...
The Moon and the Sun
Vonda N McIntyre
Louis XIV, the Sun King, rules the Western World from the Chateau at Versailles. Marie- Josèphe de la Croix looks forward to assisting her brother in the scientific ...
Come one come all to greatest city in the world. In London, all men are free, the streets are lined with gold and the naughty ladies are friendly to all. In London there ar...
Who or what is Endymion Spring? A power for good, or for evil... A legendary book that holds the secret to a world of knowledge... A young boy without a voice - whose five-...
The Deverry Cycle
In a world outside reality, a young girl's spirit hovers between incarnations, knowing neither her past nor her future. In the temporal world lives Nevyn, who long ago ...
Publius Varrus is the last legionnaire in Britain, and The Skystone is in many ways his story. He is a common man with aristocratic friends, and successful both as a soldie...
Great books also published in 2010
Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
Five hundred years into the third age of flight and mighty phraxships steam across the immensity of the Deepwoods, plying their lucrative trade between the three great citi...
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky - a palace above the...
Southmarch Castle is about to be caught between two implacable enemies, the ancient, immortal Qar and the insane god-king, the Autarch of Xis. Meanwhile, its two young defe...
My name is John Cleaver. I live in Clayton County, in a mortuary on the edge of town. I have a mother and a sister and an aunt. I’m sixteen years old. I like reading,...
An indispensable guidebook to the Soul Society, Color Bleach+: The Bleach Official Bootlegtakes you behind the scenes in the shadowy world of the Soul Reapers. All Thirteen...
The Way of Kings
Roshar is a world of stone swept by tempests that shape ecology and civilization. Animals and plants retract; cities are built in shelter. In centuries since ten orders of ...
Guy Gavriel Kay
For two years Shen Tai has mourned his father, living like a hermit beyond the borders of the Kitan Empire, by a mountain lake where terrible battles have long been fought ...
Once Walked With Gods
The elves have fled to Calius, seeking to escape the overwhelming power of the demonic Garonin. A desperate last stand in their own dimension saved the race, at the cost of...
Towers of Midnight
The Last Battle has started. The seals on the Dark One's prison are crumbling. The Pattern itself is unravelling, and the armies of the Shadow have begun to spill out o...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: