Gretel is the Greatest – a review of Necessary Evil by Ian Tregillis

Finish this book left me with an odd feeling – a disturbance and a satisfaction.

And I loved it.

Raybould Marsh has travelled back in time to save the world from the all-powerful Eidolons, save his daughter from death, and save his marriage that went far too downhill in the future. He must go back to the days of Milkweed in 1939 and stop the secret service’s warlocks from making the one mistake that sent humanity to its doom. Teaming up with his worst enemy, the clairvoyant Gretel, he uses his knowledge from the future to orchestrate his plans from the inside, without revealing his identity to his present self, and to still ensure Great Britain wins the Second World War.

First we need to address the elephant in the room – the sudden inclusion of first person perspective in an entire series that used to be third person. I found it jarring the first time I read it, but I rolled with it. It made sense as to why it was needed – the past and the future version of Marsh had POVs in this novel. There was no way to distinguish the two better than to have the perspectives in such a way. And this wound up making me enjoy the novel a great deal more. I had a bias towards reading his POVs because of how smoothly they read and how deep we got into his mind. I would have loved to have seen this with more characters, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the other third person perspectives for what it’s worth.

Another part I loved was the occasional peak into Gretel’s mind – something I craved when I read the previous novel! We got a taste of it right from page one, her odd charm previously shown in the perspectives of Klaus, Marsh and Will now being seen from her own perspective. Her calculation comes with an ego, and the way her story ended was awfully poetic. In spite of being an exceedingly horrid person, her character is by far my favourite, one I was very thankful to see glances of in this novel. I really want to see more villains like her in future reads.

Having a novel so centred on orchestrated plots can otherwise be difficult to make, but this novel danced around it with such prowess. Granted, it has been years since I read the first book in the series so I have no idea how truly accurate it is, but the butterfly effect was in full swing and I was flying on it. To see the calculations, causes and effects through future Marsh’s perspective was particularly enlightening, while also seeing the results playing out like it did in history. The previous timeline was an alternate history, and it felt enlightening to see the true events play out in this book including the strategic things around Dunkirk.

I think what this book really did the best was the closing of character arcs. I’ve already hinted that Gretel’s character arc was masterfully done, but even both versions of Marsh, Will and Stephenson were done incredibly well. This was expertly done through exploring the themes of morality. No better way to end the series.

Necessary Evil gets a score of 5/5. There had never been a more satisfying ending.

And now it’s series ranking time! The last series I would have finished for 2021.

Bitter Seeds – 4/5, a promising start to a series unlike anything I had ever seen.

Coldest War – 4/5, so dark and yet so compelling.

Necessary Evil – 5/5, the perfect character arcs to end the series.

You will never read a series like the Milkweed Trip. World War Two war strategy, plus supernatural abilities, plus warlocks! The dark magic combining with the exploration of morality fits perfectly into the settings of World War II and the great depression. And the morally grey Gretel will be among the greats. Although this series is very strong and totally deserves a place on my bookshelf, I’m not sure if I ever want to read it again. It was quite dark and one that I wouldn’t recommend to many light hearted people.

The Milkweed Trilogy gets a score of 4.5/5. It’s staying proudly on my bookshelf.

Yours in writing


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