If you enjoyed the first book, Bitter Seeds, you'll love this. If you enjoy Ian Tregeillis' writing,...more**spoiler alert** The simple and short review is:
If you enjoyed the first book, Bitter Seeds, you'll love this. If you enjoy Ian Tregeillis' writing, picked up both this and the first book in the series. And if you're looking for a fun, interesting book filled with action (Nazi and Russian superhumans) and excellent characters, pick this up too.
Now the longer-ish review, The Coldest War begins 20 odd years after the end of the first book, Bitter Seeds. A lot has changed since the end of World War Two has the world is in the midst of a cold war with the Soviets having capture and reverse engineering the superhuman technology the Nazi have created while the British have the power of warlocks at their hand. Both sides are in an uneasy stalemate until they can find the most opportune moment to launch their forces.
Due to the time skip from the last book, it is interesting to see how the characters have grown and changed. Where they were once young adults ready and willing to do any and all things, now they are older and a bit more wary. This is easily shown the most in Klaus. Where once was a younger soldier striving to prove his place and earn respect, now he's an older man that just longs to define by anything other than the wires attached to him and the powers that he has. For others, as much as they grown older, they still are very much single minded for they have nothing else. It's a bad sad to see how far Raybound has fallen since the first book, due to the hidden consequences of what had happened in World War two. For him, jumping back into the action is the only thing left for him as everything else is in ruin.
As old as she grows, Gretel is still very much the same. The mastermind using her powers to see the future to help guide the world in the direction she wants. The most interesting, to me, is seeing what that goal is really as it seem pretty well hidden until the reveal. As the first few chapters of the book shows, Gretel will do anything and sacrifice anything and one to achieve her ultimate goal. Gretel is an amazing character and I almost wish there was more scenes with her in it, though by not overexposing her, it always leaves us waiting more of her. She is definitely one of the star of the book if not the series.
Besides the characters, the action is fast pace, exciting and hard to put down until it's over. The Soviets have done wonder with the superhuman technology and have vastly refined and improved upon what they had captured for the Nazi. Like the first time around, this is a fight that the British can not win with rough strength, but with guile and a bit of luck.
The greatest thing about The Coldest War is that it's the set up book for the finale, but it doesn't lag or slow due to the need to help set things up. It does what a good set up book does, it leaves you longing for the final book to see how everything will end. We see where the book is really headed and everything is set up, but we're left right here waiting for it to happen. The Coldest War is a great book and I can't wait to read Necessary Evil.
Coda: Having read Bitter Seeds, the epilogue in The Coldest War, is almost directly taken from a part of it, but with slight changes. It's wonderful time as I pulled out my copy of Bitter Seeds to find and re-read that scene. It's been changed to reflect the new changes to the story and it's interesting to see the real meaning of Gretel's words in the original scene. The only other thing I want to comment on is that I do miss the original artwork for the novel. I loved the cover for the hardcover version of Bitter Seeds and I can totally understand the publisher's need to change it to be reflect what the novel is about, but there's a certain beauty and atmosphere in the original illustrated cover that I miss.(less)
**spoiler alert** Fair warning that I should mention that I received my free copy of Showtime by Narrelle M. Harris as part of a Goodreads give away....more**spoiler alert** Fair warning that I should mention that I received my free copy of Showtime by Narrelle M. Harris as part of a Goodreads give away. Now onto the review.
Showtime is composed of four short stories of roughly the same length (20ish pages). The stories are a nice small slice of speculative fiction that take place in modern times but with a touch of the supernatural/paranormal thrown into it. They are about a wide range of topics from a dead mother still being her same old self which annoys the hell out of her daughter (Stalemate) to an older sister trying to find a way to fix her recently zombified younger brother (The Truth about Brains). Showtime, the title story, is a fun and simple story of two friends at carnival with some unfriendly friends popping up while Thrall is an interesting and realistic vampire story finding out that modern time isn't that wonderful (sidenote: a creepy vampire getting caught on cellphone camera and having said video uploaded to youtube made me laugh).
I find that short stories can be a hard thing to do properly since there's a lot to be done in a limited amount of pages: introduce the characters, introduce the plot, solved the problem and finish. That's the basis of every story, but some stories need hundred of pages to get it right. Harris has written some wonderful stories in this collection as they quickly draw the reader in and leaving a satisfying finish at the end. Things do wrap up nicely though sometimes there's just hint that there are more stories to tell.
My only real complaint is that it is only a small collection of stories, four stories, and I wish there were more stories in it 'cause 18 Australian Dollar (roughly 18$ Canadian dollar) is a bit steep for 100ish page book. I'm not sure how book prices work over down under, but I'm sure many people in North American are use to under 10$ paperback books. But otherwise, I'm looking forward to picking up another novel by Narrelle M. Harris though this might be a problem since I am in Canada.(less)