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Bitter Seeds

(Milkweed Triptych #1)

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  6,394 ratings  ·  821 reviews
It's 1939. The Nazis have supermen, the British have demons, and one perfectly normal man gets caught in between

Raybould Marsh is a British secret agent in the early days of the Second World War, haunted by something strange he saw on a mission during the Spanish Civil War: a German woman with wires going into her head who looked at him as if she knew him.

When the Nazis
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 13th 2010 by Tor Books
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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While there’s a cranky little munchkin in the back of my head vetoing the decision to give this a full 4 stars (he’s a hardass), most of me thought this was a wonderful debut novel. Despite some minor gripes, I have mostly glowing, complimentary things to say about the book beginning with that I can’t wait for the sequel The Coldest War to come out. This is a series I intend to follow as I really enjoyed this.

Here’s a quick story rundown:


Taking place between 1939 and 1941, the stor
Richard Derus
May 04, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: pearl-ruled
Rating: one annoyed star of five (p58)

I am on record around these parts as disliking books containing Majgicqk. I have caused a slight coolness to come between myself and certain of my friends around here with my barely restrained snorts of derision at Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman and their comic-book-superhero storytelling ilk. What I've said about actual comic books...oh, do pardon, graphic novels...would have led to all-out breach were the advocates of same not bound to my soul with hoops of st
Apr 24, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: comic book fans
Recommended to Brad by: Ceridwen Tomato
It's been a while since I've been so infuriated by a read. I am pissed this morning after finishing Bitter Seeds because the book is so fucking uneven. The highs are very high, but the lows tend to be abyssal. I considered giving it five stars at a couple of points, vowed to give it one star often, and finally decided that I had better split the difference.

Here goes for the Highs and Lows:

High #1 -- The conceit of Nazi engineered superheroes whose presence change the course of the war is a winn
If you have to give the Nazis credit for anything (note: you do not have to give the Nazis credit for anything), it’s their thoroughness. In addition to fighting a massive war on several fronts and systematically eliminating large swaths of the population in Europe, they also managed to conduct enough bizarre experiments to launch a thousand works of speculative fiction that basically boil down to, wow, those guys were totally fucking crazy.

It’s a bit galling that stories of German mad scientist
Meredith Holley
Apr 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: WWII buffs, those who appreciate smartly structured phlebotinum
Recommended to Meredith by: Ceridwen and Sock Puppet
I’m sad to tell you that this book was not for me. I’m unabashedly fickle and self-centered with my star ratings, so I have to give this book only three stars, when objectively it’s probably a four-star book. Ian Tregillis is a GR author and friend of our beloved Ceridwen and Sock Puppet. Sock Puppet even designed Mr. Tregillis’s beautiful website. So what I’m telling you is that this book is objectively awesome, and you should read it, even though it’s not my personal bag of treats. Also, what ...more
First allow me the indulgence of repeating what I said in one of my status updates on this book, as it still holds true and sums up quite well how much I enjoyed the book:

Okay, this book is AWESOME. It's got a kickin pace, cool ideas, and likable characters (even the "bad guys"). … it's a whole bucket o' fun.

If that tells you what you need to know, you can stop here. Now I'll say what I really want to say, which has very little (and very much) to do with the book at hand.

Mar 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc-review, 2013, audio
I don't always get behind alternate histories. There's something in me that screams for the truth. These are definitely not the truth, look in a history book.

Yeah, that's from the guy who reads 99 fantasy books out of 100.

Oh and one of my favorites is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (though that's much more magical and fairyland-ish). But once you change the past, that just throws me off too much. I don't know why. Still haven't read a thing by Harry Turtledove.

But throw superheros into an alt
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I have already reviewed Bitter Seeds, the remarkable first work from newly published author Ian Tregillis, over here. That review was not really about the book per se, but more about how the book had a positive influence in my life when I was dealing with some serious issues. The book's message, or at least what I think was the book's message, changed my thinking in a positive way and helped me decide not to surrender in the face of pretty tough odds. I decided to fight to keep something rare an ...more
Tom Merritt
May 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Most definitely loved this book. Could not put it down. The elegance in which the war was recast is impressive. And the subtlety with which Tregellis balanced the blurred lines of right and wrong were impressive. Plus as a fan of wartime Britain novels, he did a more than fair job of capturing the essence of that time as I have seen it related in books from the era. Well worth the read.
May 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Terence by: Ceridwen's review on GR
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Rating: 3.8-4.0 stars

Ian Tregillis’ Bitter Seeds is an alternate history where the Nazi’s have trained up a group of technologically enhanced psychics (a perverted Fantastic Four), and the desperate British have resorted to consorting with omniscient beings who would like nothing better than to wipe the stain of biological life from the Earth (a la Lovecraft’s Elder Gods) in an attempt to defeat them.

The (mostly) Good Guys:

Raybould Marsh: Rescued from the slums of post-WW I London by Stephen
John McDermott
Genetically altered Nazi supermen against English warlocks in a battle for supremacy in an alternate World War II setting ? Absolutely. What's not to like ! Bitter Seeds was great fun, if not a little dark. All the characters were very well done with not all being overly good or bad but just doing what they thought needed to happen in order to achieve victory. This usually meant a lot of people ending up dead.
Another aspect of the novel I liked was how it always kept its focus on the characters
Mogsy (MMOGC)
This book could have been a story arc in a comic book, and I mean that in a good way. In fact, I'm thinking that could be why I liked this book so much. You have British warlocks versus Nazi Germany's engineered super soldiers in an alternate history of World War II.

At this point in the story, the U.S. is still out of the picture and the Soviet Union only gets involved later in the book. The British have discovered that Nazi scientists have been developed a technology to create a group of "super
May 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi, history
I knew this was a retelling, an alternate history of WWII with a fantasy bent to it, and rather expected a Captain America feel. I was very wrong on that count. Gretel was thoroughly enjoyable as the main villain, and I still picture her in my mind as a young flighty woman who loves to read poetry and pick wildflowers and carries a secret torch for a young man. Never mind that she's completely insane and is willing to sacrifice the world for her own gain.
Actually, I was really impressed with the
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very good beginning to a trilogy and does the job of setting up for the next two books well. I have enjoyed Tregellis's writing style and prose in all I have read of his so far.

Bitter Seeds plants the seeds for the trilogy introducing readers to an alternate history WW2 only this time the Nazi have been experimenting on creating super soldiers and the British are employing warlocks using blood magic. What I really enjoyed about these were that they had limits. They could not just use the powers
Tudor Ciocarlie
Jun 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
It is clear that Ian Tregillis is a very talented writer, but Bitter Seeds offers a very simplistic view on everything related to the 2nd World War.

"The Nazis have supermen, the British have demons" and this is why the Blitzkrieg was successful and the invasion of Britain was not. For anyone who read one or two books about WWII, reading this novel is like reading the Genesis from the Bible after you've read Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins.
Aug 19, 2010 rated it liked it
When I began this read, I was truly sucked in, but the glow began to unravel after the first third of the book. This is just a personal preference of books that I like to read so it is not any disrespect to the author. I did like the book, but I found that I would have really liked the book if there were more details or interesting backgrounds on the warlocks themselves as well as the other main characters. I wanted something more that would make me want to peek into their dark windows. Leaving ...more
Aug 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010, fantasy, sci-fi
There really aren't any descriptions that can do justice to Bitter Seeds. It's quite different than any book I've ever read. It's set in an alternate WWII where the Germans have started training children to use superpowers shortly after WWI, and the English are using wizards to fight off the Germans. Atrocities are committed on both sides of the channel. Tregillis really drives home the point that war causes people to do evil and suffer the consequences of evil.

Although the Germans have superhum
Mar 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I have just finished this one (April 13 debut US) and it was awesome; I will write a more detailed mini-review soon, but it's a novel that can appeal to fans of sf, fantasy and horror since it has elements of all.

A+ to A++ (gotta leave it a little to see how it settles); this one fits the "mainstream fantastic" category better than core-sf or core-fantasy since it's a sort of alternate history with a little bit of supernatural at the beginning that turns into a lot as the novel goes on, great, g
Matt Brady
Feb 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
Very strong, and surprisingly dark, with moral ambiguity galore. The more fantastical elements blended really well with the war story, creating a surprisingly grounded alternate history. In fact, if you remove the Nazi superhumans, English warlocks, and genocidal demons, the novel had the tone of a high class espionage thriller.
Amanda Van Parys
This reminded me of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell but in WWII (and a fraction of the length). Very engaging and well thought-out; simple enough to be extremely followable and complex enough to make you feel smart for putting 2 + 2 together as the events unfold. And even though it ends as an obvious set up for #2, it was a satisfying ending and not so much a cliffhanger. I will definitely be finishing this series.

Read for the 2019 Read Harder challenge: an alternate history novel
Apr 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
First Line: Murder on the wind: crows and ravens wheeled beneath a heavy sky, like spots of ink splashed across a leaden canvas.

I had totally forgotten about Ian Tregillis’ Bitter Seeds until it arrived at the library and I read the jacket flap which immediately had me excited to read it. The book features the creation of literal Nazi Supermen, super-powered Nazi soldiers experimented on as children, facing off against a talented everyman spy who just so happens to be backed up by a small cabal
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It is 1939 and the Second World War is well underway. The British get a hold of a video showing disturbing footage of German soldiers with superhuman powers. Thus begins the British secret mission to find out all they can about these enemy soldiers and develop ways to neutralize them.

The British Intelligence Service mission - Milkweed - is spearheaded by Raybould Marsh, mentored at a young age to serve King and country. He recruits Will Beauclarke, an old friend who once demonstrated to him an u
Paul Nelson
Jan 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-books-read
Bitter seeds is an alternate history retelling of World War II, in which the Germans have scientifically engineered supersoldiers with incredible abilities. One can make himself invisible, pass through walls and avoid bullets, one is a human torch able to produce fire at will and others have superstrength and precognition. These special soldiers are orphans and test subjects the result of decades-spanning science experiments by a deranged Nazi scientist. The process by which these supersoldiers ...more
Right out of the box I have to say that if you follow this author's blog you will know why I am and always am going to be a reader and not a writer. True, I only know what Ian has been gracious enough to put on his blog for all his fans to follow but, it really sounds to me like he is getting the shaft left and right when it comes to getting his books published. To his credit though he posts about all his dealings with the entire process which leads me to believe that along with his own struggle ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this review, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

The reason I put this older (2010) urban-fantasy alt-history novel on reserve at my local library is because its sequel The Coldest War just came out, and the premise sounded interesting enough to warrant going back to the first book and catching up; set within a Johnathan Strange like alt-reality where m
Nov 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, audible
It’s 1939. The Nazis have supermen, the British have demons, and one perfectly normal man gets caught in between -- that’s the first line from the book summary and it reads like something out of a TV infomercial targeting innocent vulnerable geek girls everywhere. Really, if you put the word supermen (in this case they’re more like surgically-altered super soldiers) and demons together in the context of alternate WWⅡ history, my brain will process those information the same way as “Lose 10 Kilos ...more
An interesting alternative history of WWII. The Germans create super powered humans and the British counter this magic.

Not a bad premise and it was interesting for about the first half, but for me the story fizzled out towards the end. The magic the Brits use is very black in nature and I question whether anyone would go to those extremes. It's not like the large scale operations they carry out would completely go unnoticed.

A decent book but I'm not in any rush to get to books 2 and 3.
Ed [Redacted]
Mar 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
BITTER SEEDS is a fantastic debut novel from a very promising author. The story is set during the second world war where the Germans have developed technological supermen who are also monsters. and the English have turned to old school wizards...who are a sense.

Anyway, it is a ton of fun and I enjoyed every minute of it. I will be patiently awaiting Tregillis' next novel.
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
Bitter Seeds was a quick, but ultimately, disappointing read. The premise was temptingly wacky, the plot suitably pacy, but the characters lacked depth: the prize for the most unbelievable character has to go to 'Scottish' engineer Lorimer - you'd never have guessed his nationality from his painful dialogue, at times it was just plain weird. In fact, there were so many little (but ever so annoying if you're a Brit) errors in the portrayal of the British characters, I was constantly thrown out of ...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Fantasy Buddy Reads: Bitter Seeds [June 6, 2018] 16 30 Jun 07, 2018 06:42AM  
The Sword and Laser: BS: Finished "The Coldest War?" Let's Discuss! 8 94 Sep 14, 2012 01:36PM  
The Sword and Laser: BS: Your superpower? 76 326 Sep 08, 2012 03:19AM  
The Sword and Laser: BS: *Spoilers* Final thoughts? 31 271 May 05, 2012 09:17PM  
Audiobook? 15 80 Mar 31, 2012 06:52AM  
The Sword and Laser: BS: [Updated Schedule] Publication troubles for the Milkweed Tryptich 10 120 Dec 27, 2011 07:27AM  

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Milkweed Triptych (3 books)
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