'Necessary Evil' by Ian Tregillis (2013)

Necessary Evil: The Milkweed Triptych: Book Three - Ian Tregillis

Ian Tregillis, Necessary Evil: The Milkweed Triptych, Book Three (London: Orbit, 2013), 472pp


"You deserve to die screaming." (pg. 87).

Necessary Evil sees Ian Tregillis finish his Milkweed Triptych on a high. After the world-building debut Bitter Seeds and the improvement and intensity evident in The Coldest War, this third and final book in the trilogy sees all the events brought to a head with a remarkable confidence from the author. He navigates the time-travel plot line - always tricky - with intelligence, avoiding potential plot holes and steering well clear of absurdity. Tregillis wraps up his trilogy by bringing together all the various strands of the plot with a manipulative dexterity that would make Gretel proud.

If Bitter Seeds built up this fascinating alternate-history world, and The Coldest War brought things to a head, then Necessary Evil is the emotional finale that codifies my love for the trilogy. The resolutions of all the various character arcs are all appropriate; considering the darkness of the trilogy, it shouldn't come as a surprise that some end in violence and death, but even more affecting are the endings for those who survive. Tregillis allows the characters' resolutions space to breathe amidst all the action, from minor players like the Twins, through the likes of Reinhardt and Klaus, to major characters like Gretel and Marsh (x2). It shows his respect for his readers, who have invested in these characters over three remarkable books (though perhaps Klaus deserved more attention throughout the book considering the growth of his role in The Coldest War - here he is disappointingly a bit-part player). Gretel's finale in particular was a fine way to bring her story to a close, though, as with all things Gretel, she is unnerving right to the last. The final line of the book (before the Epilogue) also strikes a note of unreserved hope, perhaps the first and only one in the entirety of this bleak, dark trilogy. And the epilogue itself was endearingly bittersweet, a perfect end to a perfect trilogy.

This review may be shorter than the ones I wrote for the first two books; in order to avoid spoilers I have restrained myself from going into too much depth. But as potential readers of this book will be picking it up after reading the first two in the trilogy, I should perhaps only say that it fulfils the potential of Bitter Seeds and does not renege on the promises of The Coldest War. I cannot choose between the three books as to which is the best, but the Milkweed Triptych as a whole is among a select group right at the very top of my favourite books.