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In the first book of the Milkweed trilogy, British secret agent Raybould Marsh and his poncy toff friend Will Beauclerk tried to find a way to fight supersoldiers created by Nazi science. The solution was the top-secret Milkweed project: gathering Britain's warlocks, who can bargain with cosmic horrors called Eidolons, they used magic to destroy the Reich's armies and counter the supermen, at the cost of sacrificing their own citizens.
In Necessary Evil, Raybould Marsh is sent back in time thanks to Eidolon sorcery and the machinations of Gretel, the most powerful of all the original super-soldiers, with the power to see the future and, it turns out, all the many possible branches it can take, and choose between them. Gretel is basically unstoppable: she brings into the question the very existence of free will, since nothing happens that she doesn't foresee. Unfortunately, she foresaw the end of the world in every possible future, and so schemed to create a new timeline in which the Eidolons don't destroy the world and she lives.
Thus, Necessary Evil is not only an alternate history but a time travel novel. The older, scarred Raybould Marsh has to somehow manipulate his younger self and his friend Will into not using the power of the Eidolons to save Britain from the Nazi supermen. The problem with this, of course, is that saving the world might mean losing World War II. With a younger Gretel also involved, still playing her omniscient games, the plot twists through replays of events in the first book, taking them in new directions.
Like the first two books, Necessary Evil is heavy on plot and imagination, and while the characterization is still a little shallow at times, the tormented Raybould Marsh, seeing a wife that still loves his younger self, manages to elicit sympathy, while Gretel becomes, almost, human. Still crazy and evil, but human. The "necessary evils" the characters are required to perform cause quite a bit of angst, but they never really search for alternatives.
Time travel is tricky to pull off; time travel combined with an all-seeing precog even trickier. How do you create surprises and avoid paradoxes? Tregillis manages to pull it off without unraveling the plot. The ending is just right: a climactic battle, a bittersweet victory, and just desserts. It's a fine ending to the trilogy.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
There's really no way I can talk about the plot of this book, without spoilers so spoiler warning now.
So yeah, Raybold Marsh goes back in time in order to stop the Idolans from ever destroying earth. This novel revisits several large plot points from the first novel, with (I think) some sections being brought over entirely word for word.
Because of that, I found it quite disappointing. The whole time I knew exactly the direction they were going in with this one and I was hoping there would be some kind of large plot twist or diversion that surprised me, but there wasn't. It was unfortunately quite predictable throughout the whole thing.
It was still exciting. And if you were hoping for a happy ending to the series you do sort of get that with this one. But ultimately I don't feel like it really lived up to the feel and scope of the first two books.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful